John C. Craft, Jack of Montauk Trades

Dec. 5, 1943 - march 21, 2019
John C. Craft, Dec. 5, 1943 - march 21, 2019

John C. Craft, the owner of the former Ocean View Farm in Montauk, who had been employed with his father at John A. Craft Real Estate and Insurance on Main Street in Montauk and also started a construction company, Custom Craft Homes of Montauk, died of bone marrow cancer on March 21 in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He was 75 and had been ill for 11 months.

A self-described “active and outside type,” he loved to fish and became a guide and captain of several sport-fishing boats at the former Deep Sea Club on Star Island in Montauk. He operated boats chartered by those interested in swordfish and other big-game fishing, as well as Montauk pilot boats, which often called for braving high seas, fog, wind, and ice. 

Mr. Craft attributed his illness to the wood and metal cleaning solvents he used in construction and said its onset had been rapid and debilitating.

After suffering a back injury, he gave up construction and concentrated on gardening. He sold produce at the roadside and eventually grew the business into a working farm. He was interviewed by The New York Times in 1981.  During his childhood in Montauk, he told a reporter, the nearest place to shop for food was 15 miles away. Growing produce, he said, allowed him to have a fully-stocked larder, and a feeling of self-sufficiency. He later operated the popular Ocean View Farmer’s Market in the hamlet. 

Called Jack, Mr. Craft was born in Brooklyn on Dec. 5, 1943, to the former Pauline Cesly and John A. Craft. He grew up in Montauk, where his father was head of construction for the Navy’s torpedo-testing station at Fort Pond Bay. 

He attended the Montauk School, which at the time had two grades of students in each classroom, and spent two years at LaSalle Military Academy in Oakdale before graduating from East Hampton High School. He attended Pace College for two years and then studied at the Pohs Institute, where he earned a license as an insurance broker.  

Mr. Craft was a member of the Montauk Fire Department for 20 years and its #1 Ambulance Company, took part in the Montauk Department’s Benevolent Association, and had been honored as Fireman of the Year. He served as building and grounds administrator of the Montauk School for two five-year terms, and was on the Montauk School Board for 10 years.

In 2000, he moved to Hampton Bays, where he met Rosemarie Palazzolo, whom he married three years later. The couple then moved to Port St. Lucie.

He is survived by his wife, a daughter, Jennifer Craft Hogan, two stepsons, Alan Schmalacker and Eric Schmalacker, and nine grandchildren. 

In keeping with his wishes, his ashes are to be spread at sea. No funeral service was held. 

The family has suggested memorial donations to the MDS Foundation, an organization that advocates for those suffering from a form of bone marrow cancer, at mds-foundation.org or the National Kidney Foundation at kidney.org.