History of St. Francis' Chuch

 The Rev. Robert Milton Crane
       (1916 − 1952, March 11.)

    Fr. Crane grew up in Pomona, Los Angeles, studied at the University of California, Berkeley, and General Theological Seminary, New York, and was ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles by Bishop Stevens in 1943. In the same year he joined the National Guard as chaplain and served overseas for two years during World War II.

    During his ministry in the Diocese he served as curate, vicar and rector of Christ church, Ontario; St. Timothy's Compton ; All Saints Los Angeles, and All Saints', San Diego. He was rector of the latter church when he was recalled as a chaplain to the 40th Division of the California National Guard in September, 1950. The Korean War had broken out in June of the same year. Before being sent to the battlefields of Korea, he worked for the church in Misawa Base Camp of the U. S. Armed Forces located in the northern part of Japan, Aomori prefecture Meanwhile, during his offduty hours, he visited near-by churches belonging to the Episcopal Diocese of Tohoku, Japan. There he met quite a few people, and contracted a particularly close friendship with Shinzo Nakamura, Bishop of the Diocese. He often visited with the Bishop at his home in Hirosaki, and had a good time with his family. While the friendship between the two deepened more and more, Fr. Crane got to know that Bishop Nakamura was struggling to advance Christian truth in a new and impoverished field, and became very anxious to work with Bishop Nakamura in his Diocese, Tohoku, as his life work. After they talked many times with each other he decided to remain in Japan and work in Tohoku when his Army service was over. So he sent in his resignation to his church in the Diocese of Los Angeles, announcing his intention of devoting himself to missionary work in Japan. Before he could take up this ministry he was sent to the battlefield in Korea. And there the Lord took him up to Heaven. It was March 11, 1952. He was 35 years of age.

    At the front line where random bullets hissed about the ears, Fr. Crane was convinced that the soldiers serving in the army needed the personal ministry of the chaplain, and he made it a practice to travel around the front lines bringing the Sacraments to the young men in the fox holes. On the afternoon of one day, as he was bringing the Sacrament to a group of young people, he drove his jeep to a fox hole on the front line. On a hill above him was a Korean motor battalion that, seeing the jeep and the officer alight from it, decided this was a target . When he had completed administering Communion to the men in the fox hole he climbed back in his jeep and was struck by a motar shell and instantly killed. The men of the 40th Division truly loved Fr. Crane, and they knew of his interest in the ministry to the Japanese people. They collected an amount of $5,000 to be designated by the Church of Japan for the construction of a memorial in his honor. This money was granted to the Episcopal Diocese of Tohoku, Japan. In those days, in the Diocese of Tohoku, they were planning to found a training school for women leaders to be Christian Education workers who guide congregations, especially young people in the churches of the Diocese. This plan was such a magnificent one because school buildings, a kindergarten, chapel, and priest’s house were involved in it that considerable amount of money was needed for the Diocese to carry out the plan. The money contributed by the soldiers was to be applied to construction of the memorial chapel and the priest’s house, but the amount, splendid as it was, was not enough to accomplish the objective. This situation of the Diocese of Tohoku reached the ears of Bishop Francis Eric Bloy, Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles. He created the Fr. Crane Memorial Fund and suggested to the Convention of the House of Young Churchmen that perhaps the Young Churchmen of this Diocese augment the amount raised by the 40th Division for the construction of a memorial in Sendai. The idea of the Fr. Crane Memorial was adopted at the Annual Convention of the House of Young Churchmen. The young people of the Diocese decided to accept as its principal project the job of raising $15,000 for the Fr. Crane Memorial to be established in Sendai, Japan. Then after small twists and turns, this campaign to raise funds was carried out successfully and the construction of the chapel was finally completed on March 31 in 1960. It was named the Father Crane Memorial Saint Francis' Chapel and consecrated on May 5 in the same year. It is written in the document of the Diocese that on that day many church people gathered together from all over Tohoku area and joyfully joined the Completion Ceremony. We, the congregation of St. Francis' Church, who keep church services in this chapel, the Lord's House, should thank the Lord for His present granted to us by His unknowable power of love and also should remember not only Fr. Crane but those people who worked for the construction and many people who made a splendid contribution to completion of the construction.

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