Richard Holton Cracroft
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1936 ~ 2012
Richard Holton Cracroft, 76, our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother, professor, mission president and friend died on Thursday, September 20, 2012, having lived long enough, beset as he was by a host of physical ailments. Through his life Dick employed boundless energy, enthusiasm, in all he undertook. He loved to write and speak about his deep faith and hope in the "the plan of happiness" and the Author of our Salvation. He thanks his doctors and the wonderfully professional and very human dialysis technicians at DaVita Dialysis for helping Janice keep him alive and comfortable for a long time. Now he has returned Home, bruised, scarred, battered, and fatally short-of-breath, and counting on the promise of a restorative Resurrection, which he hopes will dry all tears, ease all disappointments, and fix everything.
Dick was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on June 28, 1936, to Ralph and Grace Darling White Cracroft, the baby among two brothers and a sister, Laurance White Cracroft, Ralph Paul Cracroft, and Helen Grace Cracroft White (all of whom with their spouses predeceased him). He married Janice Marie Alger in the Salt Lake LDS Temple on September 17, 1959. Theirs was a wonderfully happy marriage. They have three cherished children: Richard Alger Cracroft (wife Dyanna died 2001); Jeffrey Ralph Cracroft; Jennifer Cracroft Lewis (died, 1994; Jen's husband became a third son to Janice and Dick and later married Carolyn Cohen, who became a daughter); 7 grandchildren: Elizabeth Grace, Richard Bryan, Rylee Shae, Kelsea Ann Cracroft, Jennifer Diana, Sarah Louise, Hannah Joy Lewis.
Dick attended Wasatch, Douglas, Roosevelt Jr. High Schools in Salt Lake City; he graduated from East High School (1954). He took a B.A. (1961) and M.A. (1963) in English; Ph.D. in American and English Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1969); he taught English at Utah, Wisconsin, BYU.
He joined the Brigham Young University English Department faculty in 1963 and retired in 2001. At BYU he was English Department chair; dean of the College of Humanities; coordinator of American Studies; director, Center for the Study of Christian Values in Literature; editor, Literature and Belief. As professor of English he enjoyed enduring friendships and associations with BYU students over 40 years.
A prolific and widely published scholar in American, Western American, Mormon, and German literature, he wrote or edited 18 books, including 5 volumes, The Collected Writings of Richard Holton Cracroft (2011). A lifelong, voracious reader, he and Janice have belonged since 1964 to a Great Books study group of cherished friends.
After his family, however, his greatest lifelong commitment was to his ministry as a Latter-day Saint and to testifying of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Restoration. He served as a missionary and branch president in the Swiss-Austrian Mission (1956-1959)-a watershed experience which indelibly changed his life; president, Provo Utah East Stake (1973-1983); president, Switzerland Zürich Mission (1986-1989)-serving with 400 of "the best missionaries in this dispensation"; branch president, Provo MTC; faithful Ward and Home Teacher since 1950. Throughout his life, he stayed in close contact with those whom he taught the gospel as a young missionary, as well as with many of the missionaries and saints with whom he served in 1956-59 and 1986-89. He continued to the end of his life to have frequent contact with Swiss and Austrian saints.
He is survived by Janice, his beloved wife of 53 years; sons, Richard A.; Jeffrey R.; son-in-law Thomas Lewis (Carolyn); 7 grandchildren; brothers-in-law Ray Alger (Ellen), Glenn P. Alger (Jackie), and many beloved nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by parents, daughter Jennifer Lewis; daughter-in-law Dyanna Fancher Cracroft; brothers, sister, brothers-in-law and spouses-it was indeed a sweet homecoming for Dick.
A viewing will be held Sunday, September 23, 2012, from 6 - 8 pm at Walker Sanderson Funeral Home, 646 East 800 North, Orem, Utah.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Monday, September 24, 2012 in the Cascade 1st Ward, 481 E. Center St., Orem. Friends may call at the chapel at 9:30 - 10:45 on Monday, September 24, 2012 at the Cascade1st Ward. Interment at East Lawn Memorial Hills Cemetery, 4800 N 650 E., Provo. Condolences may be sent to the family at

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Published in Deseret News on Sep. 21, 2012.
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47 entries
October 7, 2012

October 7, 2012

Dear Cracroft Family,

We had the opportunity of meeting Dr. Cracroft at a Holton family reunion in 2009 (I think) in Perry, Utah. It was very good to meet him. We were hoping to get to know him better but, because of his illness, etc. were not able to.

