Golfing for a cause

Justin Crane enjoying time on a four-wheeler with his daughter, Alex. Crane died in October of 2012, after battling acute myeloid leukemia. A golf tournament this week was started in his memory.

Tournament in memory of South St. Paul man

When South St. Paul native Justin Crane was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in August of 2011, he stayed positive.

When doctors told him his prognosis wasn’t good, he strengthened his resolve. Even when things got worse, his outlook endured.

Despite all that was going on, all he wanted to think about was giving back. 

“Towards the end, when he knew it was going to be a battle he couldn’t win, he wanted us to do something not only for the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society, but also a scholarship for a South St. Paul high school senior in his name,” said Adam Carter, a childhood friend of Crane’s.

That’s what inspired the Justin C. Crane scholarship and golf tournament, which is on June 20 and is in its second year.

The scholarship

Crane died Oct. 30, 2012.

One of Crane’s wishes was to set up a scholarship through the South St. Paul Educational Foundation to help another graduate with the cost of post-secondary education. A $5,000 scholarship has been put together in his name, using funds from the golf tournament.

The requirements include being a South St. Paul football player, having a GPA of 3.5 or better and intentions to play football at the next level. Crane, a 1993 South St. Paul High School graduate, played football for the South St. Paul Packers, as well as the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs.

This year, the South St. Paul Educational Foundation awarded the first Justin Crane memorial scholarship to Sam Pachl.

Crane’s optimism lives on

The positivity Crane was known for lives on through the scholarship and tournament, according to Carter.

“Seeing the faces of some of these South St. Paul High School kids who gets these scholarships makes it worthwhile,” he said. “It’s a pretty nice chunk of change.”

Part of this funding comes from the hole-by-hole sponsors that come with the golf tournament. Some sponsors this year include Buzzin 129 radio and Roseville Dodge. Also, Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Minnesota Viking Carl Eller will be on-hand for a meet-and-greet for the tournament this week.

‘He made sure we all stayed connected’

Amidst his battle with leukemia, a group of Crane’s closest friends and family started “Jutty’s Buddies.” The group name was founded after Crane and his friends attended a leukemia-lymphoma walk in 2011. They needed a team name, and decided to go with Justin’s longtime nickname.

To help them grieve Crane’s death, they kept the group going.

Even when it isn’t tournament season, Carter said the group gets together about once a month. The group consists of Crane’s widow, Tracy, as well as his two older brothers. The rest comprise of old friends and classmates.

The only thing more apparent than his football player-specific size was Crane’s positive personality, according to Carter.

“He was a huge guy [physically], but not only that, he was a huge personality,” he said. “He made sure we all stayed connected, so we kind of miss that.”

Tim Faklis can be reached at 651-748-7814, at, or on Twitter @tfaklisnews.


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