Upfront: “Man of Stihl” remembered


Don Crader poses with the Stihl tractor that was presented to him by Stihl Inc. in 2010 for Crader Distributing Company’s 50th anniversary as a Stihl distributor. He was very proud of the tractor and hauled it to county and regional fairs.By Steve Noe

During the past 16-plus years, I’ve been fortunate to meet many great people in this industry, including Stan Crader, president of Stihl distributors Crader Distributing Co. (CDC) in Marble Hill, Mo., and Blue Mountain Equipment (BME) in McKinney, Texas. Regrettably, I never had the opportunity to meet his father, Don Crader, founder of CDC and CEO of CDC-BME, who passed away Feb. 23. He was 81.

Since Don’s passing, I’ve read and heard so many wonderful things about him and the many lives he touched. Getting started in this business by selling a few chain saws out of his trunk, Don established Crader Equipment as the most successful Stihl dealer in the Midwest. He was then given the opportunity to become a distributor, and eventually built CDC-BME into one of the world’s largest Stihl sales and distribution organizations, serving more than 2,200 servicing Stihl dealerships in Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, southern Illinois and Texas. Don meant so much to Stihl Inc. and this industry that, following his passing, Stihl Inc. ran a full-page tribute to him in his local newspaper. Titled “Man of STIHL,” it featured the following touching letter written by Fred J. Whyte, president of Stihl Inc., which is worth sharing in its entirety.

“Don Crader, longtime friend and business partner, passed away peacefully Sunday at his beloved Bollinger County home. As one of our original North American Distributors, we’ve always known Don as a true ‘Man of STIHL.’ But we will remember him as a man of great principle, integrity and moral fortitude who placed a very high premium on love of family and on supporting the many lives he touched.

“Don’s passing has stirred deep sadness in the worldwide STIHL organization, but it is fitting to pay tribute to his remarkable life. His legacy will be one of providing opportunity — and encouraging people of all ages and walks of life to cherish, embrace, and pursue the American dream.

“Don’s life was guided by his Christian values. Wise, patient, smart — genuinely interested in others — he was humble in success and quick to share its rewards. While savvy and determined in business, he balanced work with dedication to family, community involvement and his many interests. Don possessed a sincere appreciation and awe for life. His perspective was one of gratitude. It added to the many attributes that shaped his character. There was a time when Don’s company may have benefited by moving to a large city, but he determined instead to remain and invest in Marble Hill and southeast Missouri — and the many families who are a part of Crader Distributing. Far too numerous to itemize, Don’s philanthropic efforts benefited people all around the United States. He was especially interested in supporting those who worked to better themselves through education. On behalf of the STIHL family and worldwide organization — and especially the thousands of U.S.-based STIHL employees and dealers — we offer heartfelt appreciation and sympathy to the Crader family. Don was a success in every aspect of life, and we honor and celebrate his memory. We also take comfort in knowing that his unwavering faith and compassionate spirit live on in his family, which was the source of his joy and his greatest legacy.”

Stan Crader shared the following thoughts about his father, “Through hard work and many calculated decisions that included significant financial risk, Dad achieved above-average wealth — the American dream. Achievement of wealth isn’t unusual in America and didn’t necessarily set him apart. It’s what one does with their wealth that sets them apart. Dad always considered his best investments as those he made in people. The things he enjoyed most were teaching Sunday School, playing the piano, flying, and all things outdoors. He received numerous recognitions and awards, but his office is adorned with pictures of family and friends. He served on bank boards, but preferred working on his property using a Stihl power tool to a board meeting. He could afford to dine at the finest restaurants but preferred the cuisine and atmosphere at the small dining establishments in Marble Hill. He traveled the world and made friends at every stop. And the friends he made weren’t the upper echelon at various locales — he would strike up a conversation with the average person on the street, frequently a waiter or a waitress, or a tour guide. And it’s those people with which he’d stay in touch. He was raised with common sensibilities by patriotic parents who cared about people and believed in the absolute truths taught in the Bible. Don Crader never strayed from that deeply engrained sense of moral values and responsibility for helping and loving others.”

OPE Editor Steve Noe


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