At the family reunion, he talked about his grandmother, Sarah Ann Holton White with love and appreciation. We believe he had the opportunity to meet her and many other loved ones again at his passing.

We hope the family carries on with faith in life and in the purposes of God and with a hope of a wonderful reunion with him in the future.

Alan & Deborah Glenn
650 So. Lucerne Dr.
Salem, UT 84653
801 423-1202
October 3, 2012
Dear Cracroft Family.
My heart breaks for you.... He was kind and gentle and very excepting and in the short time I got to know him, I adored him... I'm sending a huge hug to you, Janice and Rich as well as Elizabeth and Richie.
My life was greatly enriched just by knowing Dick.....
Suzy Kelly
October 3, 2012
With great sadness, I learned last night of the passing of Professor Cracroft, the great BYU English professor and the beating heart and soul of Mormon literary criticism.

Dr. Cracroft was intelligent, jovial, irrepressibly optimistic and exceedingly generous. Not all great scholars are great teachers, but he was known and beloved as both. He was, in my mind, the consummate BYU professor - scholarly, accomplished, unpretentious, open-minded yet fully committed, fully believing, an unapologetic disciple.

I was one of the lucky students that got to know him reasonably well. Not only was I fortunate to take a few of his classes but I was also fortunate enough to be an American Studies major when he was running our fledgling little program. His love of literature, particularly literature of the American West (Twain, Cather, Stegner et al.) was infectious. He loved the humanism of Stegner and Cather and the humor of Mark Twain (summed up he said by the incongruity inherent by the collision of Eastern values with the hard realities of the Frontier -- akin to a "belch in the parlor"). He always (always) accentuated the positive. I learned from him that the Mormon experience, even the experience of a middle-class, suburban, know-nothing Mormon punk like me was relevant and maybe even compelling.

He was generous enough to provide me with a letter of recommendation for my law school applications. I still remember stopping by his office to pick it up. After I thanked him for taking the time to write it, he brushed me off and said, with a smile on his face and a hearty chuckle -- "I wonder if you'll recognize yourself?" It is one of the greatest treasures of my academic career. The letter was written with his unique wit and flair -- addressed to those nameless, faceless admissions officers -- by one, he declared, writing "with authority and not as one of the scribes" (his words). He was right to raise that question. Truthfully, I didn't really recognize myself in that letter -- I was too good to be true. But, he wrote that letter of recommendation with an eye on the potential David Clark, not the actual David Clark. It would not be his last act of generosity on my behalf.

A few years later, bored with law school, I wrote a couple of short stories (bad ones at that), which I presumptuously sent to him and asked him if he wouldn't mind reading. Not only did he read them, he edited them, he mined the tiny flecks of potential from them and, most critically, he encouraged me to keep at it. He made me believe that I could have something important to say if I kept trying. And, more than a decade later, I presumptuously sent him a manuscript of a novel. Not long after, I received a reply that started off as follows:

"Dear David:

I have been in hospital for 10 days for a number of "all these shall be for thy good and shall give thee experience" sorts of things. While I whiled away my days and nights, I also got to finish reading your The Death of a Disco Dancer..."

He continued in an apologetic tone for not reading more quickly the first novel of an unpublished, unheralded student from nearly two decades earlier. I was touched and humbled. After reading his kind and thoughtful review, I truly didn't care if it ever got published. Richard Cracroft, the Dean of Mormon Letters had liked it, even said it was important. His thoughtful consideration, understanding and approval was plenty enough for me.

The first novel I remember reading in the first of the few classes I took from Dr. Cracroft was Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop, the epic story of Father Jean Marie Latour and his rise from humble priest in the earliest days of New Mexico to the Archbishop of Santa Fe decades later. In the closing chapters of the novel, Father Latour passes on and, as foreshadowed by the preposition selected to be used in the title ("for" rather than "to"), Cather writes that Latour died from having lived ("I shall not die of a cold, my son. I shall die of having lived.") . Death came "for" the Archbishop, not "to" him. In other words, his life of dedicated service to a higher purpose had been full and rich. His death was not random, inexplicable or tragic. His death was a natural new beginning to a life of love and learning lived fully.

