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Owner of Turbulator, Marguerite Crawford, dies

Years ago, when there was a Playfair Race Course, the press box gang and maybe a few others often referred to Marguerite Crawford as Turbulator’s mother.

She wasn’t, of course. Marguerite Crawford was very much a lady. And it’s tempting to say Turbulator was only a horse, except that he wasn’t. He was the greatest racehorse in this city’s history. And Mrs. Crawford, alternately his den mother, stable attendant, nursemaid and leader of his rooting section, did all of that and more without raising her voice.

Crawford, a gracious Southern woman who believed she had lived a long and full life, died Sunday in a Spokane Valley care center, almost six months past her 100th birthday.

Who might have guessed, at the end of the 1960s, that, someday, there would be no Playfair and no racing in Spokane? It seemed less likely that Mrs. Crawford, soon to become the middle-aged widow of Turbulator’s trainer, would outlive the track. And it was only a guess that their pride and joy, which they owned in partnership with some friends, would build a reputation that could outlast them all.

A native of Ruston, La., Marguerite Anderson was born Sept. 11, 1913, the oldest of eight children in a family distinguished by longevity. Almost always, horses were part of her life. Early in the Great Depression, after graduating from high school in nearby Shreveport, she became a nurse. Then she headed west to San Diego, lured by stories of plentiful work. She went to buy a car and wound up marrying the salesman, a tall, lanky, fellow Southerner named Tom Crawford.

Before the end of World War II, they had moved to Spokane, where he and Harold McCollum acquired a Ford dealership. Soon, Tom and Marguerite owned a few racehorses, a mare and a small ranch at 12th and Adams in Veradale.

While he became a key figure among area car dealers and supervised the breeding and training of their horses, she studied bloodlines, pondered appropriate names and helped raise the babies. Standout thoroughbreds like Aryess, Cold Bay and Lea Rover carried their fuchsia silks. They had a daughter, Barbara Jo, and named a foal after her.

Barbara Jo, the horse, and her half-sister, Mercy Me, became stakes-winners. Fur Piece, another filly from their dam, didn’t race. But, in 1965, she produced a big-chested bay colt. The Crawfords named him Turbulator after the hydrotherapy tubs used on sore-legged horses.

After recovering from a crippling knee injury, Turbulator began the 1969 Playfair season as a maiden and won seven consecutive races. In 1970, he became the only runner to earn Horse of the Meeting honors at all three Washington tracks. He set a world record and drew huge crowds. Fans wore buttons proclaiming “I Love Tubby!” He was elected to the Washington Racing Hall of Fame.

Marguerite Crawford dressed for the occasions and remembered every moment. She recalled turning 88 on the day of the World Trade Center attacks. She spent part of her 100th birthday celebration telling Sunday school students about her childhood.

And, although nearly blind and slowed by heart problems, her memory remained sharp, and her voice was strong.

“I’ve had an interesting life and some adventures,” she said in 2012. “I guess God wants some people to have interesting lives, and I’ve been very fortunate. It’s a wonderful thing that I still have my mind and my memories and the chance to talk about them.”

Crawford is survived by her daughter and her son-in-law, Eric Place, and their daughter, Jenna, a Central Valley High School student.

The memorial service has been scheduled for 11 a.m. on March 15, at Opportunity Presbyterian Church, where she was a member for half a century.