In his final weeks, 91-year-old Harold Macoubrey Cragg was busy with a whirlwind of activities — attending plays, finishing a college philosophy class and flying in a vintage plane like the one he learned to pilot when he was a World War II aviator.
And in his final two hours on May 23, the retired entrepreneur insisted to his physician that he couldn’t go to the hospital with his chest pain right then; he had a tee time that afternoon.
Cragg continued trying to cajole his physician into letting him keep his tee time and drive himself to the hospital afterward, but the doctor called an ambulance. Before it could arrive at the medical office, Cragg’s heart had stopped.
His golf pals knew something was wrong when the dependable Cragg left them waiting on the tee.
“He went right up until the moment he died,” said one of his sons, Dr. Andrew Cragg.
Harold Cragg, a lifelong St. Paul resident, had played golf at his beloved Town and Country Club since age 10 and up to the end had made it “a point of honor” to walk the hilly course, toting his own clubs, while others rode in carts, said another son, Dr. Michael Cragg.
“He lived an honorable life, and in the process he was a role model for the people around him,” Michael Cragg said. “But he was also interested in changing the world in small steps. He didn’t hesitate to sit down and write a letter to his legislator or bishop if he thought it would help others.”
Born in 1921, Harold Cragg grew up in St. Paul’s Merriam Park neighborhood, where he attended school and church services at St. Mark’s Catholic Church, along with his three brothers. He went on to St. Thomas Academy and the University of Minnesota.
At 23, Harold enlisted in the Marine Corps and flew Corsair fighters in the Pacific theater. His father died suddenly at the end of the war, and that brought Harold Cragg back to St. Paul. He met Catherine “Kitty” Fahey in 1947, and they were married for 65 years. She died last Labor Day weekend.
Harold Cragg had started three businesses, including HM Craig of Eden Prairie, which now provides backup power sources for computers. When he began that company in 1968, he touted the Cragg Railcharger, which provides battery backup in case of power failure for devices that control railroad signal crossings. Cragg had recognized the public danger if batteries burned out at crossings, his sons said.
A lifelong learner, Harold Cragg enrolled in many college classes after retiring 20 years ago. “He was conservative by temperament and in politics, so he relished challenging the liberal professors of whatever class he was in,” Andrew Cragg said.
The elder Cragg was highly social and inquisitive, always wanting to know details of others’ lives, even waitresses at his table. He easily made friends and became their confidante and would often call to check on them.
Kitty was homebound with serious health problems in her last 10 years. Harold gave up classes to be her main caregiver, leaving the house for only an hour or so at a time to take a walk.
After she died, Harold re-enrolled at the University of St. Thomas. He attended daily mass and volunteered to deliver Meals on Wheels. On May 9, pilot Bruce Olson took him up in a vintage North American AT-6 Texan out of Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie. Son Andy was in the formation. Other family members watched excitedly from below.
Other survivors include another physician son, John; daughters Mary Fletcher and Therese Ames; nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Services have been held.