UNITED STATES QUAD RUGBY
Clifford D. “Kip”
Crase - Co-founder
of Sports n' Spokes Magazine
Clifford D. “Kip” Crase died Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2007 at the Ontonagon
Memorial Hospital from complications of pancreatic cancer.
From the time of his birth in Trimountain, MI in 1938, until his death, his
life was filled with a love of life, in spite of its many adversities.
Cliff grew up in Rockland, graduating in 1956 as valedictorian from Roger
Clark High School, jokingly saying someone had to be the valedictorian since
there were only four people in his class.
He immediately went into the Air Force as a navigator, serving in North
While on duty in Minnesota in 1959, he sustained a spinal cord injury from a
car accident, resulting in quadriplegia.
Stung by the loss just nine months earlier of his beloved older sister and
only sibling, Dottie, he would lose his father, Clifford Sr., nine months
after his accident while he was still in rehabilitation in Chicago.
Cliff was ultimately welcomed home from the hospital 13 months after his
accident by his mother, Dorothy, who took training to continue his care at
Cliff credits his mother for finally getting him back on track, and three
years later, he left home to attend the University of Illinois, the most
accessible university at the time.
There, he met Nancy Thatcher, whom he married in 1969. That same year, they
moved to Phoenix, Ariz.
The University of Illinois was the center of emerging wheelchair sports, the
perfect forum for Cliff to resume his love of sports.
He was an all-star basketball player in high school and the Air Force, but
he returned to sports in swimming, table tennis, track and field.
success on the national wheelchair sports scene opened the opportunity for
world travel with the U. S. Wheelchair Team. He garnered outstanding athlete
awards starting with the Silver Cup at the Pan-American Games in Canada in
Cliff held the world breaststroke record from 1967 to 1969. He continued in
sports as public relations director for the U.S. Wheelchair Team at the
Toronto Olympiad in 1976 after being nudged out of competition by younger
Then he branched out into many related fields as national sports coordinator
for the Paralyzed Veterans of America, member of the executive committee of
the National Wheelchair Athletic Association and helped officiate and
organize wheelchair sports at the local and regional levels in Arizona and
He would go on to launch an international wheelchair sports magazine,
“Sports ‘N Spokes”, which he passionately believed would give voice to the
successes and amazing talents of wheelchair athletes worldwide. He remained
the senior editor of that publication as well as PN (Paraplegia News), the
publication of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, until his death.
Cliff’s success could be listed for the many awards he won, the Phoenix
Press Box Association award for outstanding amateur athlete in 1971,
sportsmanship awards from the California Wheelchair games in 1972 and 1976,
Washington Wheelchair Games in 1974, to his election to the Hall of Fame of
the National Wheelchair Basketball Association in 1989, the National
Wheelchair Athletic Association in 1973, and Athletes with Disabilities in
He won the National Courage Award from Courage Center in Minnesota in 1988
and was a finalist for the President’s Trophy in President’s Committee of
Employment of the Handicapped National Distinguished Handicapped American
competition in 1980.
Cliff felt that his real success, however, was in the words of appreciation
and joy from parents and young athletes he met at sport meets who talked
about how their lives were turned around, made richer, because of wheelchair
sports that they had learned about from Sports ‘N Spokes, and organizations
identified by the magazine.
“Cliff was such a powerful force to so many of us...he was full of vigor and
fun, yet so pure, honest and kind,” commented Marilyn Hamilton, entrepreneur
and originator of the Quickie wheelchair.
He was patient, and listened well. He loved meeting world leaders, Queen
Elizabeth as captain of the U.S. Wheelchair team, and his most favorite
adventure at the President’s Round Table Conference with President Bush
aboard a flight on Air Force One in 2004.
He also loved the hardworking, honest and good people he met in all his
travels and in his tiny hometown of Rockland.
Cliff is survived by his wife, Nancy; and daughter, Victoria, whom they
adopted in 1990. He lovingly claimed Tori as his best 20th anniversary
Visitation will be at the family home, 71 Victoria Street in Rockland, from
6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, August 19, and from 9 to 10 a.m. Monday, August 20.
Cliff’s funeral will be Monday, August 20, 2007, at 10:30 a.m. at the United
Methodist Church in Rockland. He will be buried in Woodlawn Cemetery. a
memorial service will be held in Phoenix, Ariz. at a later date.
Contributions may be made to the Paralyzed Veterans of America Crase Sports
Fund, 801 Eighteenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20006.