James “Jim” Conrad Croninger
Cdr. USNR (Ret.)
James C. Croninger, Cdr. USNR (Ret.), 76, passed away at ProMedica Ebeid Hospice on May 22, 2022, surrounded by his loving family. The eldest of three, Jim was born December 5, 1945, in Toledo Hospital, to parents USMC 1st Lt. Conrad D. and Marcienne (Miller) Croninger. He attended school at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Toledo and in Craven County, near Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point (North Carolina). He graduated from St. Francis de Sales High School (Toledo) in 1963 and received his B.A. in Theatre from Toledo University in 1967, where he was president of the National Collegiate Players honorary society and a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He also pursued graduate studies in Technical Theatre at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio).
After graduation from Naval Aviation Officer Candidates School (Pensacola, Florida) in 1967, he married Patricia Claxton in 1968. Stationed in Japan with deployments to Da Nang, he served as a Naval Flight Officer during the Vietnam War before returning to Toledo in 1972 to his work on the New York Central Railroad. In 2006, he retired as an engineer from Norfolk Southern Railway, after a forty-year career as a third-generation railroader.
Jim’s military career continued as a naval reservist attached to the Selfridge Air National Guard Base (Mount Clemens, Michigan). In addition to monthly drilling, he deployed on missions to numerous NATO countries, fulfilling both duty to country and adventurous comradery with longtime squadron-mates. In 1990, he received his “hail and farewell,” retiring at the rank of Commander from his last post as the first commanding officer of CV-66 America 0473, the reserve detachment of the USS America, and he was officially retired from the United States Navy Reserve in 1992.
He continued this dedication to military service through his active involvement with Toledo’s VFW Post 606, where he held numerous offices including Vice Commander, and was a steadfast member of the post’s Honor Guard, attending the funerals of area service men and women until 2020.
Among his other many and varied interests, he was a voracious reader, preferring cookbooks, histories and British mysteries, often reading up to ten books concurrently, while enjoying prime cigars on his backyard “smoking deck.” He was a talented and adventurous gourmet cook, preparing elaborate six-course holiday meals for his entire extended family that culminated each Christmas with a traditional flaming plum pudding. Jim’s talents in technical theater were tapped through his work in the crew building sets and props designed by Chuck Vicinus in the 1960s for Toledo Ballet’s “Nutcracker” and then again, from 2009 to 2017, for sets designed by Thomas Umfrid for Toledo Ballet’s current production. In 2006, he became a committed member of Alcoholics Anonymous, encouraging his fellow members in embracing sobriety and keeping the faith. He and his family were proud that he kept his pledge even to his dying day.
An avid camper, Jim took great joy in planning ambitious education-packed family vacations each summer, driving thousands of miles with two frequently-cranky kids in the back seat and a patient wife as co-pilot, to visit battlefields, historic villages, military bases, National and Provincial Parks, scenic wonders and museums, all from the vantage point of a VW camper bus or canvas tent, eventually graduating to a pop-up camper. Filled with fun and family jokes (and more than the average share of misadventures that got even funnier with each retelling), Jim built campfires, grilled great meals, toasted marshmallows and created memories that his family will forever cherish. As their children grew, Jim and Patty began to book twice-yearly visits to The Pinery Provincial Park (Grand Bend, Ontario), in their “rolling vacation home” fifth-wheel trailer. Inspired by the vintage trailer trend, he and Patty joined the Tin Can Tourists group in 2009 and filled their retirement with the renovation of a 1971 Airstream and toured the country once again, this time in the company of like-minded enthusiasts.
All these things he did with a keen sense of humor, a quiet chuckle and a roguish twinkle in his eye. And above all, he was a proud and loving husband and father—a true gentleman and an honorable man.
He was preceded in death by his parents, sister Suzanne Croninger, and sister-in-law Barbara (John) Steele. Jim is survived by his beloved wife Patty, sister Pat Stewart, daughter Condessa (Eric Hillenbrand) Croninger and son Christopher (Kim Bridges Croninger), grandchildren Alexander and Zoe Croninger and Trenton Bridges, sister-in-law Kim McKnight, nephews Ian Stewart and Tyler (Tawnya) White, and nieces Margaret (Bob) Armbruster and Nicolle McKnight, two great-nieces and a great-nephew, as well as hosts of dear friends among the many chapters of his life.
A funeral service is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 28, at Reeb Funeral Home, 5712 Main Street in downtown Sylvania, with Honor Guard by VFW Post 606. Visitation begins at 11 a.m.
Those wishing to make memorial donations are asked to consider The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research or Toledo Ballet.