Despite gruff demeanor, hockey icon Gale Cronk cared about kids
At the 2016 MNHL Awards ceremony, Cronk posed with grandson Eric Jewell and great-grandson Easton Jewell, 3. (Hockey Weekly photo by John Castine)
Gale Cronk was gruff, and he never hesitated to tell you exactly what was on his mind. But he also helped thousands of young people begin and continue their hockey pursuits, and to finance their educations long after they had skated their final shift of Youth hockey.
Cronk, a longtime resident of Fenton, died on Wednesday night at the age of 89.
“He was a great guy. He was there for the kids,” said Mickey Jesue, Michigan Amateur Hockey Association vice-president. “He was a character.”
Cronk was one of the founders of the area’s first AAA circuit, the old Michigan National Hockey League – now the Tier I Elite Hockey League – and was president of the MNHL for 26 years. He was also one of the founders of the Eastern Michigan Hockey Association.
Cronk also created and ran the MNHL scholarship program, which has distributed more than $240,000 to help former MNHL players pay for their post High School education for 28 years.
He was also the founder and owner of the Flint Jr. Generals Junior team.
“He was great for hockey,” said Roger Mauritho, MAHA VP Youth. “He definitely had the kids in mind. He helped I don’t know how many kids.”
Born on June 10, 1929, and raised in Cheboygan, Cronk was one of 15 siblings. After graduating from high school, he moved to Flint in 1948 and attended General Motors Institute, driving a cab to support himself through school. He received an engineering degree in 1954, the same year he moved to Fenton.
Cronk got a job at Chevrolet Metal Fabricating, working there as a member of UAW local #659 until retirement.
He married his wife, Gayle, in 1950, and the couple with nearly identical first names was married for 63 years until Gayle’s death in 2013.
Gale Cronk is survived by their three children, Thomas (Sue) Cronk, Kelly (Elizabeth) Cronk and Robin (Daniel) Jewell; grandchildren Elizabeth (Grant) Weber, Matthew (Jamie) Cronk, Erin Cronk, Robert (Audriana Buchanan) Cronk, Nicole Jewell, Eric (Beth) Jewell, Theresa (Don) Leonard; great-grandchildren Nathan, Natasha, Madison, Bella Rose, Easton and Dean, and great-great-grandaughter Mavis.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 21, at St. Jude’s Episcopal Church, 106 E. Elizabeth St., Fenton. Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday, July 20, at Sharp Funeral Homes, Fenton Chapel, 1000 Silver Lake Rd., Fenton.
Contributions can be made to St. Jude’s Episcopal Church or the Eastern Michigan Hockey Association.