Dr. Joe B. Crane Sr., 85, dedicated a little more than three decades of his life to making the Valdosta City School System the very best it could be, which, in his mind, was the very best in the nation. Up until his death Tuesday morning, he remained steadfast in his commitment to bettering the lives of each and every one of the system’s 7,000-plus students.

“I think one of our greatest strengths is the diversity of the children in our school system,” he was quoted as saying during an October interview with The Valdosta Daily Times. “I don’t think people realize how wonderful it is to have children from all backgrounds learning together and from each other. I appreciate that and am dedicated to making each of their futures better.”

Crane was best known for his longtime role as a member of the Valdosta Board of Education, where he served off and on as chairman and represented the men, women and children of District 4 for nearly 31 years. He was known to have credited his three children — son, Joe, and daughters, Kitty Sue and Patricia Ann — with being the driving force behind his seeking a seat on the board initially in 1974. Each of them received his or her education through the Valdosta City School System.

“I love all children, and anything I can do to help them I will try,” the grandfather-like figure told The Valdosta Daily Times during a January 2003 interview. “We have to educate these children. We have to give them a chance in life. We have to teach them how to face this old world.”

Recognized by the Georgia School Boards Association Inc. in 2003 for his dedication to public school children, Crane continued to serve faithfully on the Valdosta Board of Education until he was defeated on Nov. 8, 2005, by Mike Pitts. However, even when his final six-year term came to an end the following Dec. 31, he continued working in the best interest of the boys and girls of the Valdosta City School System.

“I have really enjoyed my time on the board,” he said. “I love the children and want to continue doing my part to help them learn and grow. I know there’s still something inside me left to give.”

Knowing this, the Valdosta Board of Education appointed Crane to represent its interests on the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce’s Business Education Support Team. And he contacted the men and women he left behind in the board room and those who succeeded him and offered his support when it came time to pass another Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for education endeavors. He knew the Valdosta City School System could continue a period of expansion and modernization with these extra monies.

“I only hope I can have the same impact on the lives of these children and on the educational system as a whole that he did,” said Ricky Rowe, Valdosta Board of Education chairman and longtime District 8 representative who served with Crane. “He was a great member of this community, and he was a good man. I really hope I can follow in his footsteps, do things with the same heart, and be the kind of person he was.”

Because Crane grew up in a small town and on a farm, Valdosta City School System Superintendent Sam Allen believes he was instilled with the notion that hard work and a good education were necessary to get ahead in life. It was a philosophy Crane shared with his own children, as well as those he inherited as a member of the Valdosta Board of Education.

“Dr. Crane did not care what background a child came from or what his or her socioeconomic status was,” said Allen, who worked alongside Crane for 29 years. “He valued education for everyone and believed it was the key. If you told him that you wanted to do something that would benefit the boys and girls of the Valdosta City School System, he was going to help make it happen.”

Crane once said that he was not perfect by any means but that he always made certain to support measures in the best interest of children. During Valdosta Board of Education meetings, ensuring the needs of the children were sufficiently met was all he concerned himself with.

“Dr. Crane was extremely proud of the many and varied accomplishments of the Valdosta City School System and the work of its teachers in educating its children,” Allen continued. “He was not deterred in letting people know that he was part of the Valdosta Board of Education. He was thoroughly satisfied with the programs we offer and believed them to be the best available to anyone anywhere. He will forever be missed.”

Crane’s family will receive friends from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday at Music Funeral Services, 3831 North Valdosta Road. Services will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at Park Avenue United Methodist Church with burial following in the Dixie Cemetery in Brooks County. His wife of 61 years, Ann, was laid to rest there in February 2005.

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