Death came for a great professor, husband, father, Stake President, Mission President and man, not to him. Although I'm saddened by his departure from this life (I feel like his deacons in the mid-‘60s who stood in a sacrament meeting and raised their arms to the square in opposition of his release as deacon's quorum adviser), I rejoice that I was one of the lucky beneficiaries of his faith, optimism and encouragement.
David Clark
September 27, 2012
Dear Janice:
How blessed we are to have known you and your husband. We have had just two years to claim you as friends, but during that time, we have enjoyed a meaningful glance into your past and shared with others the joy you have brought into the lives of many!
The funeral service was an unforgettable tribute to a wonderful man! His influence will last into the eternities, and your steadfastness, courage, and loyalty to him and to the Gospel are evidences of true love and faithfulness.
We treasure your friendship and pray that you'll be blessed with comfort, strength, and peace to carry you through!

Dell and Wanda Allen, Orem, Utah
September 27, 2012
President Cracroft was uniquely capable of buoying everyone in his presence - whether the audience was 500 or 1. Yes, he spoke eloquently, and with wit, but it was his entire spirit that would inspire you. With missionary work being so difficult at times, I always left his presence energized and knowing that I could handle anything. He lead his life as he preached - a "Christo-centric" life.
~ Mike Beeson
September 26, 2012
Dr. Cracroft's Literature in the American West and Humor in American Literature courses were my favorite classes at BYU. Fifteen years later, I find myself frequently mentioning Cracroft-isms--like the way he would say "Book," in a long, drawn out almost-whisper, to describe a really great book! Gosh, even Dr. Cracroft's obituary is full of spit and vinegar. (Guess it must have been the sarsaparilla!) Just thinking of Richard Cracroft makes me smile.
Andrea Gerlach
September 26, 2012
I was a student in Professor Cracroft's Mormon literature class at BYU and conducted some research for him. Professor Cracroft was a gifted and expansive reader, writer, critic, teacher, and thinker. I will remember him as a warm, kind, witty, and enthusiastic man who was interested in his students and who inspired their appreciation for literature and learning by sharing his own.
R.K. Higginbotham
September 25, 2012
What a remarkable educator--in the original meaning of the word--he drew out knowledge from all of his students. No one lived and taught as transcendentally as Professor Cracroft. (And he kept us in stitches. I still chuckle when I recall him ending nearly every class with a tongue-in-cheek "And I say these things humbly...")
He lived deliberately, and now that he has sucked all the marrow out of life, he's on to drink the afterlife to the lees.
Thank you for one semester that has never stopped influencing me--daily. God bless you.
Matt Willden
September 25, 2012
Dearest Jan and family: I was so sorry to hear of Dick's passing;;He was such a special person..God Bless you and give you strength at this sad time;;Love,from your forever friend, Bess
Bessie Pressett
September 24, 2012
How I love our Prez. Within moments of learning that Prez had passed on, I knew that I now had one more friend on the other side of the veil to help me through this mortal existence. Of all those who have gone before me, even my own grandparents, I have never felt so poignantly, as I did with Prez, that he would be watching over me. We will always be his missionaries, no matter in which world he resides.
Deedee Lovell
September 24, 2012
Dick was a good high school pal

Quentin Garner
Franklin, Idaho
quentin gardner
September 24, 2012
In loving tribute to the Greatest Prez from the Greatest Misson who is now serving those on the other side of the veil - and doubtless making each of them smile and laugh and feel just as singled out and especially important as he did those of us who knew him here. Bis Aufs Wiedersehen Prez.
Scott & Eva Cornell
September 24, 2012
A great man passes on. I have fond memories of Dick and Janice as i was growing up. My best to you Janice.

Alan Higham
September 23, 2012
Brother Cracroft was kind enough to endorse one of my novels, and I've always cherished that. I loved reading his Book Nook column in BYU Magazine.
Heather Moore
September 23, 2012
Dick enriched the lives of so many people and he truly made the world a better place. What a joy to have known him and his beloved sister, Helen. I basked in their spirituality and humor and consider myself truly blessed for having known them. May you continue to feel his love, Janice, and be blessed with strength and peace.
Barbara Orr
September 23, 2012
Aunt Janice,
You and Uncle Dick will always hold a special place in our hearts. A special thanks for the great visits during the publishing of the "masterpiece." We love you both so much.
Paul J & Kathryn Cracroft
September 23, 2012
The impact you and Sister Cracroft had on my life was amazing and will continue for generations. I was a lost soul from an inactive family who didn't know who to turn to and you were there. You will always be near in my heart. Thank you!
Krista Monson
September 23, 2012
Dear Janice: I have very fond memories of Dick; Firesides and other ward activities and studying together when we were taking German classes at the U. My condolences to you and your family.

