On March 19, 2017 Howard J. Croker left this life and returned to the arms of his loving wife Rachel, who preceded him in death just three months ago.
Born August 10, 1926 in Detroit, Michigan to Howard and Marion Croker, a United States Navy family, Howard Junior spent his childhood on the move from Michigan to Massachusetts to his eventual high school graduation in San Pedro, California. It was there, just before his 18 birthday that Howard joined the Navy. He was a proud veteran who served in the Pacific until the end of the war. During his time in the service, Howard began boxing. At 6’5” with hands like mitts, Howard must have been an intimidating opponent to see enter the ring.
Shortly after his discharge from the Navy, Howard married Rachel Ann Hilstad in January, 1947 on Bainbridge Island. Once married, he enlisted in the Coast Guard, which had Howard and his bride on the move again. They spent the first three years of their marriage stationed in the Yaquina Head lighthouse in Oregon. It was here their two children, Thomas Roland and Mari Rae were born. Once his USCG duty was over, the Crokers returned to Bainbridge Island where they settled and raised their family. Howard began working at the Bremerton Navel Shipyard – a job he would retire from after thirty five years of service, including time in the Coast Guard after the war. His love of machines and mathematics became his hobby as he constantly maintained and repaired everything around the home and taught math at the shipyard.
Our ‘Papa’ Howard will be lovingly remembered as a storyteller and jokester – tales often punctuated with his signature wink and a gentle squeeze on the leg. As one of the Greatest Generation, Howard served his country with hard work and devotion to family, there was never an expectation of entitlement. His example of love and sacrifice was his greatest gift to his family and friends.
Howard is preceded in death by his wife of nearly 70 years, Rachel, and his parents. He is survived by his brother Vernon Croker, son Thomas Croker (Luanne) and daughter Mari Loverich (Wayne); Grandsons Christopher Croker (Tara), Chad Croker, Tom Loverich (Stacy), Eric Loverich (Johnene); Great-Grandchildren Maddie and Parker Loverich, Isabelle, Nolan and Sophia Loverich, Cole, Ciara and Catie Croker, Estella and Pearl Croker.
Howard was an active member of Bethany Lutheran Church until the end. The family would like to thank Pastor Paul for the loving comfort he provided to Howard and family, especially during this difficult time. Also to Dr. Rogers, nurse Kimberly and the Wyatt House staff for their care over the last three years.
A celebration of life will be at 1:00 Saturday, April 1, at Bethany Lutheran Church, 7968 Finch Road NE, Bainbridge Island.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Bethany Lutheran Church Memorial Fund.