James Willard Craig Jr. died early Saturday morning, May, 13, 2023, after a battle with
He was born October 21, 1941, in Hemphill, TX , to Marilynn and J.W. Craig.
James grew up in Jasper, TX, as the eldest of five sons. He gained a respect for
frugality in his early years living without many of the conveniences which can dull a
person’s appreciation for the satisfaction that comes with hard work and careful
He worked before and after school beginning at a young age and had many chores at
home as well. Work was a family affair and years later there were streets named after
him and his brothers because of the hard work they all put in together with their father.
Most people who knew James knew he didn’t eat chicken. They might not know why,
however, unless they asked him. Being the oldest, he was the one who had to actually
dispatch the chicken before the meals growing up.
He went to Texas A&M on a football scholarship from 1961-1964. He thought he would
continue playing football, but a knee injury ended his career early. He graduated with a
BBA in accounting in 1964. He stayed in close contact with several of his football
friends through the years and would meet them for lunch regularly, travel together, and
later, talk on the phone about getting old. These men were a lifelong source of joy to
He was married for twenty-one years to Pixie Schiller Thames of Bryan, TX, and they
had two children together, Jennie Craig Seidel and Robert Craig. There were many
visits with family in Bryan and Jasper in those early years, faith lessons, family
traditions, camping trips, and summer vacations to Colorado as well. Jennie will never
forget her father saying her evening prayers with her one night as a young child and
then getting out of bed and telling her parents, “The light just came on! I understand
about Jesus and want Him in my heart.”
James served his country in Vietnam as a Naval officer from 1966 to 1972. He was a
member of the Centurion Club with 187 carrier landings during his two tours of duty on
the USS Ranger. He discovered his love and gift for teaching in the Navy, and returned
to Texas A&M for an MBA in Marketing in 1972.
He earned a PHD in Educational Administration in 1976, while he taught in the College
of Architecture ultimately becoming Chair of the Department of Construction Science.
He designed and built a home for his family out in the country, paying his children to fill
in nail holes with putty. The entire family put a lot of love into making that house, and it
was a great setting to raise a family, complete with forts in the woods, gravel roads to
ride bikes on, and even a horse named Betsy! Countless wonderful memories were
made there by many friends and family members.
James was active in many different organizations, including his church, Young Life,
professional societies and academic groups. He mentored many young students at
A&M. He was somewhat imposing at 6’ 5”. His now son in law waited in 1990 to ask
for his daughter Jennie’s hand in marriage until the halftime of an A&M football game -
only after the Aggies were winning. Everyone who knew James though knew the truth -
he was actually a gentle giant. He loved his family and children dearly. He enjoyed the
company of his grandchildren and was gracious to celebrate many little milestones
He married Diane Craig in 1989, and they built a beautiful life together. He loved her
three daughters very much, Stephanie Clemmons, Meredith Mills, and Jessica Miles,
and later their own families as well. Soon after marrying Diane, he suffered the loss of
his only son, Robert in 1989 at the age of 16. A gifted basketball player, Robert and
James must be shooting hoops together again - this time the heavenly kind.
After retiring, James and Diane moved to Lake Buchanan and designed another home.
He enjoyed lake life and his local community but didn’t let any grass grow under his
feet while he spent his retirement traveling to over 100 countries during those years. He
was an expert trip-photo-show producer (complete with sound tracks) which served to
further his children and grandchildren’s education about foreign countries … they also
occasionally helped with our afternoon post-lake lunch naps. They all enjoyed rides on
“Rosie” the glorified golf cart, and later learning to drive it.
He was married for twenty-two years to Diane, when leukemia took her home to
Heaven after one of their trips in 2011.
He later married one of their dear friends, Gail Craig, and enjoyed 10 years of lake life
and more foreign travel. He loved showing her some places he had been before and
exploring new countries as well. They spent their summers at Gail’s family cabin in
Minnesota with many relatives, and James used his construction expertise to help add
a bath house. He went to El Paso regularly with her to visit her elderly father.
After he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, he moved with Gail to the Dallas area
for her to be close to her family in anticipation of knowing what the disease would
eventually do to him. During that time, he continued to care for his family by
decluttering his life (not that it was all that cluttered to begin with) and making
preparations for his surviving family. Gail was a beautiful caregiver who was a
testament to gracious love and devotion to him throughout this time knowing what was
We all have fond memories of James. The grandchildren would get tickled over his
ubiquitous advice on birthday cards with a check in them that said, “Don’t spend it
wisely.” He didn’t need many possessions, preferred shirts with a pocket, drove several
red trucks (many of you may remember), and had a sports car or two. He loved Coca
Cola and enjoyed chocolate chip cookies and rocky road ice cream until the last week
of his life. He loved family, friends, fishing, and football, and was always grateful for the
traveling he was able to do and for the people he travelled with. He could have written
some amazing books about his adventures!
James was a man who cared about others, and shared his wisdom and insight with
many through the years.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of
many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces
perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature
and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you
should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it
will be given to you.
He had an understanding of these verses from James in the Bible. He had gone
through unexpected tragedies, was not bitter, and knew Who to turn to for hope and
wisdom - we all knew this about James.
In the end, his last breaths were peaceful and he passed into Christ’s presence in the
company of Gail, her sister Sheri, Jennie and his granddaughter Mallory at home -
people who loved him and whom he loved right back.
We are grateful to the services of Accentcare Hospice and the doctors and nurses who
cared for him in his last few months.
Although he will be greatly missed by many surviving friends and family, we take
comfort in the fact his suffering has ended and that he has begun his new life in
Heaven with his Savior Jesus Christ. His reunion with those who preceded him there
was surely sweet. God continue to care for and bless those who remain.
He is preceded in death by his father, James Willard Craig, Sr., his mother, Marilynn
Craig, his brothers Kenneth Wayne Craig, Dale Craig, Chris Craig, Olen Craig, and his
wife, Diane Craig.
He is survived by his wife Gail Craig and her son and family Jay Snocker, Jenny
Snocker, Daniella, Phoebe. His daughter, Jennie and husband Scott Seidel and their
children, Mallory Seidel Lenzsch, Grayson Seidel, Avery Seidel. Diane Craig’s
daughter’s and families, Stephanie and David Clemmons, Parker and Caroline,
Meredith Mills, Justin Strother, and daughter Chloe, Jessica and Andy Miles, Ethan and
Audrey. Olen’s wife, Linda. Nephews and nieces: Timothy Craig, Melissa Craig,
Stephen Craig, Stephanie Craig, Susan Craig, and Sharon Costello.
There is not a service planned at this time. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a
donation to American Cancer Society or hospice care.
Barbara Banks August 14, 2023
Friend Bryan , Texas
Dear Jenny, I did not know about your amazing dad’s death. I’m so very sorry to learn of it. I had admired all the travel he did as a retiree. I was amazed at his energy level. He’s now with your precious brother and I’m certain they are having a great time in Heaven. You and your family are in my prayers. 💔🙏🙏🙏