In Memory

Philip Crater (Crater)

Philip Crater (Crater)

Philip Daryl Crater (aka “Fast” Phil), age 74, passed away peacefully on August 22, 2022 with his family at his side after battling Lewy Body Dementia for several years. Phil was born in Grand Rapids, MI on May 17, 1948 to Robert and Dorothy Crater. He was very proud of his service in the US Army Military Police and Honor Guard from 1967 - 1970 where he was stationed first in Germany then at Fort Monroe, VA. Phil married Patricia Smith in 1988 and together they raised their blended family of four boys. He loved his family, was an avid gardener, was passionate about Corvettes - he owned a 1960 and 1995 - and was an artistic soul who also loved antiques, working on house projects and reading. After retiring from 37 years in the meat industry he and Pat retired as snowbirds to their condo in Fort Myers, FL where they made many close and life-long unforgettable friends. Phil loved the warm weather and stayed very active.

He is survived by his loving wife of 34 years, Patricia Smith Crater; children Matthew (Kristy) Crater, Bryan Crater; step children Edward (Bethany) Czurak and Adam Czurak; grandchildren Josh and Abby Crater, Ethan and Eva Czurak; siblings Elaine (Dave) Loveless, Sally Van Duine, Larry Crater; brothers-in-law Edward and Robert Smith; sisters-in law Nancy Smith and Mary Creager; several nieces, nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents Robert and Dorothy (Van Oss) Crater, brother-in-law Jack Van Duine and niece Dawn Thrasher.

Phil was happiest when he was enjoying nature whether it was gardening, hiking, on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico or walking the beach. He requested cremation and did not wish to have any sort of funeral or memorial service but for those who wish to honor his memory he would no doubt be delighted to have donations made to Interim Hospice or the Kent County Veterans Honor Guard. The family would like to offer a special thank you to the staff at Vista Springs Northview Memory Care and to Kaylie and Laurie from Interim Hospice for their loving care and compassion, which was a blessing to us. Phil will be deeply missed by his many friends and family. He will live in our hearts forever.

go to bottom 
  Post Comment

08/24/22 10:14 PM #1    

Philip Berquist

Phil was one of my very best friends at Lee High School. We would spend hours upon hours listening to jazz recordings, particularly Stan Kenton, the Four Freshmen, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Spike Jones, Charlie Barney, Ramsey Lewis and Les Brown.  Phil was an amazing trombone player and had a wicked sense of humor.  I wonder how many miles he, Jim DeWitt, Cary Smallegan and I spent riding our bikes all over southwest Grand Rapids, one time, an ill-advised attempt on Chicago Drive to get to Holland.  Wow, that was scary!  In 1970, I came home from Basic Training at Christmas and he excitedly called me and said that Kenton was in town the next day!  A very special time together.  Which reminds me of the Kenton album that I borrowed from him in 1965.  Still have it, alas. We laughed several times about that.  

All of my best wishes to Pat and family.  Phil drew the sort straw at the end and it was a tough finish for a truly decent and great man.  He is in a better place and I will never forget his friendship.

Phil Berquist

08/28/22 02:30 PM #2    

Stan Carpenter

My mother was the oldest of 7 children (her and six brothers), and Phil’s father, Robert, was the oldest of her six brothers. Phil and I grew up together. We were both born in May 1948 and at that time our parents lived in the same boarding house on the West side of Grand Rapids. Wow, time passes so quickly. Phil’s father, my Uncle Bob, and all my uncles were special men. They were all high integrity, honest, hard-working, family men, veterans of WWII. That was a very special generation, nothing like it since. Phil and I were very blessed to have wonderful parents who were lifelong friends. Phil was a wonderful person, kind, and willing to help at any time. I remember asking him to help deliver newspapers on my route for the Grand Rapids press several times at the last minute when I was not able to, and he was always willing to help out. Some special memories I have of Phil are playing one-on-one tackle football with him in our backyards; how proud he was of playing the trombone; and also, how proud he was of his military service. After I went away to college, and then moved away from Michigan, I did not see Phil much. There were two occasions that are special memories. One time on a visit back home, I stopped in to see him at his job and he was so happy to see me. On another visit when one of my daughters gave me a gift of a trip back to Michigan and took me and my brothers to a Michigan football game, Phil was able to attend. We shared many memories and laughs on that visit. My cousin Phil was a great man, a blessing to his family and to all. Phil will be greatly missed and never forgotten. I love you Phil.

