ROCKINGHAM COUNTY - Jonathan Craig was a man who wore many hats in the worlds of academia, sports and community service. And he made it all look easy, said the friends who mourn him.
Craig, a Martinsville, Va., native, died of natural causes at his home in Eden on Sept. 7. He was 52 and is survived by his daughter, Kayri Craig, and a son, James Craig.
Friends and colleagues spoke of shock and despair at the loss of the community leader who had earlier in his career spent years teaching, coaching and serving as a principal in Rockingham.
Many described him as a pillar in the community and the "go-to guy" for answers in both academics and athletics.
And friends and colleagues noted Craig's habit of regularly sharing positive and enlightening quotes with friends on his social media pages — offering hopeful words in event darkest of times.
Friends and colleagues spoke about the loss this week:
Morehead High School Athletic Director Jon Blackwell:
“When I heard the news, I was in absolute shock. It’s just unbelievable. It’s hard to put into words really. He’s been a huge person for me personally. I’ve been in the AD role for four or five years now, but he was a coach here in Rockingham County and a fixture at games and always had encouraging words, no matter what the situation. I still don’t believe it. It’s a huge loss for Rockingham County and especially for us athletic directors. Jonathan was a sounding board. He was a friend. He was a mentor. It’s just going to be tough, and we’ve got to figure out a way to move on and do something that he would be proud of.”
Reidsville High School Athletic Director Joe Walker:
“Mr. Craig was a great man as well as a friend and I’m still in shock. He was always there for me and would drop everything to give you whatever you needed, whether it be advice in regards to what was going on with sports, or the uncertainty we’ve been going through with the pandemic. I don’t know if anybody can fill his shoes. He will truly be missed in the community.”
Morehead Principal Ryan Moody, via Facebook:
“This week we lost one of the best individuals who we all ever had the chance to come across. He was always there with a positive attitude and smile to make our day better. Anytime we ever needed advice on anything school or life related he was always there to help us talk through it. I can remember all of those phone calls with him when I would ask for help and he would say ...'Ok, let’s talk through this.' Never with judgment, always with a focus on support.”
McMichael High School Athletic Director Thomas Horton:
“I had a very close relationship with Jonathan Craig. It’s been a really rough week and I was one hundred percent shocked when I found out on Monday. I called him almost daily. We talked about athletics, we talked about life. Any time I had a problem, all I had to do was pick up the phone and he’d help me out. And it is a loss that I don’t think we will ever be able to fill at the school system because he basically did four jobs. I don’t think they can find another guy that can do it the way that he did.”
Rockingham County Schools Public Information Officer Karen Hyler:
"You were one of a kind, your laughter was contagious, your words of encouragement were on point and I can’t go with out pointing out when you were grumpy it was the best to try to put a smile on your face! I know there is a huge void at the central office, but if you can please look down and give us that guidance, encouragement and signs you're still there ... we really need it!''
Rockingham County High School Athletic Director Courtney Paschal:
“It’s hard sometimes to find people in places of a position of authority that really understand athletics and what all is involved in running a program. Mr. Craig, having been a coach, a principal and a teacher, was extremely knowledgeable, which made working with him extremely easy. 'Matter-of-fact – I had just called him on a personal note recently. I’m in grad school, attempting to get my masters in administration and supervision, and I had an assignment last week I needed some advice on where to find the information. I reached out to him and immediately, he gave me great advice on where to go and he made multiple contacts with me just to make sure I had what I needed for a class.
''He took the time, with him being head of HR and athletics and all of the other balls he had up in the air, he didn’t hesitate to take the time to help me out as a person, not just as an athletic director. He was always there. He would always answer the phone. He would tell you the truth, and whether you liked the answer or didn’t, you knew he was coming from a place of truth and honesty. The loss for the county, I don’t even have the words to describe it. He cared about kids. He cared about the people that he worked with, and he did a great job. It is a shocking blow.”
A public memorial was held for Craig on Saturday at Hines Funeral Services Chapel in Martinsville where pastor Todd Foster performed the eulogy.
Contact Jim Sands at (336) 349 -4331, ext. 6141 and follow @JimSandsRCN on Twitter.