“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” – Kahlil Gibran
When learning this weekend of the passing of Savannah’s gentleman citizen, Dale Critz at 91, I flashed to Commodore Charles Henri Hector, Count of Estaing of France, and what he exclaimed while lying next to the mortally wounded Count Casimir Pulaski inside of Bonaventure’s neighboring Greenwich during The Siege of Savannah – as Pulaski drew his last breaths, D’Estaing cried out, “Un grand homme est mort! (A great man has died!).” Mr. Critz’s reputation well precedes his grand and telling obituary for certain. I further understood the magnitude of this loss when hearing it in the voice of Dale Jr.’s voice today in Bonaventure while expressing condolences. His loud, robust voice, very much his father’s, and he very much his son, struggled not to crack, and I knew in an instant this was a man who’d lost not just his dad, but also his hero. It broke me a bit, and just the human part wanted to stand there with them and mourn. After all, they’d been my neighbors downtown for years when I was in my teens and had many other connections.
Mr. Critz brought their dogs to Bonaventure often, and it was just weeks ago that I saw him buzzing through the place with the gait of a college boy, and although a little hard of hearing, we’d stop and catch each other up for a brief minute. He wasn’t famous for standing still; quite the opposite! In person, Mr. Critz was kind of a handsome blend of Jimmy Stewart and Mr. Rogers, and even at 91, he had a kind of dashing quality for all of his humbleness.
When seeing Mrs. Critz today near the family plot, she truly looked more beautiful than ever. She stood silently there with a glow of deep pride over her husband, but also with wisdom regarding this final chapter of their 65 years together. As I let her know that her husband’s encouragement of my work had meant a lot to me, she smiled and noted that I was one of so many whose lives he’d touched – “Well now! (gesturing with one arm) -WE old people have to do good for young people like yourself!” I replied happily, “Yes ma’am, no question.”
The words “charity” and “community” might as well have been what all of their lives had really been about, and what all of the businesses were truly for. Just like the original inspired Georgia motto, Non Sibi Sed Allis (Not For Ourselves But For Others). It’s hours like these that remind you that the Critz family are people who’ve kept that spirit alive for generations and that it lives on through grandchildren and so many life works. You might even say it’s like the amenities of a new luxury car – “Too much to list!” It’s worth noting that their Saxony name suggests the life arc as it translates as “cross” and their people in Europe are defined by “humble beginnings but rose to prominence by contributing greatly to their medieval society.” That sounds about right! Many years ago as a young student, I was blessed to make great character studies of my new Savannah surroundings through my workplace, Eli’s Deli. Not surprisingly with Critz Auto being so close by, Mr. Critz came in daily for his lunch and for some years. He struck me as a man with no ego, a drive, and a work ethic that rarely slowed, he was old stock and everything he knew was hardwired in generationally. That he was originally from Arkansas should then not surprise! Or that he was a Navy man! Mr. Critz was always carrying a newspaper, and while cordial and gave hellos to his old friends, he didn’t make much chit-chat. He’d come up to the counter, and then came that bellowing straightforward voice of a man letting you know he needed some sustenance for a moment so he could get on with the mission, “Lemme have a tuna fish sandwich on rye with onion, no tomato please – thank you.” He’d read his newspaper, gobble down his sandwich, and then was gone in a flash. Mr. Critz truly liked what he liked, did what he did, loved what he loved, created what he created, shared what he shared, knew what he knew, and went where he went, knowing it was the way to do everything. And seemingly without thought to it all. It was like he was a living vessel for a “No time to waste” credo handed down by ancestors or God or both. Mr. Critz was his own motivational Keys-To-Success series, but was way too busy creating it all of the time to ever stop to package and market it. That I don’t think was in his own nature. All of which is why when seeing Dale Jr. today I simply said, “Man, they truly broke the mold with your dad.” Mr. Critz came from a time before cookie cutters. He was made with a mold of men that is rarer to find. Some of that is just the natural turn, but makes you wish that molds such as his didn’t get lost or broken as the world needs more men and leaders like the one they had in Dale Critz. Perhaps, just perhaps, God will take exception and look to him to model some more. God love him, and peace upon his family and friends. Thank you Mr. Critz for being true to us by being true to yourself most of all.
On a final personal note, if just for some kind of record later, I find it serendipitous that they will bury Mr. Critz on October 5, 2023 in Bonaventure Cemetery which is the same day as Diane “Dee” Sutlive’s birthday who was loved and adored by Dale & Lila, and she loved them both dearly. Dee is buried just 100 yards or so away from Dale. That’s good company.
Fantastic Obituary of Dale Clements Critz Here from Fox & Weeks Funeral Home