Crawley touched many lives

I was among the many members of the community who were saddened when we heard of the death of Rex Crawley.

The 1982 graduate of Steubenville High School died Nov. 23. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma took his life at the age of 49, but thanks to his efforts in the world of education and the community as a whole, he touched the lives of many young people in Steubenville and throughout the Tri-State Area.

Crawley will be remembered for many accomplishments in the field of education and the leadership roles he filled at Robert Morris University. That list included serving as the endowed chair and executive director of the Uzuri Think Tank and the Black Male Leadership Institute.

Anthony Robins, director of program and research for the think tank, described its focus as being on the educational success of black males in an opinion piece that appeared in the May 26 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Crawley never let his battles with cancer get him down. He received a bone morrow transplant after being diagnosed in 1999 and was in remission for about 12 years. Chemotherapy helped him beat back the disease again in 2012, before the cancer returned this year.

Crawley occasionally contributed to our newspaper through letters to the editor and guest columns. He wrote about the quality of treatment he received at Trinity Health System’s Teramana Cancer Center in a letter that appeared in the March 11, 2012, Herald-Star.

He wrote that he received opinions about his cancer and recommended courses of treatment in Steubenville, at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and the James Cancer Center in Columbus before deciding to stay in his hometown.

“I am pleased to say that of Feb. 25 (2012) I am cancer-free again and I am so grateful to a team and community of people that made what could have been a horrible experience somewhat tolerable,” Crawley wrote.

Despite his efforts, when his cancer returned, the odds were stacked against him. Faced with the need for another bone marrow transplant and with neither of his siblings a match, Crawley could do nothing but wait for a matching donor to be found.

Ashley N. Johnson wrote about Crawley’s fight in a story that appeared in the Nov. 1 edition of the New Pittsburgh Courier. Johnson provided some sobering statistics from the Institute for Justice. The numbers showed that the number of African-American donors who are available and willing to donate is 34 percent, compared to 65 percent for Caucasians. Also, the numbers showed that while Caucasians found an unrelated donor 75 percent of the time, African-Americans found an unrelated donor 25 percent of the time.

“Until the African-American community gets comfortable with donating, folks will continue to die every day,” Crawley was quoted as saying in the Johnson piece. “The first step is getting registered. Then you can decide if you want to go further.”

Crawley was blogging about his fight against cancer and his efforts to find a transplant, and a portion of those blogs were slated to be published as part of an upcoming textbook, according to Johnson.

Residents of Steubenville, those who are a part of RMU’s Moon Township campus and hundreds of others throughout the Tri-State Area remember Crawley as a mentor, a person who worked hard to help others.

Let’s hope that his efforts to educate the community as a whole, and African-Americans in particular, about marrow donation will make a difference in the future for those who suffer from cancer. It would be a fine addition to the legacy Crawley has left.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)