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69 Year-Old Carpenter and Contractor Has “Lived a Good Life"

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In the summer of 2015, Roy first began experiencing pain on his right side. He of course ignored the pain because if you knew Roy, you would understand what a tough hombre is he!

Roy has been working construction since he was 12 years old. He was born in Blythe, California and at a young age began working construction to help his family. He moved to Fairbanks, Alaska to live with his aunt and uncle where he began working alongside his uncle as a laborer on construction sites where new residential homes were being built. Even though Roy was working as a laborer he stuck close to his uncle to learn as much as he could about all the related trades –- particularly carpentry.

For the next thirty-three years, Roy worked construction. He worked the summer months in Alaska and the winter months in California. After a three year stint in the United States Navy in the late 1960s, he spent more and more time in Alaska. He loved the outdoors, the hunting, the fishing and mostly “just pounding nails.”

In the 1970s, he participated in the construction of the Trans Alaska Pipeline as it ran through Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. He was the youngest general foreman at the age of 26, leading over 400 workers.

Working on the pipeline was strenuous. Roy and his crew worked seven days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day, no matter what the weather. According to Roy “it was not just cold…it hurt!”

In December of 1975, Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger visited the job site. As the general foreman, Roy was asked to escort President Ford around the station. To prepare, Roy brushed up on all the current events he could the previous two weeks. When he met President Ford, after 30 minutes, Roy told the President about his preparation and President Ford put his arm around him and said “I appreciate that Roy but that’s what I do all day. How about you and me just talk about construction and football. Oh, and call me Gerry.”

Roy had a great time with President Ford, explaining in detail the construction of the pipeline station and how through all the hard work of his team they were able to complete the project months ahead of schedule. When it came time for lunch, as President Ford was being escorted to the head table, he told his security detail “I think I will just sit over there with Roy and the boys.”

Seems like his whole life Roy has had a hammer hanging from his belt. Even in his later years, when he ran his own construction company, he was often found on the job with the younger guys, tool bag strapped on.

He never imagined retiring. “I always saw myself being on the side of a two-foot building, nailing on a siding when the Lord tells me my time is up. The old saying is if you learn to love your work, you'll never work another day in your life, and that's the way it was for me. I never worked a day in my life.”

So, after a few months of ignoring the pain and with the help of “lots” of ibuprofen…Roy began to notice he was losing weight, weight that he did have to lose. He normally carried a rock-solid 150 pounds on his five foot eight inch frame. When his weight dipped to 130 pounds, he knew something was up.

His wife Tia also noticed the weight loss and together they traveled to the V.A. hospital in Bakersfield, California. Several tests were taken include a chest x-ray which revealed a shadow on his right lung.

Immediately after reviewing the records, the doctors at the V.A. in Bakersfield contacted the West Los Angeles V.A for additional tests. In mid-November, Roy completed the tests at the WLAVA and traveled to Seattle, Washington for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Upon their return, the very day they landed, they received a call from Dr. Robert Cameron, the Director of the Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program at the UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Cameron had carefully reviewed Roy’s films over the holiday and wanted to personally see Roy.

Roy met with Dr. Cameron on December 9. A PET scan was taken which showed a possible neoplasm in the lining of the right lung. Roy underwent a tissue biopsy on December 15. The pathology returned a diagnosis of epithelial mesothelioma.

Dr. Cameron informed Roy that he was a good candidate for the pleurectomy / decortication surgery. On January 12, Roy underwent the surgery which took 13 hours. Dr. Cameron never sat or took a break during the long procedure.

“I thank God that Dr. Cameron came on board and did that surgery. He removed the lining and stripped the tumor from my lung. He said it was like a cement covering. I owe Dr. Cameron my life.”

Roy was hospitalized for thirty days. When he was discharged, he returned home to gather enough strength to begin his radiation treatments.

He completed five weeks of radiation, administered five days a week. He stayed down in Los Angeles for the treatments, because Dr. Cameron wanted to keep a very close eye on him.

A few weeks after returning home, he began Interferon treatments to help boost his immune system. Unfortunately Roy and his doctors soon discovered he was allergic to Interferon. He was hospitalized for two weeks, taking daily doses of steroids.

Roy was glad to finally be home with no imminent medical appointments. You see, he made a promise ten years ago to his grandson that after he graduated high school, he would take him fishing in Alaska.

This July, Roy returned to Alaska, 27 years after he left it. He spent three weeks in his old stomping grounds fishing with his grandson. He is proud to say his grandson caught several Halibut and Gray Line Trout. What they could not eat, they shipped back to California and enjoyed it over a pit grill this summer. “This was a trip I had to make. I made a promise and I keep my promises, especially to family. Family is the most important thing to me. It always has been alongside my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It could be 100 degrees below zero, colder than any day on record but my faith will always keep me warm. ”

Roy plans on returning to Alaska with his grandson next hunting season.

Aim small miss small Roy.

Roy Crank passed away on January 27, 2017.