In one of the last scenes of the hit musical, Wicked, the two main characters sing to each other, “Because I knew you, I have changed for the better.  Because I knew you, I have changed for good.”  Those lines could easily be sung by the family and many friends of Jim Crabbe.  His death on March 12, 2019, four days before his 83rd birthday, comes as a tragic loss to many.

Born in Eagle Grove, Iowa, Jim was an exceptional athlete.  He lettered all four years of high school in football, basketball, and baseball, and his state record of 23 consecutive free throws in competitive games stood for decades in Iowa.  He also lettered two years in track and won the local golf championship at age 14.  Jim was an excellent student (Honor Society) and a natural leader (class president, president of student council), but most importantly, he was a genuinely selfless and caring person.

After high school, he lived his dream by going to the University of Iowa on a football scholarship, becoming a true Hawkeye.  While there, his main claim to fame was rooming with and becoming good friends with football great, Alex Karras.  After two years at Iowa, Jim received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, where again he made his mark as an athlete.  Even though a knee injury cut short his careers in intercollegiate football and basketball, Jim still finished fifth in his class in physical ability.

Upon graduation from West Point in 1960, Jim was commissioned into the Air Force, where he became a helicopter pilot and flew air rescue missions out of George Air Force Base (CA), Naha and Kadena AFBs (Okinawa), and Nakorn Panom AFB (Thailand).  His frustration with the politics associated with the Vietnam Conflict led to his resignation from the Air Force.

Returning to civilian life in 1967, Jim entered graduate school at the University of Iowa and exited in 1971 with a PhD in Exercise Science.  He spent the next 16 years of his life as a professor, coach, and athletic director, touching the lives of thousands of students at California Polytechnic University (San Luis Obispo), the University of Nebraska (Lincoln), Coe College (Cedar Rapids, IA), and St. Andrews Presbyterian College (Laurinburg, NC).  Following a college decision that he considered inappropriate for student athletes, Jim resigned and started over – again.  His third and final career was in financial services and led to the creation of Crabbe Financial Group, LLC.

Jim entered his last competition when he was diagnosed with Lewy-Body Dementia (LBD) in 2013.  Recent research indicates a strong connection between playing football (which Jim did for seven years) and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a condition created by violent hits to the body and head, causing the brain to slam repeatedly against the cranium.  CTE usually leads to Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases, such as LBD.

Even before arriving at West Point, Jim lived the West Point Honor Code, “A cadet shall not lie, cheat, or steal – or tolerate those behaviors in others.”  His life was also guided by advice from his beloved father, “If you are good, people will know it.  You don’t have to tell them.”

Jim lived and modeled the values of hard work, honesty, and humility and instilled them in his family, whom he cherished: his best friend and wife of 56 years and seven months, Anne; his three children and their spouses: JB and Nancy Crabbe of Suwanee, GA; Carolyn Jean Ericson of Atlanta; and Elizabeth and Stefan Dabrowski of Fuquay-Varina, NC; his eight grandchildren (Audra and Driscoll Crabbe; Ellen, Jack and Cari Ericson; and Caz, Hayden, and Spike Dabrowski); and his sister, Margery Crabbe Stell of Des Moines, Iowa.

This gentle man will be terribly missed, but his memory and his legacy will continue to inspire and guide those who have known and loved him.

A memorial service for family and close friends will be held at the Hospice Chapel on March 23rd.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to First Health Hospice, which provided comfort and support to Jim and his family in his last eight days ( or to the Alzheimer’s Association (

Online condolences can be made at

Services are entrusted to Boles Funeral Home of Pinehurst.

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