Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 23, 2013

Traverse City pays tribute to Bryan Crough

BY ANGIE JACKSON ajackson@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Bryan Crough was often credited for his vision that breathed new life into downtown Traverse City.

But to Todd McMillen, Crough was more than a man who brought activity and economic development downtown. He was his partner who loved him unconditionally.

Crough, 59, never ate a vegetable and wouldn't pick up his socks, McMillen said. Cooking wasn't Crough's strength, and if he mowed the lawn once he'd take credit for it the entire summer.

"I'm not trying to play him down, but I wanted you to know that he was this big visionary and person to you, and to me he was just my life," McMillen told hundreds of people at Crough's funeral Saturday at the City Opera House. "There was a word used in our house and we never took it for granted and it was called joy. And I got to have the most joy of everybody."

Crough, 59, died June 16 of an apparent heart attack. For nearly two hours Saturday, friends and colleagues shared memories and laughter, applauded Crough's vision as longtime executive director of the Downtown Development Authority and his role in city government, Rotary Club and promoting the Old Town Playhouse.

"He treated everyone with courtesy and respect, even those who vehemently disagreed with him," said friend Jan Warren.

Crough was born in Salina, Kan., and moved to Traverse City in 1980. After a stint with the U.S. Census Bureau, he poured his energy into the local arts scene as executive director of the Old Town Playhouse. Revitalizing the playhouse from a place where folks liked to put on plays to a viable nonprofit was Crough's training ground for many projects to come.

Jeanette Mason, a director at Old Town Playhouse, praised his ability to "work hard and play hard without losing the respect of his peers."

He was a master story teller prone to exaggeration. Mason recalled one of her favorite memories from Crough's year as mayor in the late 1980s. He and Playhouse members were at a party that extended into the wee hours, and neighbors called police.

"To save Bryan a black mark on his record, they thrust Bryan into a closet," Mason said. "Finally, Bryan emerged from his hiding place asking if the cops had left. 'After all', he quipped, 'we wouldn't want to see the mayor come out of the closet.'"

Crough and McMillen lived a private life -- as private a life as their busy schedules allowed. They'd catch up at night after work and meetings.

McMillen, owner of McMillen Creative Custom Framing, remembered when Crough asked what he wanted out of life. McMillen said he'd like to slow down, take up a hobby, focus on a home project. Crough replied, "Ain't gonna happen."

Crough had boundless energy and a knack for getting others involved. Warren credited him for her volunteerism that spanned serving the planning commission, Women's Resource Center and downtown events.

"And as you all have experienced, I just couldn't say no to Bryan Crough," she said.