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In Memoriam: Microbiology Professor Ron Crawford

January 17, 2018

Longtime University of Idaho faculty member Ronald L. Crawford passed away on Jan.11, 2018 at his home in Bend, Oregon, after battling pancreatic cancer.

Ron joined the faculty in 1987 as head of the Department of Bacteriology and Biochemistry. Incidentally, this led to him becoming his twin brother's boss. They had many funny stories to share about the various confusions that being twins caused. 

At the University of Idaho, Ron later became the head of the Environmental Biotechnology Institute, which he led until his retirement in 2010. He was appointed to the prestigious position of professor of microbiology. During his time at the University of Idaho, he directed graduate student research that led to many students receiving M.S. and/or Ph.D. degrees, and he served on the thesis committees of many other students. Those students have gone on to widely successful careers. 

Ron was born on September 28, 1947 in Santa Anna, Texas, the son of Lester Crawford and Doris Smith.

He grew up in Texas and Oklahoma, graduating from Hobart (Oklahoma) High School in 1966. Ron and his twin brother, sister, and younger brother had many stories to tell about growing up in a small rural Oklahoma town and the scientific "experiments" they did as youngsters. He and his twin brother Don attended Oklahoma City University (OCU) from 1966 to 1970, and graduated with a B.A. in Biology. It was at OCU, in a freshman biology class, where Ron met the love of his life, Onie Thompson. They liked to joke that they "met over the dissection of a fetal pig." Ron and Onie were married on December 30, 1967 in Oklahoma City.

After graduating Cum Laude with the Gold Key from OCU in 1970, Ron was accepted into the graduate program in bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin, and they moved to Madison, Wisconsin in August 1970. Ron and Don attended graduate school together in the Department of Bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, while Ron's wife, Onie, worked as a teaching assistant in the bacteriology department. In 1972, while still in Wisconsin, Ron and Onie happily welcomed a daughter, Lisa, into their family. Ron received his M.S. (1972) and Ph.D. (1973) from UW, and then accepted a postdoctoral research position at the University of Minnesota in the laboratory of famed biochemist, Dr. Stanley Dagley.

In 1974, they moved to Albany, New York, where Ron worked for the New York State Department of Health. Then, in 1975 he accepted a faculty position at the University of Minnesota Freshwater Biological Institute, where he taught and researched in environmental microbial physiology until January 1987.

Ron was an avid runner, logging over 52,000 miles in all kinds of weather; he completed dozens of marathons and several ultra-marathons. After retirement, Ron and Onie moved to Bend, Oregon to be closer to their daughter and family. While in Bend, Ron enjoyed the many outdoor activities that the Bend area offers, particularly fly fishing with his Tenkara rods on the Deschutes River and the Crooked River.

Ron is survived by his wife of 50 years, Onie; daughter, Lisa Reid (and husband Josh) of Redmond, Oregon; grandchildren, Bella, Brayden, and Tristin; twin brother Don Crawford (and wife Melinda) of Moscow, Idaho; sister, Connie Crawford of Pomeroy, Washington; brother Lester D. Crawford of Poulsbo, Washington; and numerous nieces and nephews.

The family extends thanks to Partners in Care of Bend, especially Melanie Rosen, for their kindness and respect toward Ron and our family during the past several months. Their caring and their skills are beyond measure and greatly appreciated.

A private graveside service will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, if desired, the family suggests donations to Partners in Care, 2075 NE Wyatt Court, Bend, Oregon 97701; or to Deschutes Land Trust, 210 NW Irving Ave. #102, Bend, Oregon 97701.


About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference. Learn more at