A life remembered: Steve CrockerPublished 5:40pm Thursday, March 28, 2013
Family and friends of Niles native Steve Crocker, who passed away in February, will remember him as a man who loved kids, cars and being a United States Marine.
Crocker’s good friend, Tom Rasler, will also remember him as a guy that loved life.
“He was a big kid, loved to laugh and loved to make people laugh,” Rasler said. “He was a guy that would embarrass the hell out of you, but you had to laugh.”
Rasler said Crocker was known for playing jokes on complete strangers. For example, he’d sometimes take a french fry from the plate of a stranger, act like he was going to eat it and say something to the effect of, “You don’t mind if I have this do you?”
“The guy would just look at him like, ‘who the hell is this guy?’” Rasler said. “Meanwhile we’d be laughing our butts off and he’d be cracking up. That’s Steve.”
Crocker loved kids as much as he loved to laugh.
He coached little league softball in Niles for around 15 years, according to his son Todd, and was known for giving nicknames to each kid on the team.
One of Crocker’s former little leaguers, Steve Lotsbaich, now 37 years old, still remembers his nickname.
“Day one he’d give you a nickname. Mine was lunchbox,” Lotsbaich said. “He said my name was too difficult to say so lunchbox was it.”
The nickname followed Lotsbaich throughout his life. He even had “lunchbox” sewed on the back of his fire gear when he worked as a paramedic firefighter in Elkhart, Ind.
Crocker was fiercely protective of his players too. Lotsbaich — around 13 at the time — recalled a time when he was umpiring a game and had to eject a coach. After the game, the coach approached Lotsbaich and slammed him against a wall.
When Crocker arrived and found out what happened, Lotsbaich said Crocker took off after the coach and had to be restrained.
“I’ve never seen Steve that mad — once he heard that guy touched me, he wanted to kill him,” he said. “But he was almost like a father figure to all of us. He always treated us at the ball park like we were his own.”
Besides kids, Crocker’s other love was cars.
He was one of the three founding fathers of the Michiana Cruisers and served for many years as chairman of the Niles Apple Festival’s car show.
Rasler said he was constantly buying cars, building them up and selling them again.
“It didn’t matter who you were or what you knew, if you like cars he liked you,” Rasler said.
Crocker was also extremely proud of his service with the United States Marines, according to Rasler, also a Marine.
“When he found out I was a Marine too, that was it, we were friends for life,” Rasler said.