For anyone traveling in Bucks County who ever found a Gideon Bible in their hotel room, chances are that Francis B. McCrea put it there.
Mr. McCrea, known as “Frank,” was active in the Gideons International as president of the Upper Bucks Chapter and made it his business to equip local hotels, motels, and bed-and-breakfasts with Bibles.
Tom McCrea, his younger brother, said Mr. McCrea was concerned about “the millions of lost souls who need to hear the gospel.”
“How best to reach these individuals? The most direct method in Frank’s way of thinking was to provide them with the word of God and let them read it for themselves,” Tom McCrea wrote in an account of his brother’s life.
Mr. McCrea, 97, of Doylestown, died Friday, Jan. 3, of cardiac arrest at Pine Run Lakeview, an assisted living facility. His family remembered him this week as a hopeful saver of souls, a father, businessman, thespian, performer in industrial films as the kindly country doctor, and a devoted church worker.
Born in the historic Francis Cope House in Awbury Park, Germantown, Mr. McCrea was the son of William McCrea. His father was the first park superintendent of Awbury Arboretum and held the post for 42 years, until his death in 1960. The arboretum was once the private preserve of an extended Quaker family, but it has been open as a public park for nearly 100 years.
Mr. McCrea graduated in 1941 from Germantown High School. So loyal was he to his classmates that he attended class reunions for the following 75 years.
He joined the Navy in March 1943, and though he didn’t qualify as a Navy pilot, he served in air operations at Hickam Naval Air Base on Oahu, Hawaii, until being honorably discharged with the rank of lieutenant, junior grade, according to his military records.
From 1953 to 1968, Mr. McCrea was a regional sales manager for General Motors. In 1969, he established McCrea & Company, a manufacturer’s representative for industrial fasteners in Chalfont. He closed the firm and retired in 1992.
A born showman, Mr. McCrea had an unrelenting urge to entertain. Before dinner, he would gather newspaper clips, magazines articles, jokes, and anecdotes to keep his family amused.
The gregarious Mr. McCrea acted in more than 40 theater productions, including Shakespeare plays. His agent marketed Mr. McCrea as the “Marcus Welby M.D.” type for performances in films aimed at pharmaceutical firms and intended for doctor training sessions.
Tom McCrea described his brother as “immensely popular.”
“No further evidence of this is required than combined attendance of over 130 at his two 95th birthday celebrations,” his brother wrote.
Another trait was consistency, first in his unwavering Christian faith, and second, in his devotion to family. Mr. McCrea was a member of the New Britain Baptist Church for 68 years. He was a choir member, deacon, Sunday school teacher, and committee member.
He enjoyed all kinds of music, carpentry, and baked Irish soda bread with raisins.
Mr. McCrea also liked watching football games played by Penn State, the Eagles, and what is now Central Bucks High School West.
Besides his brother, Tom, he is survived by daughters Karen, Christine McCrea Krolik, and Beth McCrea LaBeff; his first wife, Beverly Norris McCrea Atkinson; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
His second wife of 30 years, Jean Graeber McCrea, died in August. His surviving stepchildren from the marriage are Stephen Graeber, Nancy Schuyler, Denise Steskal, and Donna Winslade. There are also 16 step-grandchildren and 11 step-great-grandchildren.