Seeing Thanksgiving with John Crews

Don Barone
John and his father relaxing before a Thanksgiving meal.

About the author

Don Barone

Don Barone

db has been in the reporting biz for over 30 years, won some Emmys and other awards, but is proudest of his four-decade marriage, his two kids and the fact he founded Tackle The Storm Foundation to help children.

“It seems like only yesterday…”

Dateline:  Jetersville, Virginia

My breakdown,


in the upland pine woods,

of Virginia.

I had made it almost a year, fairly well intact, a few tears here and there, a few whoa is me’s, spread around as well.

Thought, I did, that I was basically, still, Superman.

But as I stood taking photographs of John Crews and his stepson, Noah, walking down a trail to go deer hunting in the pine forest,

I started shaking,

not from being cold,

I started getting dizzy,

but I didn’t feel faint,

it was as if a wave of understanding suddenly engulfed me,

it was as if a wave of faith blew through the pines,

and cradled my heart,


my soul,

and alone in the upland pine forest of Jetersville, Virginia,

I was welcomed home,

home to a place I have never been, not a physical place, not a spiritual place, but a place of understanding,

a place where all that matters is,


is love,




believe if you believe,

wonder if you wonder,

but the understanding that engulfed me in the upland pines, is that maybe if you believe in heaven,

maybe, we are standing in it, and that maybe when time, when love, when family all comes together, that feeling of joy, of warmth, of understanding,

is heaven,

and all that matters is the time we give to it with love, with family.

In the upland pines of Virginia, as Thanksgiving dinner was being prepared, and the Crews family started to gather, and as I stood and saw my wife through the wavy glass of their 1750 era house,

the shaking inside of me stopped,

the dizziness stopped,

and the calm of understanding took over.

John Crews and stepson, Noah, head out for a afternoon hunt.John Crews and stepson, Noah, head out for a afternoon hunt.

Almost to the day, one year back, I sat in a doctor’s office as he told me that a sophisticated test showed I had a brain tumor, that the tumor was wrapped around my optic nerve and that tests showed I had begun to lose my sight.

Almost to the day, one year back, I was asked if I thought I could still write, if I could not see.

Almost to the day, one year back, I was told that there was a chance that the brain surgery would leave me blind.

I knew all of this last year at this time when Barb and I went to the Iaconellis' for Thanksgiving, knew that Thanksgiving 2012 could be the last Thanksgiving I ever saw.

Some will say science.

Some will say faith.

Some will say surgeons.

Some will say God.

Take your pick, if you believe, if you wonder.

But in that moment, alone, in the upland pines of Virginia, I know an understanding, came, was given to me,




and no such thing as wasted time if you hold those values in your heart.

In the upland pines of Virginia, if you believe, or if like me, you wonder, was I given a brief moment of understanding,

a brief moment,

of standing in heaven.

A moment only,

my new eyes,

could see.

“…I didn't have a clue…”

Where comes from, the spirits of Virginia, the ghosts of the south.

John Crews, grew up in home built in 1750, with 600 acres of pine and hardwood forest surrounding it.

“db I didn’t hang around town much, I spent most of my time outside, out in the woods hunting, out by the ponds and rivers fishing.”

The nearest town, as far as I could make out, is a place called, Farmville, Virginia, where Barb and I spent a morning walking its streets, talking to it’s people.

We ate breakfast at a diner that only had a dozen or so stools at the counter, no booths.  When neighbors came in you moved a couple of stools down to make room.

We walked the streets, visited the shops, shops filled with new stuff made by the Amish, shops filled with old antique stuff made by the rest of us.

“Where ya’ll from.”


“Well welcome, stay a spell.”

The old and the new separated by only the bricks of the common wall.  An older man tipped his hat to me; a young lady opened a door for Barb.

As cars drove down Main Street the tires rolling over brick crosswalks and concrete intersections sounded eerily like horse and buggy’s coming to town.

Rolling hills and fast curves took us to the Crews family home, now called “Wayne Oak,” for the Revolutionary War General, “Mad” Anthony Wayne who was said to have bivouacked in the fields around the home.

Bill Crews, John’s dad, tells me, “db, some say I look like “Mad” Anthony Wayne, what do you think,” as he leads me into a room with a fireplace and painting of the General in question.

“See,” Bill says as he stands, proudly next to the painting.  You be the judge…that’s Bill…that’s the “Mad” dude.