You did not have to know Glen Croshaw personally to see that his legacy is woven into every fiber of Angels Camp.
Perhaps while parked outside Angels Food Market you noticed the signs in red and royal blue paint that changed each week to promote deals on meat and fresh produce. Charmingly handmade yet impressively uniform, they purveyed a sense of care and personal investment in the advertised products that made you want to buy them.
Not only did Croshaw own Angels Food Market, but he painted those signs himself for more than 40 years.
His memorial on June 28 at Chatom Vineyards in Vallecito was a jam-packed affair full of family, friends and far more laughter than tears. Guests enjoyed local wines, food and cake in honor of what would have been Croshaw’s 89th birthday.
The event proudly displayed all that he loved most: his family, his community and his Cadillac convertible, which was parked in front for all to see.
“It’s what he would have wanted,” Croshaw’s son Mike told guests as he greeted each one with a cold beer and a warm hug.
After hours of drink and lively conversation, Croshaw was eulogized by his friends in true Angels Camp old timer fashion, with colorful storytelling that managed to capture the soul of the man.
“I’ll tell you a story about Glen,” began David Miller, who grew up in Angels Camp many years ago. When Miller was around 8 years old, he remembers telling his mother that the eggs she had served him tasted like ants.
“She told me that if I really thought they tasted like ants, I would have to take them back to Mr. Croshaw at the Angels Food Market and tell him that.”
Reluctantly, Miller did as he was told. He says that when he explained his predicament to Croshaw, the grocer replied, “I believe you. We can’t have these eggs tasting like ants.”
Croshaw then handed him a fresh dozen and told him to come back again if the problem recurred.
“That’s just the kind of man he was,” said Miller.
Then there was the well-told tale of Croshaw’s serendipitous evening spent with Doris Day in a Monterey restaurant, a legend that could never be fully confirmed, but has clearly taken on a life of its own.
In another story, Croshaw’s longtime friend John Cizmich recalls they were playing golf together, when Croshaw pointed out a cloud in the sky and said it was his favorite kind to fly through during his Air Force career.
“I didn’t know Glen used to fly planes until he pointed at a cloud,” said Cizmich. “If I had flown planes in the Air Force, you all would have heard about it.”
According to Croshaw’s girlfriend of 5.5 years, Pat Bradley, “Glen didn’t answer a question unless you asked it.”
Last year, Bradley insisted that Croshaw write down his life story, and the two worked together to get it done. Bradley says she was overwhelmed by the rich memories he shared, spanning from his childhood to his military career and his long life in Angels Camp.
“He spit it out like it was yesterday,” Bradley said.
The pair spent 18 months writing the biography and finished it only one month prior to Croshaw’s passing on June 2.
Bradley says that Croshaw came from a long line of hard workers. His family moved from Lodi in 1935 to open Angels Food Market in downtown Angels Camp, in the building where Turner’s Wild West is now located. Croshaw was around 6 years old at the time and just started kindergarten.
Despite the ongoing Depression, the family was remarkably successful and quickly became pillars of the community.
Croshaw spent his childhood helping out in the shop and was carrying 100-pound sacks of potatoes by the age of 6 or 7. After graduating from Bret Harte High School, he attended college at Humboldt State University for one year before transferring to Fresno State.
However, after two years in college, he decided to pursue his lifelong love of airplanes and enlisted in the elite Air Force Cadet program. During his military service, he flew jet fighters and trained in several different states.
“Glen had some close calls,” said Bradley, who remembers a story he once told her about a time when he had to navigate a landing in blinding fog.
After his military service, Croshaw returned home, where he was much-needed at the grocery store. Bradley says that he was a bit unsure for a time, finding it difficult to readjust to small-town life after an exciting flying career. He temporarily went back to school on the GI Bill, but ultimately chose his family.
Croshaw dedicated the remainder of his life to his family, his store and his community.
“Glen was active until the very end, working the store right up until a few days before he passed,” reads Croshaw’s eulogy.
“He always made sure the store supported the community by donating food to charity events, giving scholarships to local kids and buying animals at the fair. Glen employed generations of teenagers, often giving them their first job, and was known for being tough, training them to have a good work ethic.”
Becky Thomas has worked at the Angels Food Market for 12 years. She says that Croshaw maintained the “old town feel” at the store, drawing in customers who simply wanted to socialize with him.
At the end of his life, Croshaw still stocked shelves alongside his employees each week and constantly rearranged the banana display at the front of the store to better suit the customers’ needs.
Thomas says she can thank Croshaw for teaching her the best way to stack powdered sugar, and for always being “sweet” and “pleasant” and never raising his voice.
“It was all about customer service with him,” Thomas said.
Although Angels Food Market has lost its beloved mentor, the Croshaw family has already begun to carry on and expand upon their patriarch’s legacy. Croshaw is survived by two sons, five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren, some of whom have taken on the mantle of the family business.
Croshaw’s son Mike, who owns Sierra Hills Market and Natural Foods Market in Murphys, in addition to Angels Food Market, has continued the art of sign-painting that his father mastered.
If you were to visit Angels Food Market today, it would not look at all changed in the absence of Glen Croshaw, though his family, friends and employees would tell you differently.
“He was the true definition of hard work,” wrote Croshaw’s granddaughter Angela in his eulogy. “He taught us how to properly bag groceries; he taught us to always take the customer’s cart out, and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a bruised peach.”
“In adult life, we realized he was teaching us so much more,” Angela continued. “He was teaching us to respect other people’s things, to connect with and always be helpful to others, and to not be wasteful. We will pass on those same morals and work ethic to our kids someday.”