The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Mayor Ron Crank remembered as 'tough, fair' leader

  • Harrisburg and Saline County lost a long time public servant on Thursday evening.
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  • Harrisburg and Saline County lost a long time public servant on Thursday evening.
    Mayor Ron Crank lost his brave battle with brain cancer and passed away at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6. Crank, a long time Saline County resident had served in a number of important positions in our area in his life. He started his career in law enforcement as a telecommunicator for Saline County Sheriff’s Office and then as deputy and later chief deputy under Sheriff Dutch Stafford. He then spent 28 years as a Harrisburg Police Officer. After retirement, Crank served as a councilman and mayor in the Harrisburg city government. His help was crucial in the period following the Feb. 29, 2012, tornado when he acted as mayor pro tempore for Eric Gregg who developed health problems.
    Former Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg remembers the he and Crank first met when they were serving on the Harrisburg city Council.
    “Ron was absolutely a great guy, he was a hard worker and dedicated to his family and his city,” Gregg said.
    Gregg stated that Crank held a special place in Gregg's heart for stepping in as mayor when Gregg was incapacitated by a serious illness just 20 days after the devastating Leap Day tornado.
    "Ron stepped forward and kept the community moving forward in the right direction at a very, very difficult time. I was eternally grateful to him for that,” Gregg said.
    Gregg feels that Ron Crank's leadership in that terrible time helped the community recover it's spirit and sense of purpose. Stating that there were so many different problems and agencies to deal with in the recovery, Crank took the helm and kept the city going on the right track.
    Citing Crank’s work during his time as mayor, Gregg says that today we are seeing the results of Crank’s efforts with new businesses and a rejuvenated downtown area.
    “He was a great representative for the city. He exemplified who and what we are here and he set a very high bar of dedication, hard work and loyalty to his community and family for us to live up to. When I was mayor, Ron was my go to guy in a crisis or emergency. He was a voice of calm and reason and when there was a difficult decision to make Ron helped me talk it through, reason things out and arrive a good solution to the problem,” Gregg said adding, “Ron was a wonderful guy, a tough, fair man and a good friend and I sure will miss him.”
    Harrisburg Police Chief Bob Smith met Crank when Smith was hired as a Harrisburg police officer in 1991.
    "He was my field training officer. He taught me a whole lot about police work in a small town,” Smith said. “He was an old-school type of police officer, knew everybody, usually by name or they knew him by name. It was a joy to be around him and watch him work.”
    Page 2 of 3 - Smith said that the loss of his friend was very sad, but he also feels that now Crank is in a better place and no longer suffering the effects of the cancer.
    “He cared deeply for the city and the people here, it was a real pleasure to have known Ron Crank,” Smith said.
    Mayor Pro Tempore Ron Fearheiley said that Crank’s loss was difficult to speak about today. Fearheiley had known and been friends with Crank since 1981 when Crank was serving on the Harrisburg Police force.
    “Ronnie was an up front guy, he has been a public servant all his life, in all the work he has done,” Fearheiley said.
    Fearheiley said that his friend was a family-oriented gentleman, a community-oriented public servant and liked by very many people.
    “I've never heard anyone say a bad word about Ronnie,” Fearheiley said. “He was great police officer, a great councilman, a great mayor. He was a man of honor.”
    Commissioner Dale Fowler remembers that he didn't know Crank well until Crank appointed him to the city council.
    “It meant a lot to me that he trusted me and respected my judgement enough to appoint me to the council,” Fowler said.
    Fowler and Crank became good friends as they worked together in city government and Fowler was impressed by Crank’s courage and sense of honor. Fowler stated that Crank would make his decision based on what he felt was best for the community and then stood by it, unswayed by public opinion.
    “Ron had a catch phrase, ‘it’s what we want’ when talking about improving the community. The last time we spoke, several weeks ago, I was telling Ron about the new businesses, Speakeasy and Mach 1 that were up and running. Ron smiled at me and said weakly, ‘It’s what we want,’” Fowler said.
    Fowler said that Crank always seemed to have a smile on his face and even after being diagnosed with cancer remained upbeat, cherishing every moment he spent interacting with the citizens of the community he had devoted his life to helping.
    He is survived by his wife, Mary, and two children, Amy Crow of Chestertown, Md., and Christopher Crank of Morgantown, W. Va.
    An avid motorcycle rider, he was a member of several motorcycle clubs as well as Harrisburg Masonic Lodge, Ham Radio Club and St. Mary’s Catholic Church where he was a 4th degree member of the Knights of Columbus.
    “I spoke to Mary this morning and she said to me, “You (the council) keep on doing what your doing, It is what he would want you to do,” Fowler said.
    Page 3 of 3 - Funeral Mass will be celebrated 10 a.m. Monday, Aug. 11 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Harrisburg. Visitation is 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
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