Phil and Stan – Grand Rapids – West side:

I have wonderful memories of our families spending time together. 

Below – Phil’s sisters and brother: Sally, Phil, Elaine, and Larry:

08/29/22 08:25 PM #3    

Stan Carpenter

Celebration of Life for Phil Crater:

08/29/22 11:25 PM #4    

Philip Berquist

Stan, I will be unable to attend the tribute to our beloved Phil. Please tell Pat that I have she and family in my prayers. I so loved seeing Phil at the 50th. It seemed like all of us got older but Phil still had that beautiful look of youth about him. This loss really, really hits me hard. Best, Phil Berquist 

08/29/22 11:28 PM #5    

Philip Berquist

Just curious, how did "Fast Phil" originate?  PB



08/30/22 08:08 PM #6    

Stan Carpenter



Below is the response from Phil's wife Pat to your question about "Fast Phil". Thank you so much for your comments about Phil. I agree that he always had the look of a young boy, maybe with a twinkle of mischief in his eyes. I was also hit hard by this loss. I am sure that he would want us to remember the good times we were able to share with him and the special occasions. Thanks again Philip and best wishes to you and your family.

From Pat Crater:

Phil was so loved by everyone, he was a very special man. ♥️He had the Fast Phil moniker long before I met him but he said it came to be when he had his 60 Corvette and always was speeding. Then we got the 95 Corvette and I knew it was true. Vroom! 🏎️🏁🏎️

09/23/22 11:58 AM #7    

James DeWitt


Since Fred Cole’s email message of August 24, 2022, with the sad news that Phil Crater had passed away on August 22, I have been reminiscing a lot about Phil.

Phil and I were boyhood friends.  Phil was very personable.  He had an easy sense of humor.  As kids, we had good times.  (But I also remember a few bad-boy incidents, when we got ourselves “in Dutch”!) 

We grew up in Wyoming, Michigan, in the neighborhood around Chicago Drive.  Phil lived on Rathbone Street.  I lived on Whiting Street and on Federal Avenue.  

Phil and I were classmates at Godfrey-Lee Public Schools.  I remember that Phil had very neat penmanship.  We played together in the Lee High School band.  Phil was a much better trombonist than I was, probably because he was more musically talented and practiced more diligently.

We were teammates on the Community Bakery baseball team.  I have an early-1960s team photo, taken by Phil’s dad, Robert Crater, who was a professional photographer.  Along with ten other players, the photo shows Phil, Jim Sanders, Jay Dolfin and me, and my dad, James DeWitt, who was the manager/coach.

Then, in 1964, my family and I moved out of town, away from my neighborhood, my school and my friends.  In 1966, I left Michigan.  

In the following years, Phil and I got together infrequently, sometimes when I visited the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area.  The last time that we saw each other was at the 50-year reunion of the Lee High School Class of 1966, in 2016.

Rest in peace, Phil Crater, my friend.

-Jim DeWitt; Auburn, Alabama; Sept. 23, 2022

09/23/22 12:26 PM #8    

James DeWitt

Left to right: Jim Sanders, Phil Crater, Jim DeWitt and Dan Watts; Cascade Township, MI; Aug. 20, 2014

09/23/22 12:32 PM #9    

James DeWitt

Left to right: Jim DeWitt, Phil Crater, Phil Berquist and Jim Sanders, at the annual Lee High School Alumni Homecoming celebration in the Lee Middle & High School gymnasium; Wyoming, MI; Sept. 30, 2016

go to top 
  Post Comment