Jardine: Murder victim Frank Craig gets another funeral

May 19, 2009 

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Frank Craig gravesite, at theTurlock Memorial Park, Friday November 30, 2006. (Debbie Noda/The Modesto Bee)

DEBBIE NODA — Modesto Bee

From the e-mails and voice mails:

FUNERAL DO-OVER - When the eulogy was given by a preacher later convicted of murdering the deceased ... and when the year of death on the grave marker is wrong ... you do the funeral service all over again.

That's what Frank E. Craig's family will do at 1 p.m. June 6 at Turlock Memorial Park. They'll unveil a new and corrected grave marker and give Craig the honest and heartfelt send-off he didn't get five years ago.

In 2004, members of Craig's family listened as Hickman Community Church pastor Doug Porter claimed the 85-year-old rancher -- a nonbeliever -- had found peace with God in his final days. That raised red flags with Craig's family members.

Peace with God? Funny, he'd never mentioned that to them, and his niece's husband was a Methodist minister. And because Craig wasn't terminally ill, how could he have known his last days were upon him, or that Porter would soon drive him into the Ceres main irrigation canal near Hickman?

Coupled with the fact that Porter controlled Craig's $2 million trust, Porter's words at the funeral convinced the family that Craig's death was no accident.

A jury in August convicted Porter of murder, attempted murder, elder abuse causing death and theft from an elder by a caretaker. Currently at San Quentin, he'll spend the rest of his life in prison.

So Craig's family will have another service to honor him -- this one without Porter or any of his fawning disciples. Craig's kin will replace the marker he had made in the late 1990s for his own grave and his brother's. James L. Craig died in 1998, leaving his trust to Frank. Frank obviously didn't think he was far behind. For his year of death, he left an open-ended "19--." He died April 12, 2004, when Porter drove him into the canal.

The new brass grave marker will be a replica of the one Craig designed in the late 1990s, with two changes: His year of death will be correct and his middle initial, E., will be more readable. It looked like a "C" on the original marker.

PARADE ROUTE -- Who said life in a retirement home had to be boring? Last week, employees of Covenant Village decided to spice things up for residents by staging a parade to celebrate spring, the sunshine -- whatever. They assembled floats -- 13 of them -- by decorating golf carts. They chose a pair of 100-year-olds, William Lawlis Pace and Ester Wilson, as grand marshals. Pace owns the Guinness World Record for living the longest with a bullet in his head. His streak, recognized in 2007, is at 91 years and counting.

The parade route took the floats along the facility's driveway.


TIMING IS EVERYTHING - As CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) prepared last week to announce its annual fund-raiser, the agency got an unexpected bit of good fortune.

The event, scheduled June 24 at Galletto Ristorante, will feature California State Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno as its guest speaker. Last week, Moreno's name surfaced among the half-dozen or so reported to be on President Barack Obama's list of possible nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court.

That won't change his commitment to the local event, CASA board member Susan Azevedo said.

"We've got him," she said.

CASA advocates for abused and neglected foster children in the community.

Contact CASA at 567-4231 or at www.casaofstanco.org for more information.


THE RACE IS ON - The 2010 general election is still more than a year away, but Rob Jackson of Oakdale has announced plans to challenge one-term incumbent Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson. Jackson, 41, served on the sheriff's force from 1988 until joining the Turlock Police Department as a captain in 2007. He filed papers with Stanislaus County Clerk-Recorder Lee Lundrigan last week.

Christianson won in June 2006 by beating then-Assistant Sheriff Mark Puthuff.

FOR THE TROOPS -- Modesto native Lisa Northway, an Army captain and chaplain on her second tour of duty in Iraq, is stationed at Camp Basrah in southern Iraq. She said the troops there lack a wide variety of items, ranging from specific books to food and health items. Bill Shatswell of Modesto, a longtime family friend of Northway's, has volunteered to collect any donations and get them to a Veterans of Foreign Wars post for shipping to Iraq. He can be reached at 345-9615.

Visit my column at modbee.com for a link listing the kinds of items Northway requests.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at 578-2383 or jjardine@modbee.com.

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