Tom Higham
Tom Higham
September 22, 2012
Dear Janice...
It is with profound love and respect that we add our names to the long list of those expressing gratitude for your husband, and for our uncle and mentor. It is an honor to be connected with you'all, and we pray the Lord's warm comfort and cheer, now and always. Eternally yours, Dave & Terese & Family.
David Cracroft
September 22, 2012
I never served a mission under Pres. Cracroft - but, my life has been deeply touched by his righteous example & leadership as I married one of the great missionaries that served under Pres. & Sis. Cracroft - Jim Miller. It was such a pleasure to be able to visit with you a few months back in your home. Your personality, smile & quick wit will always be remembered fondly in our family. Such a giant of a man that touched more lives than he will ever know - one of the Lord's finest! Much Love & warm, fond memories, Jim & Angela Miller & family
Angela Miller
September 22, 2012
My deepest sympathies to the Cracroft family. I was one of the many people who was influenced by President Cracroft in the mission field. He will be missed, but not forgotten.
Bill Cole
September 22, 2012
Our Condolences to the Cracroft and White families. We admired Dick and loved his sister, Helen. What a legacy of love these people continue to bring through their wonderful families.
Rhonda & Steve Greenwood
September 22, 2012
My condolences to the Cracroft family. Dr. Cracroft was my thesis advisor and also one of my favorite professors. I loved his sense of humor and his passion for literature. He made this world a better place. Sorry for your loss.
September 22, 2012
I wrote this in a letter a couple of years ago, but it seems appropriate now, "Thank you for being a man of love, of vision, of faith, of testimony, of honor, and joy!" Your legacy lives in the many lives you have influenced.
Tamara Workman-Warner
September 22, 2012
I shall truly miss the Greatest Mission President from the Greatest Mission in the World. He was a great source of guidance and inspiration in my life. Janice, our love and prayers go out to you at this time. May the Lord grant you peace at this time.
Geoffrey Heil
September 21, 2012
Richard, I am soo sorry for your loss, & had no idea you had lost Dyanna & a baby as well. My heart aches for you & your family. The memory of coming up to your parents home at the time of your sealing, will be forever with me. Take care & know I will forever care & keep you in my prayers.
Sandi Stillings
September 21, 2012
Dr. Cracroft was my Freshman English teacher in 1964. He really had an impact on my college Education. I will always be grateful for all that I learned from him. I have enjoyed reading his Book reviews in the BYU Magazine. May the Lord comfort you at this tender time.
Rebecca Carr Lewis
September 21, 2012
I did know Brother Cracroft personally, but I feel like I have known him through some of his talks and writings. His story of Taking One Step Into the Darkness with his Lost Contact lens while a missionary in Switzerland is one of my favorite Tender Mercies I have ever known. I have shared his story with many others and have often thought and pondered the importance of the Simple Faith it required. The Lord knows of the fall and trials of each of his Tiny Sparrows. May He bless your family in this Trial and know that a wonderful man has passed to a far better place but his influence will continue to spread and bless peoples lives and inspire us all to become better Disciples of Christ as Brother Cracroft was.
stan ricks
September 21, 2012
It has been many years since I have seen Dick and Janice, but I still consider them influential in my life. He was unforgettable!
September 21, 2012
We are all made poorer by his passing; but how much richer he made each of our lives! Rest in peace, Dr. Cracroft. You'll be much missed.
Thomas Thompson
September 21, 2012
Within minutes after I first met him in the mission home in Zurich nearly 26 years ago, he received and shared a spiritual prompting that has given me strength throughout my adult life. Next to my father, he has been the greatest influence in my life for good. We will all miss his unique combination of spirituality and a sense of humor. I am so grateful to have known President Cracroft and to have been blessed by his faithfulness and service.
Erik Schimmelbusch
September 21, 2012
We enjoyed very much our association with you and Dick in the East 27th ward, East High and the Swiss Austrian Mission. We were always in awe of his literary talents and his excellent sense of humor. We are finishing our mission in the Washington DC Temple and won't be able to attend the funeral.
We love you, Myron & Pat Horne
September 21, 2012
