J. Dillard Crocker Jan. 19, 1925 - Sept. 1, 2014 NILES - James Dillard Crocker, age 89 years, of Niles, Michigan, died at 11:50 p.m. on Monday, September 1, 2014, at Lakeland Community Hospital in Niles following a brief illness. He was born on January 19, 1925, in Coffee County, Tennessee, to John Thomas and Sarah Madge (Haley) Crocker. He came with his family to Niles as a young child, and was graduated from Niles High School in 1943. He was a member of the 1942 State Championship Basketball Team from Niles High School, and was the high scorer at the state tournament. After graduation, he enlisted in the United States Army, serving two tours of duty, and being discharged as a Corporal and a Veteran of World War II. "Moose" continued his education and basketball career at Michigan Education College (now Western Michigan University) in Kalamazoo. He began his professional basketball career in 1948 with the former Fort Wayne Pistons (now the Detroit Pistons) of the former Basketball Association of America (BAA). In 1949 he moved to the Denver Nuggets (see photograph above) of the newly formed National Basketball Association (NBA) where he achieved a season high average of 13.6 points per game for a total of 723 points. After a brief stint with the former Indianapolis Olympians, he completed two seasons with the former Milwaukee Hawks. After retirement from basketball, he purchased the former Kretchman Sheet Metal Shop which he owned and operated as Crocker Sheet Metal and Heating. He later worked for a few years at the former Thorton's before retiring from Niles Chemical Paint as a consultant. He moved to Florida in 2002, and returned to Niles in 2012. He had played baseball for the Ben Medow South Bend team, and was an MHSAA certified official for twenty-five years during which he twice officiated state finals. He was also an accomplished golfer, and was a member of the Pre-1955 NBA Players Association "The Pioneer Era," and the NBA/ABA Legends of Basketball. On April 28, 1944, in Niles, he married the former Dorothy L. "Dot" Beck, with whom he celebrated the fifty-seventh anniversary of their wedding prior to her death on January 16, 2002. They were also preceded in death by a son, Steven, a daughter, Linda Kilbourn, and Dillard's brothers, I. Rayford Crocker and John Crocker. Surviving family includes their daughter, Julie Ann Crocker of Niles; a son, Bryan Crocker of Angola, Indiana; eight grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren; a brother, Clifford Crocker of North Port, Florida; and many nieces and nephews. The funeral service for Dillard Crocker will be at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 6, 2014, at the Halbritter Funeral Home in Niles, with the Rev. Cathi Huvaere of Wesley United Methodist Church in Niles officiating. Committal will follow at Mission Hills and will conclude with Full Military Honors by the United States Army Honor Guard and the American Legion. The family will receive relatives and friends on Friday from 6:00 until 8:00 p.m. at the Halbritter Funeral Home in Niles. Contributions in memory of Dillard may be made to an organization of the donor's choice. www.halbritterfunerals.com
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HALBRITTER FUNERAL HOME
615 E MAIN ST Niles, MI 49120
Published in South Bend Tribune on Sept. 4, 2014