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When acquaintances despaired about getting their dog to obey and were ready to give it away, Lawrence Croake changed their minds after just 10 minutes working with the recalcitrant canine on a long leash. His wife, Marionne “Koko” Croake, explained the...

Educator had 'magical' influence on animals

When acquaintances despaired about getting their dog to obey and were ready to give it away, Lawrence Croake changed their minds after just 10 minutes working with the recalcitrant canine on a long leash. His wife, Marionne “Koko” Croake, explained the...

Educator had 'magical' influence on animals

When acquaintances despaired about getting their dog to obey and were ready to give it away, Lawrence Croake changed their minds after just 10 minutes working with the recalcitrant canine on a long leash.

His wife, Marionne “Koko” Croake, explained the dog “needed one person in its life to tell it to do what it was told.” That person was her husband, a lifelong animal lover and avid reader.

Lawrence E. Croake of New Kensington died Tuesday, May 17, 2016, at Allegheny Valley Hospital after battling a combination of physical and cognitive ailments. He was 86.

According to his wife, Mr. Croake “had magical hands dealing with animals, working with them and calming them. I've seen him do it with dogs and birds.”

He trained many sporting dogs and was a member of the Fort Pitt Retriever Club. A native of Plattsburgh, N.Y., he raised chickens and rabbits as a youth, returning to the hobby at times as an adult and expanding his flock to include ducks, quail and a partridge.

A Korean War veteran who served in the Air Force and the Army, Mr. Croake obtained an undergraduate degree in classical languages with a concentration in political science at Seton Hall University. He went on to study theology and later completed doctoral work in philosophy at Duquesne University.

He taught subjects including ethics, humanities and the history of philosophy for nearly three decades at Penn State New Kensington, where his wife was an adjunct professor.

Mr. Croake's eclectic taste in reading material included military history, Oriental philosophy and an estimated 200 volumes on various dog breeds.

“His fellow faculty members asked him, ‘Do you read a book a day?' And that was just about right,” his wife said.

Mr. Croake was a faithful Catholic who was proud of his Irish heritage. Before he met his wife, he spent 15 months working on a farm at the Mt. Saviour Monastery, a Benedictine community in Pine City, N.Y. In 1964, as a layman, he helped its monks found Christ in the Desert, a monastic community near Abiquiu, N.M., that has grown to include more than 40 monks and has given rise to three additional monasteries in Mexico and Texas.

With his practical farming skills, Mr. Croake advised the monks on purchasing a tractor and learned to repair the monastery's adobe buildings.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Croake is survived by two daughters, Regina Janov and her husband, Blase, of North Versailles, and Mary-Claire Grantz and her husband, Timothy, of West Leechburg; and three grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Joseph J. Cardaro Funeral Home, 1125 Kenneth Ave., New Kensington, with a prayer of transfer at 10:30 a.m., followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m. at St. Joseph Church, New Kensington. Interment will be in St. Vincent Cemetery, Latrobe.

Memorial donations may be made to www.christdesert.org or to the Penn State Library, 3550 Seventh Street Road, New Kensington, PA 15068.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622 or jhimler@tribweb.com.

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