Turtle community reaches out to local farmer's family

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

TOWN OF TURTLE—Brian Gunnink described his late friend Robert Crawford as hard-working, ambitious and cheated in life.

Crawford died in March at age 43 from long-standing health complications.

Crawford left behind his wife, Claudnita; two children, Levin and Ariel; unpaid medical expenses; and his retired parents' untended farm.

He didn't leave life insurance.

Seeing the Crawfords' needs, local families stepped in.

Farmers who knew Robert have been tending his farm. They'll be harvesting the crops in autumn, as well, and all of the profits will go to the Crawfords.

“There's a whole community of farmers willing to come in and help,” Gunnink said.

Robert's parents, Timothy and Jean Crawford, are touched by the response, if unsurprised.

“There were over 800 people at his visitation,” Jean said. “He did a lot of little things to help the small farmers, and everybody knew him.”

“He was a go-getter, and even though he had this affliction, he wanted to farm. That was his dream,” Gunnink said. “Even though his health wasn't very good, he always got up wanting to work every day.”

Gunnink and Debbie DuCharme are the co-chairs of the Robert Crawford Family Benefit, a fundraiser being organized to aid the Crawfords. About 20 people are on the benefit committee.

“Robbie was an inspirational guy who touched so many lives,” DuCharme said. “We wanted to band together to get his family through this tough time.”

The fundraiser will seek donations for roast pork sandwich meals with chips, desserts and drinks. Items donated by local businesses will be sold at a silent auction with proceeds going to the Crawfords.

Robert's brother Nathan is attending from Minnesota to perform with his country group the Eagle River Band.

Gunnink and DuCharme don't want any accolades.

“It's not about any of us. It's about trying to help Robbie's widow and his two kids,” Gunnink said.

Last week, the Crawfords' home in Beloit was burglarized. The thieves stole the children's Nintendo Wii and their piggybanks.

Friends donated another Wii and games to the Crawfords, and Claudnita is moved by the community's response.

“I am so humbled by everybody's generosity and help, and everybody's just been so wonderful about everything,” she said. “The whole thing's just been so overwhelming.”

Gunnink wants the fundraiser to focus on Robert and his family.

“We hope everybody gets together and has a good time, remembers Robbie a little bit and raises some money for his wife and kids.”

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