By Jason O'Boyd, Staff Writer
Monday, December 10, 2012 —
Serving his community has been a part of the life of C.B. Crook Jr. almost as long as he’s been married to his wife, Betty.
“I felt very strongly my whole life you have to give back to the community in which you live in,” said Crook, 76. “I started out with March of Dimes when I got out of college. I was the March of Dimes chairman. That was before you were born.
“Then I just kept on, served on the board at the Chamber, then got to be president, then ran as a county commissioner and won. You just make room.”
Crook’s many years of service were rewarded by receiving The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of the top distinctions in the state of North Carolina. Gov. Beverly Purdue gave Crook the honor, dated Sept. 25, which is presented to recognize those who have served their community and the state.
The Order of the Long Leaf Pine was created in 1963 and has been given to some famous people, including Richard Petty, Billy Graham, Michael Jordan and Bob Timberlake. According to The Long Leaf Pine Society’s website, each person who receives the distinction earns “the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary privileged to enjoy fully all rights granted to members of this exalted order.”
According to Phillip T. Fisher, founder and manager of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society, the governor makes the decision on who is eligible for the honor based on a nomination process. In Crook’s case, lawyer Charles Brown of Albemarle was largely responsible for Crook’s nomination.
“There is an application form which is handled through the governor’s constituent office,” Fisher said. “They can go online and they can nominate someone, but you can’t do yourself.
“You fill out the form and it asks for the information, service record and accomplishments so the governor can make the decision. The governor’s office sends the certificate to the nominated person and that’s given to the recipient.”
A surprise party in Crook’s honor was at Off the Square in Albemarle, which is where he learned of the honor.
“I had no idea about the honor coming to me until that night,” Crook said. “We had about 50-100 people … there was a lot of people.”
Crook graduated from High Point University in 1958 and, shortly after, married his wife. He ran Crook Motor Company in Albemarle, which first began selling vehicles but later became one of the top heavy duty trucking companies in the South. He worked there for 41 years and has been retired from the company for 14 years.
“The biggest legacy I’m gonna leave to the community, probably, is I was able to work out a deal with my four top managers and they each bought 25 percent of it, equally, of the company,” Crook said. “They are very successful and they provide a lot of jobs in the community.”
But working for the company wasn’t all he did during that stretch. He served as a county commissioner and was president of the Chamber of Commerce. He was the chairman of the board of deacons and served numerous other jobs at First Baptist Church in Albemarle, where he’s been a member for 60-plus years.
He’s also been named Man of the Year twice by the Chamber of Commerce and has served on the airport board of directors twice. Crook also was vice chairman of the board of directors for Stanly Community College and was on the executive committee at Wingate University for 8-10 years.
One of his biggest accomplishments was how he helped spearhead capital projects for the YMCA and the hospital, known now as Stanly Regional Medical Center. He did a $5 million capital campaign to rebuild the YMCA after it was turned over to the community from its previous owner 25 years ago.
“In 1987, C.B. immediately started going around raising money for renovations and money to pay the light bill,” longtime friend Whit Whitley, mayor of Albemarle, read in a speech at the surprise party.
“Later, he led the charge on a five million dollar successful campaign. The YMCA was dedicated in 1991. The second phase, he led the charge of raising $1,250,000 for a warm water pool and other improvements. The third phase in 2005, he led the charge on raising $750,000 for interior upgrades.”
Crook also helped raise about $3.5 million within the community about 40 years ago for the hospital. The foundation now has over $6 million.
“In 1990, another big move by C.B. was starting a foundation at the hospital,” Whitley said in his speech. “C.B. started the Stanly Society that now has 181 members with each contributing a minimum of $10,000. Today, the foundation has 6.6 million dollars in the endowment. In 1994, the foundation board named a scholarship in his and his family’s honor.”
Crook still serves on the boards with the YMCA and the hospital, despite currently going through lung cancer discovered earlier this year. He was coughing a lot around Thanksgiving last year and his wife insisted he go to the doctor. A chest X-ray found the cancer and a growth on his lung the size of an orange.
“I went to Chapel Hill and had it taken out,” Crook said. “They had to take four of my ribs and part of my lung, so I’ve struggled all the year with that. I’m on the uphill now.
“But the good part of it is it was in one location. They did 17 biopsies while I was on the operating table and they couldn’t find a trace of it anywhere else. So it’s been since February and I’ve done the chemo and radiation and all that. Now I’m just trying to get all of that out of my system.”
On top of that, he’s had to deal with the death of his son-in-law, who was married to his daughter Caroline, who currently lives in Manhattan. Crook also has a son who lives in the Los Angeles area. Crook and his wife also recently had to vacate their house for three weeks due to moisture in an air conditioning unit that forced a crew to clean nearly every inch of the house and replace the furnace.
Crook has always been someone who can roll with the punches, in business and life.
“You just make room,” Crook said. You have to have good people at your business but you don’t have to be there every minute of the day. You can appropriate time to help other people.
“That’s what I tried to do in the community, helping the leadership and raise money like we did for the Y and the hospital. Some of the other things come automatically when you are successful.”