Dr. Cracroft was my favorite BYU professor and supervised my master's thesis. Over the years, he remembered me and wrote back to me. I am sorry that I didn't get to see him again since BYU days, but he will forever be a positive memory and influence in my life. My sympathies to his family and friends.
Marra H yde
September 21, 2012
Our beloved Prez and Janice--how we cherish your example and influence in our lives! Thanks for loving the Lord so completely and letting it spill over onto us. It's a comfort to know Prez is finally ”translated correctly”--precious man!
Andy and LeeAnn Lippert
September 21, 2012
I can close my eyes and hear his voice booming over the pulpit - "Boom Boom Cracroft"! Not many men will have as much personal impact on so many as this one. We love you Sister Cracroft.
September 21, 2012
Dear Janice and family may your memories of this special man bee a candle of love as you mourn his passing. From days in Madison to our spirited conversations at BYU being in his presence was an intellectual and spiritual joy. Then to discover we were cousins was icing on the cake. What joy he must be having meeting beloved friends and relatives again. May the Lord's special blessing be over you and your family. David & Norma
David A. White
September 21, 2012
With deep respect and admiration I salute you with: Hoch lebe Richard H. Cracroft, drei mal so hoch! Gott sei mit Dir bis auf's Wiederseh'n!
Christoph Malzl
September 21, 2012
Carol and I are saddened by this news,howeve,we rejoice in the fact that he is now free from the mortal suffering he has endured with grace and determination. Richard was my mentor as new bishop as he served as our incredible HP group leader. He mad me feel like I was the greatest. Both he and Janice have shown me great compassion and concern as I deal with a serious illness. His encouragement and faith have given me much strength and hope. Janice we love you. God bless you and the family. Glenn and Carol.
Glennn Martin
September 21, 2012
Dear Cracroft family:
I have many fond memories of Richard when he served as a missionary in the Swiss-Austrian mission. My father, Jesse R. Curtis, was his mission president and I was in the mission with my parents as a teen-ager. He was an outstanding missionary! My father depended on him in many ways and the relationship continued after the mission.
With love and sympathy, Susan Curtis Porter
Susan Porter
September 21, 2012
Rest in peace dear friend, mentor and life long example of selfless service and love. I am a much better man because of your influence in my life. I can't wait to meet up with you again some day. (If your former Deacon's Quorum could've voted on your passing, I'm sure we all would've voted "No!")
September 21, 2012
What a delight is this man. Janice, the two of you have been an inspiration and joy to so many of us. I'm sure he and Byron are having a good time now, feeling good and doing good still. My love to you and yours.
Linda N. Horne
September 21, 2012
When I was a masters student in the byzantine political world of the BYU English Department, he was the star professor of that era. Parley Christensen had nothing on him by way of stardust. Mesmerizing he was both as a teacher and as a speaker on both secular and spiritual topics. I attended a mid-19th century American Literature class that he co-taught with his friend Professor Neal Lambert: in it, I discovered for the first time my favorite Mark Twain novel "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" and my favorite William Dean Howell's novel "A Hazard of New Fortune." He made them leap to life off the pages. If I as a teacher am half as good as he was in the classroom, I will be a happy teacher.

From one of the BYU English Department graduating class of 1982 ---
Rick Soulier
September 21, 2012
"Oh Captain, My Captain!"
Mark Reber
September 21, 2012
He had such an incredible impact for good on my life. I will always remember his unique voice, as expressed in his writings and speeches.
Chris Albright
September 21, 2012
My thoughts and prayers are with the Cracroft family and friends. I have very cherished memories as a Swiss missionary under his guidance, and later as one of his students at BYU. I will forever be grateful for his guidance and encouragement. His testimony of the gospel strengthend mine on many occasions.
Alan Thompson
September 20, 2012
Love this man! Great mission president!
Matt Ollerton
September 20, 2012
My Dearest Pres! Ich liebe dich sehr. I am so thankful for the influence you and your sweet and wonderful wife had on my life. Did you write your own obit? It sounds just like you. Thank you for touching so many. May God keep your family here safe until their return to you. Love, Lisa Hancock
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