NO. 17879 • 11 Jul 1924 – 28 Sep 2003
Died in Napa, CA
Interred in West Point Post Cemetery, West Point, NY
Joseph Mathew McCrane, Jr, born to Joseph and Margaret McCrane in Clifton, NJ, was one of nine children and the oldest of seven boys. After graduating from St. Anastasia Grammar School in 1938, he received a scholarship to Mt. Carmel Seminary in Niagara Falls, Canada. After three weeks there, he discovered they did not play football and, therefore, at age 13, he gave up his priesthood ambition and hitchhiked home to enroll at St. Francis Xavier Jesuit Military School in New York. Upon graduation, he received nine football scholarships but chose Fordham because freshmen there could play varsity.
At age 17, with the outbreak of WWII, he quit Fordham and joined the Marine Corps, becoming a specialist in bomb disposal. Shortly thereafter, he was on his way to Guadalcanal, landing there in February 1943. From there, he went to Green Island, Bougainville, Rabaul, Samar, and Okinawa, earning five battle stars. Joe returned from the Pacific as a corporal in December 1945.
While on Samar, he received a letter from Andy Gustafson, one of West Point’s football coaches, asking if Joe wanted to play football at West Point. It was a dream come true. Joe summed up his years at the Academy, "I came to West Point from a different perspective. I was 21 years old a big difference. I had been to Guadalcanal, to Okinawa, had five battle stars. I wasn’t a kid. West Point to me was fun! I looked forward to every day because I was having a ball compared to my previous life where I was making $21 a month. At West Point, I got paid, got three square meals a day, and could play football. Me! Playing football at West Point. They would have to drag me out of this place!"
The 100th Nite Show was one of the highlights of Joe's Academy experience. Through his work on this show, he met his future wife, Joan Mori. He and Elliot "Stud" Heit went to New York City and hired the famous ballet teacher, George Balanchine, to teach the football team chorus line dancing. While in New York City, Joe and Stud crashed a party, and there he met Joan, who was attending Skidmore College. As a result, the college in the 100th Nite Show was called Slidemore College.
After graduation, Joe was assigned to Panama. Since the Korean War had broken out during graduation leave, Joe regularly requested a transfer to Korea, but his requests were continually denied. In 1953, he resigned his commission and joined the Reserves. In 1957, he formed the nation’s first Special Forces Reserve Unit at Kearny Shipyards in New Jersey. Later, after attending paratrooper school, he became a lieutenant colonel in charge of nine Special Forces units. In 1961, he volunteered his 3,000 reservists for action in Viet Nam, but that request also was denied.
In addition to his Army activities, Joe had his share of business ventures. He worked for his father in law, who owned the Hialeah and Garden State Race Tracks. Under Joe’s supervision as general manager, the Garden State Race Track thrived, and he reinstituted the Jersey Derby. He later became president of the Cherry Hill National Bank, director of Camden National Bank and Trust Company, and president of McAndrews & Forbes, an international licorice and paperboard firm. He also joined a conglomerate to purchase Shannon Airlines and was one of the producers of a British horror film, 'The Vulture', starring Akim Tamiroff. Joe joined with "Red" Blaik and Vince Lombardi in a failed attempt to purchase the Philadelphia Eagles. He also made unsuccessful bids for the Washington Redskins, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Miami Dolphins. With Robert Kennedy in the group, Joe dealt with Sonny Werblin in another failed attempt to purchase the New York Jets.
In the political arena, Joe was appointed to the New Jersey State Treasurer under Governor Cahill and played a major role in the construction of the Meadowlands Sports Complex. "I was the one who dreamed it up. That was my creation. I chose the Meadowlands because there were 16,000 acres of land, and NYC was like an offshore oilrig. And the NY Giants were nearby. It was perfect!"
Joe then got what he described as the best job ever: international vice president for Hess-Eisenhart, maker of bulletproof cars. Joe sold them in 57 countries with contacts supplied by the State Department. In one sale, he was paid in diamonds.
Joe enjoyed life, crediting faith for much of his success. Red Blaik, whom Joe described as a "West Point combination of MacArthur and Lombardi," also had a great impact on him. Joe thought of Blaik as the ripples created by throwing a pebble in a lake. "The ripples go out, and they never stop. They touch everybody. That’s what a great teacher does. He touched thousands of lives. And I was one of them." Joe, too, sent out ripples that touched off who knew and loved him. Joe's passing was sudden and unexpected from a heart attack at age 79. One of his last accomplishments was to write his biography, as yet unpublished, entitled, 'The Next Best Thing to War the Joe McCrane Story', written with Lawrence Babich and Harvey Marc Zucker.
Joe's five children, Maureen, Mathew, David, Constance, and Siobhan, and six grandchildren survive him. His second wife, Janet Shaheen, to whom he was happily married for 15 years, predeceased him.
The family would like to thank all who helped make Joe's funeral at West Point so memorable, specifically: his brother, Father Gerard McCrane, to whom we always look for spiritual guidance and strength, and Joe’s classmates for their lasting friendships and respect, and for guiding us to West Point. We appreciate all their thoughts and prayers and will treasure these lasting memories forever.
- Family and classmates