The Mayo Society of Greater Cleveland has set a new standard for inclusion by changing our bylaws. For the first time ever, a person without Mayo roots has been named Person of the Year – Edward F. Crawford.
When asked what this award means to him, the 2014 Person of the Year, Edward F. Crawford, said “I think it’s a wonderful, wonderful decision by the Mayo Society to step out and decide to be more inclusive here. There are other great Counties in Ireland. I think it gives the Mayo Society the opportunity to reach out to a broader group of individuals that, in one way or another, have contributed to the Irish sense of themselves.” And then, tongue-in-cheek, he added “I think they made the right decision in picking a Corkman I have to say.”
Crawford, a self-professed “serial entrepreneur”, is Chairman and CEO of ParkOhio Holdings Corp. and The Crawford Group, both headquartered in Cleveland. With $1.4 billion in sales world- wide, they employ 4,800 associates the U.S., China, Japan, India, Australia and Ireland. ParkOhio specializes in integrated logistics systems and manufactured products.
Committed to a balanced life of commercial activity, civic responsibility and political action he is best described by this writer as a man who knows what to do with his time and money. He wasn’t born with the proverbial “silver spoon” in his mouth. He knows where he’s from. And, from a geographical standpoint, that would be Manhattan.
In 1948 his electrician father bundled his wife and three sons up and off they headed to sunny California. A couple days later, as they were traveling on Route 20 in Ohio, the engine in their truck blew up. Within a day his mother located an apartment for the family in Cleveland Heights and California became a faded dream. And the family took root in Ohio.
An imaginative man with a sixth sense, his most recent activity in Cleveland’s Irish community has been the founding of the Irish Garden Club and the resultant restoration of Cleveland’s four acre Irish Cultural Garden. Under his leadership, the garden has become the jewel of Irish Cleveland.
As he drove on Martin Luther King Boulevard a few years ago, Crawford was shocked to see the deterioration of the Irish Garden. “I couldn’t believe it. The stones were upturned, the grass wasn’t getting cut regularly – it looked pretty beat up.” He remembered all of Cleveland’s ethnic Cultural Gardens and the boathouse that was located on what was then Liberty Blvd. “Growing up in Cleveland Heights in the 50s and 60s, the gardens were still in pretty good order. They reflected the diversity of Cleveland and I thought it was very special.” A couple weeks after first witnessing the deterioration he saw some volunteers working in the Irish Garden as he again drove by. He got out of his car and spoke with them. “After that I got on the phone and called some friends and that’s when I formed the Irish Garden Club.
At a breakfast meeting the process was begun to do the necessary fund-raising to get our garden back to the grand stature it was at one time. We really hoped that by getting it in ship-shape to where it was originally that maybe it would interest those responsible for other ethnic gardens along MLK Boulevard to do the same.” And that has happened in a big way. “As far as I can deter- mine it’s been about four million dollars invested in those other gardens,” he said.
The final jewel has been the construction of a fountain in the garden. While in Dublin on business he saw a beautiful fountain out- side in the garden of St. Patrick’s Church. Fascinated by, it he approached the Fred Lennon foundation about funding an effort to get a duplicate fountain built for Cleveland’s Irish Garden.
“I grew up with the Lennon family and they have never sought any public recognition in any way.” Crawford was able to convince their Fred Lennon Foundation to invest in the Irish Garden. The result is the spectacular fountain. Crawford says Phase One has now been completed. “Phase Two is maintaining it at the level that we expect.” He gives credit to “a lot of volunteers; a lot of contributions. Everyone shares it; a lot of great people….surely it’s the greenest garden.”
Crawford’s grandparents both emigrated from Cork. His grandmother, Catherine McCarthy, was from New Market, Boherbue. His grandfather Healy was a Corkman. “We have plenty of Crawford and Hennessey first cousins there yet,” he added.
Ed and Mary Crawford take tremendous pride in their son Matthew. A Marshall Law School graduate, he is engaged in the succession of the family business. “Succession in America is very difficult but Matthew is transitioning ParkOhio with wonderful people we’ve brought aboard. They are taking us into the future.