Celebrating Pastor Craig 12.12.19

It is my honor to be asked to write a little about Pastor Craig. I first met Craig in 1966 on the freshman practice football fields at Morton West high school in Berwyn, Illinois. Of course, as teammates back then we didn’t realize we would be good friends, more like brothers, even today. Many of the high school coaches were “looking” for Craig that first practice, I think to check him out as a player. I know this because during the first day of practice while doing exercises the head freshman coach came up to me and said, “Are you Baldacci?” Not sure what he meant I just responded, “What’s a Baldacci?” That’s when the friendship, or better yet brotherhood, with Craig began.
 
I’m not sure how many of you know that Craig was a top athlete in the Chicago area in the late 60’s. He was not only a star linebacker and fullback on three straight championship teams, but his senior year he was selected to the All Chicago Area team. He was also a high school champion wrestler. His junior year he made the state quarterfinals in the 165lb class and his senior year he took second in the State in the 175 lb. class. He also received the best athlete award at senior graduation. He doesn’t talk about it much but if you ask him, he would probably modestly say he played with some greater athletes than himself. He also played football in college and was a teammate and fraternity brother of Mike Shanahan (49ers Offensive coordinator, Broncos and Redskins head coach of the NFL).
 
But let’s get back to the high school days. We, as a group, didn’t get into much trouble when we were in high school. I guess it was because we were too busy playing sports all the time. But never in a million years would we have thought Craig would be a pastor in the future. Heck, I ended up being a fighter pilot and airline pilot and back then I had only been on an airplane once in my life! But looking back, Craig always had that nature about him that was comforting to others. He was always willing to help others. So now, looking back, I can see him becoming an awesome pastor.
 
Fast forward to today, some 54 years later. Craig is still my friend, my brother, my mentor and definitely my pastor. As most people, I have had some rough times in my life and Craig has ALWAYS been there for me. He still calls me two or three times a month to “checkup” on me. His words are soothing and his prayers for me are what keeps me going. Whenever I see Craig or hear from him, I feel the presence of God. Our high school football team still has reunions today and Craig commands the respect of each and every player. When one of our teammates passed away (way too young) Craig gave the message and there wasn’t a dry eye in the funeral home. When my father passed away Craig was unable to make the funeral, but he helped me write a message to give in honor of my father. He’s just that kind of leader, pastor and friend.
 
Craig is retiring now. Unfortunately, we can’t all work forever and he knows it’s time for others to step forward. I know that Craig will miss of all of you and you will miss him. But luckily for me, he will always be my pastor until the day I die.
 
Kenny Klimes
USAF, Lt Col Retired
Capt., Southwest Airlines Retired
Craig’s brother, teammate – forever