Longtime columnist passes away
By Pamela A. Keene
Longtime boating safety advocate and Lakeside columnist Roy Crittenden passed away last month from leukemia. He died shortly before our Shorelines feature focusing on him was published. Roy will be missed. Here’s his story:
As a young man, Roy Crittenden was a pharmacist. One day a sweet young woman named Mary Sue, a nurse, caught his eye. Little did either of them know when they met at the cosmetic counter at Strange Pharmacy in Dublin 60 years ago where life would take them.
From a drug store pharmacist to a fulfilling career with Ely Lilly & Company, Crittenden has many stories to share of the life he and Mary Sue have shared so far. “When I retired after 33 years at Eli Lilly, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do,” said Crittenden. “Then I decided I wanted to become a better boater, so I took a safe boating course. That was the beginning of my second career.”
Roy Crittenden served 24 years in U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
That “career” spanned 24 years with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, a volunteer job that saw him move up the ranks. He achieved the position of District 2 Commander, overseeing six flotillas in middle and north Georgia in 2005-06. He’s been the long-standing Public Affairs Officer on Lake Lanier for years and he’s even served in that capacity with the Division, District and nationally.
“I’ve always enjoyed every aspect of my time with the auxiliary,” he said. “From teaching the safe boating and other classes to doing patrols on the lake, it has been so rewarding.” He recalled the time when there was no commercial towing service on Lanier. “We’d monitor the radio and go out to help people when they really needed it. At that time, the Coast Guard and the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) pretty much did it all.”
The USCGA headquarters just outside the gate at Aqualand Marine on Lights Ferry Road became, in some ways, like a second home to Crittenden. He’d report there before going on lake patrol. And he attended regular monthly meetings on the third Tuesday of every month. He and Mary Sue have many friends among the members of the auxiliary.
Crittenden was born in Darien and grew up in Waynesboro, where he was a golf champion as a teenager. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Pharmacy and worked at Strange Drug Company for a year before joining the U.S. Amy. After two years of service, he returned to Dublin, met Mary Sue and married eight months later.
In 1960, he signed on with Eli Lilly, where he worked in sales. The couple lived for a time in Birmingham and then in Atlanta. They also spent nine months at Lilly’s home office in Indianapolis. They had two sons; Tom passed away several years ago, and Bill, a commercial airline pilot who with his wife Alicia have two sons. They live in Acworth. “Bill calls us every day, no matter where he is,” Crittenden said. “He is so faithful to check on us.” Roy and Mary Sue also see their grandsons regularly.
Crittenden’s office is filled with commendations, trophies and other recognitions from over the years. He also has photographs from his youth. It’s humbling to see how often he’s been honored, both in his career with Lilly and during his time in the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
For years, he’s spent several hours each week representing the USCGA in public presentations, school talks and community events. He often manned information booths about the organization at the Atlanta Boat Show and events on Lanier. And, with his fellow auxiliary members, he’d walk the docks at the marinas conducting voluntary vessel safety checks to help ensure that boaters had the proper operating equipment and safety gear on board.
“You know, our mission is all about boating safety and education,” he said. “I’m still so amazed when I read the statistics. Did you know that more than 80 percent of people in boating accidents have never had a safe boating course? And it’s such an easy thing to do. A one-day course is $30; that’s a small price to pay to learn boating safety. And most insurance companies will give a discount to people who have taken the course.”
For many years, Crittenden has written a regular column for Lakeside on Lanier, representing the Coast Guard Auxiliary and espousing its boater education and safety courses. “My mother was an English teacher, so I guess the writing just came naturally,” he said with a smile.
Recently he received another commendation from Flotilla 29: the James W. Story Memorial Trophy, recognizing his years of service. And the auxiliary has named the radio room at the Lanier headquarters after him.
“Being in the Coast Guard Auxiliary has been a wonderful experience as a retired person,” he said. “To be involved in something so important. And if we save just one life, it’s well worth it.”
Posted online 3/31/17