John Allen Crew

Published 10:09 am Friday, May 5, 2023

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John Allen Crew died peacefully on April 30, 2023, at home, next to his beloved wife and the Pamlico River that he knew and cherished. John was born in Raleigh, NC on October 31, 1945, fourth child of Robert and Louise Crew. He was preceded in death by both parents and his sister Helen.

John moved with his family to Morganton, NC in 1952 when his mother took a nursing position at Broughton Hospital.

He grew up in Morganton, was baptized in the First Presbyterian Church of Morganton, and attended public school where he was an outstanding High School athlete. He played football, baseball and ran track, including cross country. Tough, and less than wealthy, to save his only pair of shoes, he ran barefoot from Morganton to Boone for cross country training. He followed his elder brothers onto the football field where he excelled. His efforts earned him the “Nicest in the Class” superlative and an Athletic Scholarship to East Carolina University. In college, he played both Center and Nose Guard and was recognized with a number of honors including Captainship of the Team, named twice to the All-State Collegiate Football Squad in 1965 and 1966, Athlete of the Week, was chosen by the Southern Conference Sports Writers Association to All-Southern Conference First Team, Offense, 1966, and was selected by the Associated Press for the All-America Team.

John knew the woods, rivers, streams, and mountains of the western piedmont, kept snakes in the basement and concealed from his nurse mother that the copperhead bit his thumb. He took summer jobs in Kansas City living with brother Bob who was in graduate school, rough and dangerous jobs in construction/demolition and meat packing.

At ECU he studied Art and Geography and began a life-long relationship with the Pamlico River. He married his childhood sweetheart and fellow Art Major, Betsy Martin Hairfield of Morganton after graduation.

After college he worked a series of City Planning jobs in Fayetteville, Charlotte, and Greensboro before taking a job that allowed him to move to Washington in 1975 and live alongside his beloved river. As a Planner in the North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, Division of Coastal Management he helped develop a program to implement the Federal Coastal Area Management Act in NC. The program served as a model for all other coastal states and territories. He was a trusted guide and confidant to local officials, state leaders, and academics in schools across the state and nation in matters involving the management of coastal development through the implementation of permitting processes.

Sportsman, outdoorsman, friend and mentor, waterman, decoy maker, excellent wingshot. Promoter of the craft and preserver of the history of the American working duck decoy. John served as a guide in the art of waterfowling using a layout boat—a tiny tub-like affair anchored a mile or more from shore surrounded by hundreds of hand-made decoys. His skill and acumen in the craft is the stuff of Pamlico folklore. His skill in Sheephead fishing is demonstrated with three State Citations. John was a reader and greatly appreciated the works of Robert Ruark and Jack London

John was a loving husband. Shortly after they were married, Betsy lost her sight to diabetes. John was her devoted helpmate and eyes, taking care of her and sharing a rich life together until her death in 1988.

On December 30, 1999, on a trip to Saint John in the US Virgin Islands, he married Ann Elizabeth Cason, who was his love and his traveling companion through the Caribbean, and up to Newfoundland in a vintage chevy van immaculately fitted out yacht fashion by Ann’s father.

As John’s health began to limit his own travel, he encouraged and supported Ann’s additional world travels including several surveys of Southern Mexico and trips to The Canary Islands and Italy among other places. Throughout his decline from health, Ann took loving and patient care of John, seeing that his needs and wishes were met.

Many of John’s dear friends from his youth, his athletic days and his years afield have passed before him. He is survived by his elder brothers Robert E. (Bob) Crew of Portland, Oregon, James C. (Jim) Crew of Cary, NC their wives Nancy and Dixie; his niece Helen Teel of Tarboro, NC, Nephews Kevin Saulman, of Virginia Beach,  Jim Crew, Jr of Raleigh and wife Glenda Crew Mackie, John (Chris) Crew, and wife Dee Penven-Crew of Raleigh, five grand-nieces, two grand-nephews, five great-grand nieces and three great-grand nephews.

Per his request, John’s ashes will be spread privately on the waters of his beloved Pamlico.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in John’s memory to The Nature Conservancy (, The Blind Center in Eastern NC (, Sound Rivers ( or to a cause of your choosing.

Condolences may be addressed to the family online by visiting

Paul Funeral Home & Crematory of Washington is honored to serve the Crew family.