Ernest Gale Criswell, 91, Burnettsville, Indiana, and Benson, Arizona, died Tuesday, June 6, 2017, at home in Benson with family members around him.
Born May 2, 1926, in Salem, Indiana, the ninth of 11 children of Marcus and Ella Criswell, Gale was doing a man's work on the farm by age 9. He noticed Carolyn E. Harless when he was 15 and she was 13, and set his mind on marrying her. He was a varsity basketball player all four years of high school. Gale was drafted and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1944. He served with the 96th Infantry Division as heavy machine gunner and was wounded in combat on Okinawa in the battle for Hacksaw Ridge, earning a Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. He was honorably discharged Feb. 23, 1946.
Returning home to Burnettsville, Gale married his sweetheart Carolyn Harless on June 30, 1946. After a short stint on the railroad, Gale began farming. Daughters Cristy and Ella Kathleen and son Kim Alan were born. He bought his family's farm near Burnettsville in 1956. Gale and Carolyn raised German shepherds and were members of AKC Kennel Club. In 1958, son Casey was born. Casey had asthma, and winters in Indiana were hard on him, so in 1960 they put the farm in the Soil Bank and moved to Benson, Arizona. After work as a truck driver and then doing milk delivery, Gale secured a job at Apache Nitrogen Plant. He studied the chemistry necessary to upgrade and became an anhydrous ammonia plant operator. In his leisure time, Gale participated in Arizona Rangers, hunted javelina and deer, and enjoyed off-roading in his Willys jeep. He taught 4-H livestock judging, driving kids to 4-H events all over southeastern Arizona.
In 1966, Gale learned of another anhydrous ammonia plant opening in El Centro, California. He and Carolyn moved there, but they lost their bearings and separated. Divorced, they each married other people. Gale married Rosemary Riggle Elliott, and moved to Alaska to help start the anhydrous ammonia plant in Kenai. Gale fathered another daughter, Eyde. But the love he and Carolyn shared had not died. Divorced by 1972, they sought each other out and remarried. Gale had returned to farming. His fields prospered, and he became a seed corn salesman for Jacques Seeds.
Gale could build anything, fix anything, and do anything he set his mind to. When they retired, Gale and Carolyn again began spending winters in Benson. Their lives changed permanently when Gale, at 89, while picking apples off an 18-foot ladder, fell and broke his back. Other health issues were discovered, and Carolyn decided they should move permanently to Arizona in December 2015.
Gale is survived by his loving wife of 71 years Carolyn, son Casey Criswell (Peggy Butenhoff), daughters Cristy (Dave) Moore, E. Kathy (Mark) Suagee and Eyde (Greg) Williams; daughter-in-law Donna (Bob) Warner; grandchildren Richard Moore, Rachel (Rick) Gabriel, Dylan (Brionne Beck) Suagee, Zachary (Gaby Nadrchal) Brennan, Brandon Criswell, Britany (Tom) Scogland, Megan (David) Hefner, Jasmine (Gene) Tesdahl, Summer (Andy) Walter, Tyler (Misty Chapman) Van Meter, Teaya (Keyton) Brewer; 11 great-grandchildren; sisters Lyndall Hawkins and Joye Shafer, brother Boyd Criswell, and many nieces, nephews and surrogate children.
He goes to the Great Beyond to be with son Kim Alan Criswell, grandson Heath Devin Moore, brothers Bernie, Herman, Kenneth Mason and Glenn, and sisters Ivadel, Bethel and Faye.
Burial services will be at 10 a.m. Monday, June 19, at Miller-Roscka Funeral Home, Monticello. Gale's remains will be buried at Davis Cemetery in Burnettsville.
Viewing will be 4-8 p.m. Sunday, June 18, also at the funeral home.
Remembrances may be sent to Pike Creek Church of the Brethren in Monticello.
Published on June 13, 2017