Honoring Hart Theater's own William Crawford this Veteran's Day
Each year we celebrate Veteran's Day as a way to honor those who served or continue to serve our country. We are proud to have many veterans in our community. Today we want to take the time to highlight just one of the countless stories of brave men and women who dedicated their skills and lives to this country. William Crawford is a veteran, and he is also a reminder that every individual veteran is so much more. What people like William bring to our communities is a special set of skills and experiences that shape the way we live and work together. Not only is William a veteran, he's a self proclaimed Jack-of-all-trades allowing him to excel as: an aircraft electrician, a builder, set designer, actor, and most importantly a friend to the community.
William was born in Rock Creek and grew up in Hillsboro and nearby Rainier, Oregon. He joined the Airforce in 1974 at the end of a 20 year long conflict in Vietnam. He had just graduated from high school and had three older sisters attending college. William's father was a World War II veteran and he had cousins who had fought including one who died in Vietnam. Reluctant to saddle his family with more college expenses and with a family history of military service, William felt that joining the Airforce promised a road to a future in aeronautics that he dreamed of.
William grew up on a farm where the attitude was, "if it's broke, fix it." Because of this, he was working on farming equipment and fixing engines before he had even reached high school. William also had an interest in electronics and one of his hobbies was working on ham radios. His life experience, aptitude for electronics, and interest in planes led him to the Airforce where he specialized in aircraft electronics and worked on spy planes including the SR-71 and RC-135. He quickly moved up the ranks and became Shop Chief, which he credits for the leadership skills that have informed his work in the theater later in life.
Talking with William, one story stood out to me as having informed his attitude toward life: blending skills, creativity, and problem solving. He describes his department getting a call to get the planes in the air, and quickly. There was an urgent need for reconnaissance and time was of the essence. The only problem- all of the planes they needed were in the shop. William describes folks of all ranks and stations scrambling to get the planes in flying order. There was one piece of the puzzle that could not be rushed, though.
The piece in question was a complicated mess of about 20 wires that needed to be individually soldered into place. William recalls asking the pilot if they would need the piece in the next 30 minutes. They said no and so without fanfare, William climbed into the small space below the cockpit and got to work as the plane took off. As the plane bumped and bounced to cruising altitude, William put each wire into place, a delicate job even when done on the ground.
William learned many lessons from his time in the service that he would later apply to other facets of his life. One such lesson is leadership. Military life is undeniably hierarchical. In the civilian world, good leaders need a more delicate touch. You must consider people's life experiences, differing opinions, and at times, egos. William calls this, "knowing when to bark and when to let people fail," which can often be a much more valuable lesson. This is never more prevalent in William's life than in his work in the theater.
William has been an actor since he got his first gig at three years old in a stage play in his home town. He still remembers the one line he had to recite: "Daddy, will you please read us a story?" From then on, William was involved in the theater in some capacity. He wrote plays with his friends and put on amateur productions, played young King Arthur in his first foray into community theater, and was even awarded the drama award at his alma mater. William participated in local productions wherever he was stationed during his military service. When he moved back to the Hillsboro area, he dove right back into the theater community, working with local high schools and theater companies as an actor and set and effects designer. He joined Hart Theater in its days of inception, going full time in 2008. He continues to work at Hart building sets, creating special effects, and in a leadership role. Helping wherever he is needed which seems to change daily.
It was such a delight learning about William's life and finding the connections between his military service and passion for theater. William serves as a reminder to all of us that we should honor the veterans we know not just for their sacrifice, but for their unique contributions which shape our community in so many ways. If you see William around town, I hope you stop to hear some of his stories. In the meantime, call a veteran in your life and see if they have a story of their own to tell.