For 42 years, the Very Rev. Mart Craft served the congregation of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and the Spokane community.
After a brief battle with cancer, he died Feb. 5. He was 71.
Those who knew him well said that he was known for his dry wit, his organizational skills and his ability to connect with anyone he met.
Dennis Murphy, president of Heritage Funeral Home and a longtime friend, said he first met Craft in 1967 when he went to the cathedral for an evening service. In 1974, he started attending regularly, when Craft was organizing services and concerts during Expo ’74.
“They invited different entertainment groups from Expo and different dignitaries would come and speak,” Murphy said. “I remember vividly, they had the 55-gallon drum drummers in the south transept and in that environment, it was absolutely heavenly.”
Craft later invited Murphy to be an acolyte at the church.
“He planned everything and we all had to do it,” he said, referring to Craft’s ability to organize things as “camp directing.”
“Whatever you did, he was always in charge. You never had to think about what you were going to do because you got told what you were going to do, how long you were going to do it and when you were going to stop doing it.”
Craft came to St. John’s straight out of divinity school in 1964 as the curate. He was hired by the dean of the church, the Very Rev. Richard Coombs.
Coombs’ daughter, Cate Coombs Moye, first met Craft when she was just a little girl, maybe 4 or 5 years old. She grew up on the campus of the church and Craft’s family lived there as well.
She said that one of her strongest childhood memories was when Craft arrived at the church.
“One of the things that was so remarkable about Mart was that he had an innate ability to sense the core of somebody pretty darn quickly. He knew how they ticked, made no judgment of it, but embraced it and really helped them bring the best out of themselves,” Moye said. “He did it very quietly. He ministered quietly to anybody, really, young and old.”
Moye said Craft reached out into the community in the late 1960s and early ’70s,
“While Spokane was working diligently to insure that Expo ’74 happened, and there was so much energy put into that, Mart was busy ministering to the community.”
Craft founded Mid-City Concerns around this time and worked with youths inside and outside the church. He offered his home as a place for them to come for activities.
“He had kids from all over the city of Spokane,” Moye said. “They knew it was safe, Mart made it fun. It was a safe place for kids to go. It pulled a lot of kids off the street who would have otherwise been hanging on the streets.”
Murphy said Craft also had a great love of history, even dressing up as King Arthur one Halloween to take his three daughters, Eleanor Copeland, Abigail Henrikson and Olivia Craft trick-or-treating.
He lived with Copeland and her family in recent years, since his retirement in 2006.
“I got to know him over coffee in the morning,” she said of the past four years. “He’s just so funny. Very understanding.”
Copeland said he was easy to talk to and even when something upset him, he always made her and her two sisters feel loved.
“We had to behave a certain way,” she said of being a priest’s daughter. Sunday mornings could be frantic, with last-minute trips to the convenience store for pantyhose to wear to church.
He was a single dad raising three teenage daughters, making trips to the department store for bras and underwear. Copeland said he would drop them off in the lingerie department and come back later for them.
In the years he lived with her and her family, her own children, Alexandra and Nora, her fiancé’s children, Cody and Cassie, and her step-daughter from a previous marriage, Chenae, all spent time with him.
Craft also had a love of music. He was the president of Connoisseur Concerts, the organization that brings events such as the Northwest Bach Festival and Mozart on a Summer’s Eve to the area.
Gertrude Harvey, executive director of Connoisseur Concerts, said she has known Craft since she began attending the church with her family in the mid-1970s.
“He put such a welcoming friendly face on the cathedral,” she said.
When he retired – he was the interim dean of the church – she offered him the opportunity to get involved with the organization.
She said he was very musical. He could play the organ at St. John’s and had a beautiful singing voice. When the church had its vacation Bible school in the summers, he was “Mr. Music.”
“(It will be) important to honor his legacy,” Harvey said. This year’s Bach festival will be dedicated to him and she mentioned the stained glass windows that were installed in the Gothic cathedral in 2007 that were dedicated to his life and ministry.
That legacy reached all over Spokane.
“Bishop (Edward Makin) Cross, when he came out here to build the cathedral, his vision was a cathedral on the hill and it’s supposed to be Spokane’s cathedral, a sort of compass of how we’re supposed to conduct ourselves,” Murphy said. “In order to do that, you’ve got to be out in the community working with people. That was one of the things Mart did really well.”
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