This summer, 16-year-old Hailey Crawford isn’t spending her free time doing what she loves: fishing with her father, Kenneth.
Instead, Hailey and her mother, Linda Stephens, along with stepfather Tim, are spending every waking hour trying to have Hailey’s father’s body returned from Manila, Philippines, to Tahlequah.
Kenneth, a local resident and former mechanic, died May 24 as a result of complications of diabetes. While traveling overseas, his luggage was lost, along with his medications.
“My dad met a woman who lives in Manila over the Internet,” said Hailey. “He went to meet her and his luggage was lost for six days, which held his medication. We found out his bags were lost somewhere between Chicago and Manila.”
According to Hailey, her father did not have a cell phone that worked overseas, so they communicated via Facebook and Yahoo messaging, when a connection could be made at all.
“He left May 13, and died May 24,” said Hailey. “He did actually get to meet the woman, and she’s the one who took him to the hospital. But the messages we received from the hospital were very vague about his condition, and it seemed like every other message was a request for money.”
Hailey’s mother, Linda, said they were contacted by the hospital via Yahoo message at 7 a.m. on May 24, and at 3:19 p.m., they received another message saying Kenneth had died.
Now, the family is mired in a sea of complicated paperwork, trying to figure out how to raise the $7,500 needed to transport Hailey’s father’s body back to Tahlequah.
Kenneth was disabled, and lived on a fixed income. Hailey’s stepfather is unemployed, and the $500 check Hailey receives every month is not substantial enough to help with the cost.
“We’re learning as we go,” said Linda.
After learning of Kenneth’s death, the family has been in contact with Jan Michael Maderazo of the U.S. Embassy in Manila, who is working with a funeral home there that has the body.
“He has worked with Eastern Funeral Services, and has even gotten the price reduced,” said Tim. “Once the funds are raised, he’ll be transferred to Green Country Funeral Home here in Tahlequah.”
Linda said it’s difficult for her daughter to grasp that her father is truly dead.
“She won’t have closure, she won’t believe it until we get him home for her,” said Linda.
Crawford, his daughter, ex-wife and her husband are somewhat unique in that they all get along well, and even live next door to each other. Crawford and Hailey’s stepfather are friends, and Hailey spent lots of time with her dad.
“He’d come over every morning and walk with her to the school bus,” said Tim. “This has been really hard on her. She’s really grown up since it happened.”
Hailey remembers spending time fishing and hunting with her dad.
“We used to always fish together,” she said. “Mostly, I’d stay on him about taking his diabetes medications. He’d want to eat a bunch of sweets, but I’d ask him if he’d taken his pills. I helped him change a tire once. I just miss my dad, my best friend.”
YOU CAN HELP
A memorial fund to help defray costs of having Kenneth Crawford’s body shipped from Manila, Philippines, to Tahlequah, has been set up at BancFirst. Donations can be made at any location, and should be designated to the Kenneth Crawford Memorial Fund. For more information, call 918-456-0541.