Remembering Charlie Crabtree, the heart of Normal basketball

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The twin cities will not be the same without the man they call ‘Charlie.’

Charles Crabtree was one men killed in Wednesday night’s semi-versus-bus crash on I-74.

Friends and coworkers alike described him not just as a man, but a spirit of joy for both Normal Community West High School and throughout the Heart of Illinois.

“Bloomington-Normal is a big community, but it’s still a small one and everyone cares about each other,” said Dave Oloffson, who helped coordinate the State Farm Holiday Classic basketball tournament Crabtree would volunteer for every year.

“He had that kind of personality that would kind of light up a room, and you knew he was there. Every game you’d go to you’d see him sitting down at the scores table.”

Crabtree was a 72-year-old Air Force veteran who was never shy about giving back.

“He just wanted to make sure that kids had a great opportunity and every chance to succeed,” said Oloffson.

Crabtree’s influence extended beyond the court. Friends said he would often surprise players with Gatorade and candy, offer to keep score, occasionally drive the team bus, announce, and volunteer for anything that was needed.

“The kids absolutely adored him, absolutely,” said Bobbie Monroe, Crabtree’s old boss and former Athletic Director for Normal West.

“I’ve seen so many of them commenting and remembering some of the bus trip. Went above and beyond what any other bus driver would do.”

Monroe says both Crabtree and Coach Steve Price – who is recovering with several broken bones – are invaluable assets to the school and district.

Though he was retired, friends say ‘Charlie’ never stopped doing what he loved.

“How appropriate, if when God calls us, you always hope that it’s going to be doing what we love best in life,”continued Monroe somberly. “In Charlie’s case, that’s exactly what happened.”

At their insistence, the scheduled Varsity Girls Basketball game against Richwoods is still scheduled to continue Thursday night.

Administrators have mentioned there will be a moment of silence for Crabtree at the game, with more to come in the following days.



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