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March 27, 1928 – October 26, 2022
Val Gene Crelia, 94, passed away peacefully on the morning of October 26, 2022, in Atlanta, Georgia. He had a full life which began the day he was born in Tioga, Texas on March 27, 1928, to Wallace Leslie “Big Daddy” Crelia and Lillian Maye “Ninny” Crelia. He was the youngest of 6 siblings, including Hank, Hortense, Helen, Royce, and Joyce, all of whom cared for him as his father traveled with his job to develop motion picture houses in East Texas, and his mother was a seamstress for prominent leaders, including Sam Rayburn, 43rd Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. He spent his childhood in Greenville, Texas, where family and friends nicknamed him “Doodle.” He entered Greenville High in 1942 and joined the marching band. The head football coach, along with a young local businessman, Jack Finney Jr., noticed his height and build and recruited him to play on the football team. He helped Greenville High beat Highland Park (playing against Doak Walker, who went on to play college football at SMU and professional football) in the 1945 state playoffs. He and his buddies recounted plays from that game hundreds of times during high school reunions and trips with his friends. His mother was determined that her son get a college degree and worked with Jack Finney Jr. and Sam Rayburn to secure a football scholarship to Texas A&M University. An injury kept him from active playing time, and at the end of his freshmen year, Val decided to transfer to the University of Texas at Austin. He graduated with a business and education degree and held jobs teaching and coaching football at several rural high schools in Texas. Val then went on to a sales career with Reynolds Tobacco. That career trajectory led him to take a sales job with Anning Johnson, a nationally recognized leader in poured gypsum roofs and acoustical ceiling systems. Val worked his way up to run their New Orleans office, where they landed large commercial contracts in the 1950’s. In 1958, he met Mary Agnes Hanzo – a physical therapist at Hôtel-Dieu (now University Medical Hospital) – on a blind date. The two were married on January 17, 1959. Val insisted that they spend their first night of married life on Texas soil, so they quickly left their wedding reception at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church (now Church of the Little Flower) in Coral Gables, Florida, and flew to Houston, Texas. From there, they traveled to Big Bend National Park to stay in a cottage that still stands today in the Chisos Mountains. His two oldest daughters, Valerie Jean and Melanie Jean were born in New Orleans. Anning Johnson needed a leader for their fastest growing office in Atlanta, Georgia. Val moved the family to Sandy Springs (Atlanta suburb) in 1962 and a third daughter was born, Sally Jean in 1965. The Anning Johnson Atlanta office continued to flourish under his leadership as they landed the Walt Disney World Resort Buena Vista, Florida project and the acoustical ceiling contract for the new 28-story Coca-Cola world headquarters in Atlanta. Val coached his daughters’ softball teams and played tennis and golf with them at the Atlanta Athletic Club. He also helped to build and establish North Springs United Methodist Church. In 1990, at the age of 62, he retired from Anning Johnson. He became an avid golfer and volunteered for the SCORE Foundation, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration. He traveled extensively with his wife, daughters, granddaughters, and son-in-laws on annual trips to various spots in the U.S., as well as Italy, Spain, France, Central America, Africa, and even Big Bend National Park to show his daughters and granddaughters their honeymoon spot. He was driving, playing golf, and working out daily at the Atlanta Athletic Club Gym up until about 6 months ago, and attended a dozen or more Willie Nelson concerts over the last 30 years.
He leaves behind his wife, Mary, three daughters and four granddaughters, Audrey Pearl (Shaw) Johnson, Molly Jean Muench, Mia Lisa Muench, and Marianna Rose Shaw, three son-in-laws/lifetime partners, Greg Shaw, Marty Muench, and Glen Barnett, five great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.
We want to thank Northside Hospital, Angel Companions, and Unique Quality Home HealthCare for their care and kindness over these last couple of months. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the SCORE Foundation, https://scorefoundation.org/donate/.
A celebration of life will happen in Atlanta on Friday November 25, 2022. Please contact any family members for more details.