William Byrd High School alumni are mourning the loss of their beloved former Assistant Principal Barney Craddock, who passed away at the end of October at age 89.
Black Swan yearbooks indicate Craddock became an instructor at William Byrd in the late 1950’s, having taught previously at the old William Byrd Junior High. He was a graduate of Carson Newman College, served in the Navy during the Korean War, and spent time working as a Park Ranger.
At WBHS, he taught Physics, mathematics, and General Science. He also served as the audio-visual specialist, the golf coach and sponsor, and became the Science Department Chair.
He was named assistant principal in about 1967, working alongside Principal Bob Patterson.
Craddock went on to retire from Roanoke Catholic where he taught Calculus and Algebra. His daughter, Beth Craddock, says he was always busy at something throughout his life—mostly something to help others.
He and his wife Frances had a large working farm (107 acres) in the Goodview area for years and later moved to a smaller place–but big enough to have a large garden–which was his passion. For many years, he sold produce at a stand he set up on Walnut Avenue.
His daughter remembers getting up a 5 a.m. before school to milk the cows and heading out to the garden after breakfast on weekends.
“He taught us as kids about hard work and to keep going–if it’s something you want, earn it,” she said.
Hs wife passed away about nine years ago. They were married for 57 years and had three children.
Scores of his students have taken to Facebook posting tributes since they learned of his passing, including many stories Beth Craddock says they hadn’t heard before. Most have mentioned his kindness, sense of humor, and constant good cheer.
“He was the best! All the students loved him,” was the comment from Sharon Jennings Stagg.
Junia Mitchell Sigsworth said her father described Mr. Craddock as “all wool and a yard wide” meaning he was “quality,” the best.
Julie White Santos said, “He made life at WBHS all the more special. He cared about us, loved us.”
“He disciplined out of love, with laughter,” she said. “He was kind of like a guidance counselor. He would make you think through what you did and why it wasn’t the best choice.”
“He was a great guy,” said Jeanna Gray Eisnaugle. “Always respected as our Vice Principal, but also liked as a good guy who was not afraid to laugh or make a joke.”
His daughter and friends said maybe he was so understanding of students, because he had been a prankster as a student himself. Rumor has it he once sneaked a goat into the high school gym and was remembered for taking the shocks off his car and driving up and down Washington Avenue.
Harriett Childress told the family, “Your dad was a great man. He made your day when you had to go to his office. We could tell he loved the students at William Byrd.”
“He was a special man,” said Ray Jones. “More than once he saved me from myself.”
Gary Dickerson said, “What a great man! I could just never sneak anything by him.” A sentiment his daughter echoes—“he knew things before I said anything.”
Amy White Wentzel remembers, “He taught me how to work the auditorium stage lights, which I did for three years with all school and out-of-school activities. He used to plant seeds in trays in the light room where it was always hot. I helped take care of them.” Then she would be invited down to the Craddock farm to help plant them, which is how she got to know the family.
“He was such a wonderful authority figure, friend and mentor,” said Wentzel.
She tells a story about a group of William Byrd boys sneaking out of school to go to McDonald’s. When Craddock got wind of it, he made the trip to McDonald’s himself, sat in a corner, waved, and made sure they saw him.
Wentzel says “he never pointed a finger. Students were not afraid to go to him.” He would be able to laugh at student antics, then say, “let’s go to the office.”
Nickel Tucker-Lepchitz says, “I worked for him in the office during 1st period when he was writing class admission slips for students to get into class for their absences. It was so amusing to observe his reactions to what he was being told. He knew instinctively which excuses were valid and which were bogus. His follow-ups for most of the skippers could be very unique and ingenious. May he rest in peace as he keeps heaven laughing.”
Sarah Morgan Janney says “Barney Craddock was one of a kind! I will always remember his keen sense of humor, his little smirk, and the twinkle in his eye. My husband Gary helped him get up hay on his farm, and he even made that hard work fun!”
“Always had a smile and always made people smile,” remembers Mark Ware.
Debbie Dickerson notes, “We thought the world of him. I loved his laugh. He was standing beside me when my husband proposed to me at my senior prom.”
“He was such a student’s principal,” Laura Lea Doty recalls. “He had a great sense of humor. He kindly enforced the rules and when the time came to be serious, he was.”
His daughter remembers his determination to get one student a full scholarship to Virginia Tech and didn’t stop until he was successful.
Then there is the “streaking story.” Three boys took off their shirts and ran past the huge cafeteria windows outside while students were eating lunch—looking as if they were completely naked. Mr. Craddock closed his eyes and tried not to laugh–a man who didn’t overreact to student silliness.
His daughter says he himself was “a walking, big kid.”
He bought a purple and orange bus the school used for transporting teams after it was mechanically on its last legs, cut off the top and sides, removed the seats, and made it into a hay wagon for their farm—and taught her to drive it when she was much too young to be doing so.
Craddock’s niece, Susan Brown, says a classmate wrote, “There was never a time I was around him that I wasn’t lifted by his presence—a man of such a sweet mix of sincerity and humor, intellect and brilliant sarcasm.”
He was her physics teacher at William Byrd. “Although he’s my uncle I received no special attention and most of the class was likely unaware of our connection,” Brown said. “The class was formal, but he made it interesting and understandable, inviting discussion and observations. I enjoyed his class. Before and after class, he was informal, often displaying his dry, sly wit, which most students enjoyed.”
As an uncle, Mr. C. was a private person who spoke little about himself. “I was an adult before learning interesting facts about his family of origin such as his mother being from Brazil.”
“A favorite story about Mr. C. comes from my sister-in-law who as a WBHS student worked in the office during her study hall. She credits Mr. C. with her decision to attend college, becoming a teacher herself.”
“My most touching memory is how he calmly and gently weathered the storm of his wife’s declining health and final days at home. His commitment to her and his patient endurance were touching and indicative of his faith. He was both strong and independent but could be gentle and compassionate. He was a good man and I will miss him.”
Every student should be so lucky as to have a Mr. Craddock touch their lives.