Thursday, February 02, 2012

One final wish fulfilled for former Lakeville official

WALTER CROSBY: was a Lakeville police sergeant who served on the school board and as a selectman before moving to Florida with his wife Gerel, a retired teacher. He died last Saturday at 74. 

FORMER LAKEVILLE police sergeant, selectman and school board member Walter Crosby with the Piper Cub he hoped to restore before he became too ill with colon cancer. Friends in Clearwater, Fla., where he had retired with his wife Gerel, took over the project. Mrs. Crosby flew as a passenger in his stead last month as her husband watched from his hospital bed.

LAKEVILLE — Former Lakeville selectman, school committee chairman and police officer Walter Crosby died at 11 p.m. on Saturday night in Florida after a long, active life that included the fulfillment of one of his long-held dreams.

Memorial services for the former police sergeant, who was 74, will be held here in May.

One of Mr. Crosby's great loves in life was aviation, and in 1963 he purchased a Piper J-3 Cub; a small yellow two-seat plane with a black lightning bolt stripe on the side.

"For years he put (that plane) on the backburner," said Gerel Crosby, Walter's wife. "He bought a couple other planes; he had several that he could fly."

For years Mr. Crosby had hoped to fix up the plane and fly it himself, but he wasn't able to accomplish it before being diagnosed with colon cancer. So, through the tireless work of several friends and his wife Gerel, the plane was quickly restored so that Walter would be able to enjoy seeing the plane in flight before he died.

"The guys were outstanding to have done this," Mrs. Crosby said. "They finished it and didn't leave me to cope with it."

On Jan. 13, Walter's dream was realized. One of the people who helped restore the plane, Gino DiNucci took off with Mr. Crosby's wife alongside him. Mr. Crosby was able to sit up in his hospital bed and watch the plane soar by.

Mr. Crosby was born in Brockton, the son of the late Walter C. and Selma (Hamilton) Crosby. He grew up in Bridgewater and attended Bridgewater schools before becoming a police officer in Lakeville. He was also in the National Guard.

Walter met Gerel and the two eventually got married. Mr. Crosby was a sergeant with the Lakeville Police Department and his wife worked as a school teacher at Assawompsett Elementary.

They had two children who survive Walter, a daughter, Geri Young, who lives in Acushnet, and a son, Walter R. Crosby, who lives in Pembroke with his wife Barbara.

He is also survived by seven grandchildren, David Young of Lakeville, Steven Young of New Bedford, Andrew and Sarah Young of Acushnet, Kenneth Botelho of Acushnet, Theodore Crosby and Anna Crosby of Pembroke, He also had a great-grandson, Noah Botelho of Acushnet.

Mr. also had three sisters and a brother survive him, Nancy (Donald) O'Rouke of West Bridgewater, Katherine (Lyle) Lucia of Hollis, New Hampshire and Irene Hennessey of Carver, and Robert(Lillian) Crosby of Bridgewater.

"I grew up in Lakeville, but we lived there together after we got married in 1957," Mrs. Crosby said. "We still went up there every summer."

Outside of work, Mr. Crosby was every bit as active in the community, He was not only a school committee member and eventually chairman, but he also helped create the Vocational High School committee. Shortly before the Crosbys moved to Florida full time he also served as one of the town's selectmen.

He was also a deacon and trustee as well as a member of the Mullein Hill Baptist Church. In 1993 Mr. Crosby retired.

He and his wife decided he should serve out his term on the Board of Selectmen before moving, so in 1996 the couple decided to move to Clearwater, Florida.

It wasn't until 2006, when Walter was 68, that he was diagnosed with colon cancer,that later spread to his lungs.

He attempted everything he could to fight the cancer, including several types of chemotherapy, but eventually it spread too far.

It wasn't until Saturday that he died.

"The first time the plane flew, he could get out of bed to watch," Mrs. Crosby said. "When I went in the plane he was less well, he had to observe it from his bed."

Mr. Crosby was a technical advisor for the EAA and a licensed pilot and had his aircraft mechanics credentials.

His friends, which Mrs. Crosby said he made very quickly at the Clearwater Air Park, finished fixing up the plane for him in tremendous time.

Although he didn't get to ride in the plane the last time, he was able to watch his wife of more than 50 years ride in one.

"He flew several planes (over the years), he flew actively," she said. "I rode with him but never flew."

Maybe on that last flight, Walter was given his chance to ride with her.

Memorial services will be held on May 12, at Mullein Baptist Church in Lakeville. Burial will be in Mullein Hill Baptist Church Cemetery on Highland Road.

Arrangements are by the Dahlborg-MacNevin Funeral Home, Lakeville.


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