Agri-artist shared story of farmers, not his own
10 a.m. March 30 at First United Methodist Church, 917 10th Ave., in Greeley.
Raymond Crouse enjoyed bringing people into his home. He would throw parties that brought in triple digit attendance. But when he was diagnosed with cancer about six months ago, his friend Charles Odendhal said he didn’t tell his loved ones.
He didn’t want to put people out.
Crouse didn’t even share the type of cancer he had. But it eventually took over, and he died March 10 at the age of 63.
He didn’t care to share his story — he shared the stories of others.
A self-proclaimed “Agri-artist,” Crouse dedicated his work, which he started in 1979, to show the stories of farmers through his artwork.
“He tried to inspire others through his art,” said his sister Janice Sommerfeld.
He used watercolors to paint the life of farmers during the good and bad times. This inspiration took off during the depression of the 1980s that led to a number of small, family-owned farms going under or being sold to larger corporations.
“He painted as he saw things,” Odendhal said.
He had studios in an old John Deere dealership and even an 18-wheeler, which he used to travel the country.
His paintings were featured for many years on John Deere calendars and included his artwork of different tractors. His artwork was even on the cover of a John Deere magazine.
He used the paintings to show and share the stories of these farms and families.
But the canvas wasn’t his only form of storytelling.
About 10 years ago, Crouse bought land and a house that he spent the remainder of his life remodeling.
Sculptures and his artwork made his house his home, including paintings along the ceilings.
“He like to fix things up,” Odendhal said.
Crouse was a frequent house guest, Odendhal said. He said Crouse stopped by whenever Barbra — Odendhal’s wife — made meatloaf. He also loved her Thanksgiving turkey dinner.
But it wasn’t for Crouse’s lack of cooking skill — he knew his way around a kitchen.
Sommerfeld said she watched him, occasionally, as his home became his long-term art project. Even as his house was in different stages of remodeling, he constantly had people over.
But it wasn’t just quick get-togethers. He would throw major parties and would even dress up. Sommerfeld said for a Fourth of July party, Crouse dressed as Uncle Sam. His parties were a way to bring his friends together.
“He didn’t want to lose contact with anyone,” Sommerfeld said.
He would even hire bands to perform at some of his parties. Music was another artistic talent he possessed.
He played drums in his high school band, and later learned how to play the organ and guitar.
“”He was a cool guy,” Sommerfeld said. ❖