Here and there,
and now and then,
a giant among men.
It’s been a rough week for San Juan County with the tragic loss of five giant citizens whose losses will be felt for a long time.
Elizabeth (Liz) Black, Erva and John Eaton, and Mike Crittenden all passed from this life on Monday, as did Jason Workman on Thursday.
All were the ultimate team players, my favorite kind of people, my heroes. Could I explain what I mean by that?
Liz Black was a definitive fan of people. She grew up in Blanding and lived most of her adult life in Monticello, so she knew or was related to most of us. But there were no strangers in Liz Black’s life and she work tirelessly to get to know, help, and support all others.
Her husband, Dale, said that the number of people who have told him they were helped by Liz is unbelievable; many, many, many that Dale didn’t even know about. She truly was the light of thousands of people’s lives.
Erva and John found each other later in life. And they lived life to the fullest. They gave their all to family. And a huge family it was: 46 pall bearers and honorary pallbearers called them mother, father, grandmother, grandfather. There’s not a better tribute to lives well lived.
Mike Crittenden was a lifelong resident of Monticello who passed after a long, courageous battle with cancer. Mike was one of those guys who could do anything, fix anything. Quiet and friendly, yet unassuming, he was always willing to help anyone.
Mike on his backhoe was a familiar sight around Monticello. And Mike was a big family man, too. One of his and his wife Joanne’s granddaughters, Aundria Crittenden, the daughter of Toby and Debra (Hazelwood) Crittenden, is an accomplished gymnast on the national scene, whose biggest fans were grandma and grandpa.
Jason Workman of Blanding was a Navy Seal. That says it all for me. I saw on the news Sunday night that being a Navy Seal was something Jason always aspired to be. And becoming a Navy Seal is no easy endeavor.
Up to 80 percent of applicants wash out and once accepted, nearly two and a half years of rigorous, thorough, intense, and extensive training are required before a Seal is ever deployed.
I remember Jason from his high school days. No one ever looked more imposing in a basketball uniform. Physically, to me, he was the poster child of the Navy Seals.
But though he commanded attention on the sports fields just by his physical presence, he never did so in a cocky, obnoxious way. There was never any bravado, chest thumping, calling attention to himself on his part. He simply played hard, deftly, and humbly without disrespecting anyone.
There was much more to Jason than his physicality. A friend is quoted as saying, “Even if Workman had not accomplished his goal of becoming a Navy SEAL, he would have been a hero for somebody in some other aspect, like a firefighter or law enforcement.”
The friend added that Workman “recognized that his gift was best used in helping other people.”
Another friend added, “He would do anything to help the guy across the table from him. He would give you the shirt off his back. He was just willing to do anything for anybody and he’s proven by giving his life to this country.”
Workman was the same age as one of my children. She tells a story about Jason that illustrates. Jason was assisting Steve Olsen one summer in instructing aspiring high school lifeguards for the local swimming pools in Monticello and Blanding.
One of the tasks these lifeguards had to complete was to retrieve a 25-pound weight from the bottom of the pool, twice.
When my daughter, after completing the task once, fumbled the weight on her second ascent, Jason, who was observing underwater, quickly steadied the weight in her hands, enabling her to get the weight to the surface.
A small event, but one that illustrates and perhaps helps explain his life as a Navy Seal, truly one of the best of the best. Jason leaves behind a wife and young son.
One could do no better than with a starting lineup in life of the caliber of these five individuals, all of whom will be missed immensely, but all of whom give us the just the right examples to live up to.