Omaha Metro Table Tennis Club
In Memory of:
Gary Crawford 12/26/1938 - 11/25/2009
A Man with a Vision
With a desire to promote the sport of table tennis in the Omaha area, Gary Crawford had the vision to start a club. With just 6 players, the club began meeting in the fall of 1998 at Faith Presbyterian church in LaVista. In the beginning no dues were collected. Gary asked Todd Peterson, the top player in Nebraska, and Roy Smith to help him. The TT club in Wisner, Nebraska donated several tables, a robot, and barriers—a great beginning for the Omaha Metro Table Tennis Club or OMTTC.
The first years were growth years. Club dues were requested, but there weren’t enough players to cover the facility rent for one night a week. Gary, a persistent man with a big heart, made up the difference paying all expenses to insure the survival of the club.
In 2002 The OMTTC united with the failing Omaha Table Tennis Club which was having difficulty finding a suitable venue. The merger brought three tables and additional players into Gary’s fold. A second night was added to the schedule to accommodate the increase in number of players.
Right from the beginning of the club, Gary’s brother, Rex Crawford, played alongside him. He said, “I always enjoyed jumping around with my younger and bigger brother. He took up a lot of room. I just had to stand back and stay out of his way. He was so big and right in the middle of everything. Sometimes I had to wait until the ball got past his body before I could smack it. We had great times together.”
Gary’s wife, Kat said, “Gary believed table tennis was a good, clean sport, a place to bring players of all ages—an opportunity to teach good sportsmanship. If he wasn’t coaching a new player, he was taking the opportunity to learn from those better than he was. He showed up early and stayed late. He didn’t leave table tennis at the club—he talked about it throughout the week: How he missed a shot, hit a shot, wished he could learn how to create a shot. If I never met the players, I knew them. Gary talked about how valued each player was to him—friendships built because of table tennis. He never wanted anyone to know how much he invested in the club—he did it because he believed OMTTC was an asset to the community.”
Several other players touched by Gary’s table tennis life share their thoughts:
Gary Lehmer, “Once when an opponent whiffed a shot, I yelled, “steeeeerike.” Gary Crawford loved that expression. Many times after that you could hear him bellowing “Steeeeeeeeeeeeeerike” as an opponent whiffed his shot.”
Rod Cowles: “Gary had wonderful sense of humor and told many jokes. His thunderous laughter was infectious and would roll on and on. When I first saw his truck in the parking lot, I noticed a Nebraska Cornhusker football mug precariously setting on the edge of the truck bed. I knew him to be an avid Cornhusker fan. When I grabbed the cup, I discovered that Gary had BOLTED it down! He told me how he enjoyed watching people honk and point at the mug as he drove down the street, trying to alert him to the imminent loss of his mug. Gary smiled and waved back at every driver and then went on his merry way.”
Tom and Holly Walsh: “Gary was fun to play with. Especially when he and Rex, his brother, played doubles. We had many great matches with those two. We always enjoyed Gary's sense of humor during play. One of our club players, a psychotherapist named Gary Lehmer, usually kidded Gary while we played. Once Gary C. made a sour face after missing a shot and Gary L. remarked on it. In his humorous way, Gary Crawford turned, stuck out his tongue and waggled his face and body while quipping that he looked that way because he was a patient of Lehmer's. We couldn't resume play for a few minutes because of our laughter at the look on Lehmer’s face. There were so many good times with Gary that we don't have time to go into; suffice it to say that Gary was a “oner” and we miss him.”
Matt Zieglar: “Gary gave me my first ‘real’ table tennis paddle, a ‘Tornado Sunflex.’ He always had time to coach me, right from the day I started playing at OMTCC. When we rode to a tournament together, Gary always said we were ‘going on an adventure.’ He was a generous friend. He gave me one of his Cornhusker State Game medals and another of his rackets. He was a great friend. I miss him.”
Russ Standage: “Every player knew Gary for his HUGE forehand loop, and I mean HUGE. When he cranked this shot even his partner would duck as nothing, not even the ceiling tile, stopped his shot. He loved the game. When not playing table tennis he could be found cycling the trails around Omaha during the week, spending time with his family, his dog, or singing at gospel concerts.”
“Today, almost two years since Gary passed away, we see a large influx of players at OMTCC with 8 tables going and players on the sideline waiting to play on any given day. The club continues to be a hot bed of players with many titles won by its club players in local tournaments and the Nebraska Cornhusker Games. The top Table Tennis Player in Nebraska for 2011 comes from the OMTTC.”
The family of Gary Crawford and the OMTTC staff would like to wish you a fun and successful Omaha experience. OMTTC continues to thrive and grow thanks to dedicated players like Gary Crawford who had a vision.