Private funeral services for Gary Cruson, age 75, Clinton resident have been set, services will be at the First United Methodist Church in Clinton, with Rev. Rick Robart officiating, and under the direction of the Kiesau-Lee Funeral Home. Burial will follow in the Parkersburg Cemetery.
Gary Nolan Cruson, 75, of Clinton, Oklahoma, died on March 20, 2020 at his home from complications of the neurological disease Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, with which he was diagnosed in 2016.
Born to Clarence and Millie Meacham Cruson on October 10, 1944, Gary grew up in Clinton, graduating from Clinton High School in 1962. He continued his education at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and then pursued his Administrator Certificate from the University of Oklahoma.
In 1967, Gary was drafted into the U.S. Army and served for two years, first in Fort Polk, LA, and then at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA. Afterward, Gary dedicated much of his career to education, earning a reputation as the meanest teacher who everyone called their favorite. He taught elementary students in Kansas and in Clinton, at Washington and Nance Elementary and at Clinton Middle School. In addition, he served as principal of Washington Elementary, where he garnered respect from staff and students alike. In addition to education, Gary pursued a career in insurance, working for Farm Bureau and then as a partner at Brittain & Cruson. Eventually his love of the classroom called him back, and he retired from education in March of 2012 after 42 years.
Gary was an accomplished educator and business leader, but his faith and family were the most important aspects of his life’s story. While he was a self-proclaimed “rebel without a cause” in his youth, in 1973 God gave Gary a gift that changed his life and showed him his purpose as a Christ-centered family man. He said many times that Carla Jeanne Hodges saved his life. The two wed in July of 1974 and had four children. His greatest achievements were at home, and he cherished spending time with his family, whether it be cheering one of the kids at a sporting event, watching a dance performance, making memories on family trips to Red River or Hawaii, or simply camping by the pond on his parents’ land. He was a proponent of family dinners and movie nights, although he never could stay awake beyond the opening credits.
Gary also was a true cowboy. He spent his summers roping calves, both at his arena outside of Clinton and in rodeos in Cheyenne, WY. Over the years, he pursued ranching and was a race horse owner and trainer. Further, he always dressed the part in his stand-up-on-their-own starched jeans, boots, and cowboy hat. That is, until he fell in love with golfing. In his years of retirement, you could find him at Riverside Golf Course in a far different uniform, one more appropriate for shanking chips and pitches.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Clarence and Millie Meacham Cruson. He is survived by his sister Canda (Cruson) Sewell and husband Ronny of Odessa, TX; sister Kim (Cruson) Aneshansley and husband Brad of Clinton, OK; his wife of 42 years, Carla; daughter Kendy (Cruson) Cox and husband Jason of Yukon, OK; son Cooper Cruson of Tulsa, OK; son Chance Cruson and wife Meagan of Ardmore, OK; son Conner Cruson and wife Teryn of Denver, CO; seven grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Most who knew him would agree that Gary was unique. He has been described as larger than life, ornery to the core, fiercely protective, a hard worker, and gregarious. He also was unapologetic about not caring what people thought and always modeled living in the present, without worrying about either the past or the future. In addition, he gave bonebreaking hugs, had the best laugh, and had a tremendously soft heart despite his tough exterior. Finally, he loved music and could find a song lyric to match any mood or circumstance. Today, he would have quoted one of his Sinatra favorites: “I’ve lived a life that’s full, I’ve traveled each and every highway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way.”
Because his final display of orneriness was to die during a worldwide pandemic, his family will hold a private, family-only service on March 24 at Clinton United Methodist Church. Visitation will be held at Kiesau-Lee Funeral Home on Sunday, March 22 from 1:00-6:00 p.m. and Monday, March 23 from 8:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation to support Progressive Supranuclear Palsy research at psp.org.