Don and Nancy Crawford

Don Crawford thought he’d be a dairy farmer. He and his wife Nancy went so far as to purchase a piece of land in New York State, picturing it as a future home for Holsteins.

Instead, his path led to banking and a lifetime of philanthropy in St. Joseph County. Don, who died at the age of 87 in March 2021, worked for Mishawaka Financial for 35 years, retiring as vice president and treasurer of the company. He is survived by his wife Nancy, who spent 25 years with Ameritech as a service representative. Both are South Bend natives who moved to Mishawaka in the mid-1950s when Don finished serving in the Navy. The Crawfords are known for their service to the community: Don was a member of the Mishawaka Lions Club with perfect attendance for 50 years, as well as a Mishawaka City councilman and on the boards of the Mishawaka Public Library and Bethel College. Both Crawfords belonged to the Coalbush United Methodist Church, where Nancy spent many years as a primary Sunday school teacher. She also worked as a volunteer reading helper at Beiger School.

Don and Nancy shared a love of Japanese culture. They hosted five Japanese exchange students over the years, as well as students from other countries, and visited Japan more than a dozen times with their two sons and four grandchildren. Through their friendship with Helen Amos, the elementary teacher responsible for Mishawaka’s sister-city relationship with Shiojiri City, they became honorary citizens of Shiojiri.

Through that relationship, the Crawfords talked to Mayor Beutter about developing an authentic Japanese “strolling garden” in the area opposite the Merrifield swimming pool. With support from the Mayor, the city of Mishawaka, the Lions Club, and many other generous corporate and individual donors, the 1.3-acre Shiojiri Niwa was created.

For many years, Don took near-daily walks through the Shiojiri Niwa, doing his part to help make sure the park remained well maintained. His commitment to the Shiojiri Niwa was bigger than simply picking up pieces of trash: In the late 1990s, the Crawfords established the Nancy and Donald Crawford Fund for Shiojiri Garden with the Community Foundation. This endowed fund—which has grown substantially since it was established—ensures that this peaceful garden will be cared for long into the future.

The Crawfords didn’t stop there. They also created the Beutter Park Fund Park with the Foundation, which provided that same kind of permanent support for the riverside park named in honor of Robert C. Beutter, a friend of the Crawfords who served as Mishawaka’s mayor for 20 years.

Not only champions of environmental causes, the Crawfords also worked to improve fine arts education in Mishawaka schools. Once again, they used the Community Foundation as the vehicle to ensure that all the causes to which they dedicated so much time, talent, and treasure will continue to receive support in perpetuity. They used a variety of tactics to cement their plans, including gifts of cash and stock, matching gift opportunities, and charitable gift annuities.

Nancy still owns that land in New York. The Holsteins never materialized, but now there’s a pond and a rustic cabin, making it a place that the Crawfords’ children and grandchildren also love and will cherish long into the future—like the enduring family legacy that the Crawfords built through the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County.

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