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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

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Wilfred James (Wilf) Crane (1939–1992)

by Roger Underwood

from IFA Newsletter

Wilf Crane [Wilfred James] died on 7 March 1992, and an enormous and unfillable hole suddenly opened in the lives of many Australians and in the ranks of the professional foresters of Australia.

Who, having met Wilf only briefly, would not remember him? The shock of unruly hair, the ragged sweater or ill-tied tie, the vitality and the shouts of youthful enthusiasm, the flights of fancy and the driving energy, the ancient Land Rover dragging its backside down Commonwealth Avenue—all of these things could at first suggest an insubstantial, or at least a superficial character. It was when you looked into his deep-set eyes that you started first to glimpse the real Wilf. Behind those eyes was an alert intelligence, a sense of humour and a breathtaking capacity to challenge conventions. And later, when you started to realise the incredible breadth of his interests, and experience the warmth and utter reliability of his friendship, the true Wilf was fully revealed; a true “once-offer”, who enriched the lives of all who met him and all those who joined the legion of his mates.

Wilf’s contribution to forestry was manifold. As a research scientist he contributed to our understanding of forest nutrition; as a writer, editor, public speaker and publicist he constantly promoted the role of trees in the rural landscape and the role of foresters in growing them; unusually, for a researcher from the Canberra science bureaucracy, he tirelessly supported the efforts of “ordinary” foresters in the field in districts around the country; as an Institute member and official, he contributed unstintingly of his time, his energy and his extraordinary creativity to promoting the cause of forestry and of the profession; and as a practical forest-grower on his own properties he set an example of excellence to farmers, friends, colleagues and fellow enthusiasts.

Beyond all that, Wilf was a wonderful mate. And the feeling was mutual; he had more friends, from a wider spectrum of society, than anyone else I have ever met. It sometimes seemed to me that wherever I went in Australia if I said “You know Wilf Crane…” the answer was invariably yes. He had a most unusual tolerance for the flaws of others and looked for their good points. He didn’t just suffer fools gladly—he welcomed and was entertained by their foolishness, and found genuine interest in their views.

I recall from my student days with Wilf that one of his favourite writers was the American humorist Damon Runyon. I dipped into my battered old Runyon the other night and reread the line that “you don’t really know the value of a friend until you have shared a blanket with him on a cold night”.

No friend would have ever needed to worry about sharing a blanket with Wilf.

To Colleen, Andrew and Johnny, love and sympathy—from the foresters of Australia.

Original publication

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Citation details

Roger Underwood, 'Crane, Wilfred James (Wilf) (1939–1992)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 June 2024.

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