Dale Cryderman made a lasting difference in our community


Cryderman’s essays, Thoughts Along the Way, released in book

By Matt Schepeler

One must be careful when it comes to labeling people. You may think you know someone, only to find out that there is much more to them than meets the eye.

So it was with Dale Cryderman, a long-time chemistry teacher in the Columbia School District. Cryderman taught the branch of science that deals with the identification of the substances of which matter is composed; the investigation of their properties and the ways in which they interact, combine, and change; and the use of these processes to form new substances, to use the technical term.

But Dale himself defied labeling, and merely referring to him as a high school chemistry teacher comes up far short.

Dale Cryderman

For instance, Cryderman served as the Brooklyn Village Clerk for years – handling responsibilities that today would be comparable to those of a well-paid village manager, and he did it at an almost volunteer level of pay, all on top of his “real job” of teaching his beloved students.

While the village president got most of the public recognition during those years, make no mistake, Dale was the one running the show. He did so because he loved the community and wanted to give something back. He was, in hindsight, a natural leader. Beneath that kind and gentle exterior, Dale could be tough. He was not afraid to make difficult or unpopular decisions. Telling business owners that their sign does not conform to village code or informing someone they need to clean the junk out of their yard or mow their grass are not popular things to do and, frankly, Dale didn’t need those headaches, but he did the job, and took the flack, because he loved Brooklyn, and felt an obligation to do his best in serving it.

He did his duties well. Not only did the books always balance when Dale was at the helm, but a surplus was created that put the village on a sound financial footing for years after he retired.

As the clerk, Dale could be a force of nature. I once joked with him that we should name the new water tower “Cryderman Tower” because he was the driving force that made it happen, but he just blushed a little and said he thought that the word “Brooklyn” would look better stenciled on the tower than “Cryderman”.

So add “leader” and “public servant” to Dale’s titles. But, of course, there was more.

Not only did Cryderman teach, lead and serve, but he also made music. For years Dale was the music director at Brooklyn Presbyterian Church, a role he cherished. One of my favorite memories of him was when he was directing the community choir during the Christmas ecumenical service at Columbia Central High School in a rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus. The chemistry teacher was in his element, surrounded by a large contingent of believers from throughout the community, baton in hand, his face beaming, as the rapturous anthem was offered to the Most High. In it, more than 100 voices became one, and not just voices from some distant choir, but our voices, from our people. It was all of us, together, and it offered a special memory in my life and undoubtedly created one for Dale and all those who participated.

Which brings us to his faith.

It is often said today that there is no place for science and faith, that the two are polar opposites, and should not be mixed. But when the chemistry teacher was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – a sure death sentence – the unexpected reaction was one of a strengthened faith and resolve . . . all while never denying his love for science.

The quizzical teacher in him wanted to know how to defeat this beast that had invaded his body in a molecular battle of life and death. He volunteered for experimental procedures that offered little help for him, but perhaps a glimmer of hope for people facing the disease in the future. Dale believed in science, you see, but not to the exclusion of faith. Married together, faith in the unseen and understanding of the visible could produce miracles, perhaps not right now, maybe not in his lifetime, but someday.

Lisa and Elizabeth Cryderman show of a copy of Thoughts Along the Way, which is available for a donation to the Dale Cryderman Scholarship fund. Copies are available at the Exponent office, 160 S. Main, Brooklyn.

It was under this diagnosis, as his body began to weaken and his faith began to increase that Dale began chronicling Thoughts Along the Way, which consisted of short, personal columns that spoke of the brokenness and healing, darkness and light, gratitude and pain of living with pancreatic cancer.

The columns were immediately popular with Exponent readers, most of whom knew Mr. Cryderman the teacher, or Dale the village clerk, or even the Presbyterian maestro, but had never glimpsed this complicated man’s innermost meditations.

Thoughts Along the Way offered our readers a chance to reflect on their own lives, which were increasingly busy and, very often, fraught with the meaningless and the mundane, and even laced with quiet fears and apprehensions.

In one chapter, Dale remembered walking with his son, Brent, after dark under a starry Brooklyn sky to teach his son not to fear the dark. Dale wrote:

“No, the darkness need not be scary. True, we all walk on the edge of life and death and our days are numbered. There is a winter in all of our lives, a chill and darkness that makes us yearn for days that have gone or put our hope in days yet to be. I am reminded of time quickly passing with the turn of every calendar page, or the hours between medications taken, or the realization that a week has gone by and Sunday is coming.”

“Sometimes I think I feel time running through my fingers, minute by minute, like a hemorrhage that cannot be stopped. But the Guardian of all time reminds me that He remains in control, ready to speak peace in the midst of the storm, and able to bring heavenly brightness to the darkest of nights.”

After Dale died, someone came forward asking if his columns could be memorialized in a book. The person even offered to foot the printing expenses, allowing proceeds from the book to go to a scholarship fund that had been set up in Dale’s name by his family.

The books are now available for a donation “between $5 and $5,000.” Thanks to the donor, all proceeds go to seed the scholarship fund, which offers scholarships in his memory for Columbia students entering college studying for careers in science or music.

A benefit concert fundraiser is being held Saturday, May 5, from 7 to 9 p.m. for the Dale L. Cryderman Memorial Scholarship Fund. This annual scholarship will be awarded to a Columbia Central High School student each spring. Dale taught at Columbia Central for 36 years.

Tickets will be available at the door, with a suggested donation of $10 per person, and a family maximum cost of $30. (So a family of 6 would only have to pay $30 to enter.) Performers enter for free.

Concessions and copies of Dale’s book will be available for purchase with all profits going into the scholarship fund. Cash only, please.

If you can’t attend and would like to consider donating to the scholarship fund please mail a check made out to:

Dale L Cryderman Scholarship Fund.
C/O American 1 Credit Union
718 E. Michigan Ave
Jackson, MI 49201

If you are interested in performing please privately message Lisa Cryderman and she will contact you with details.

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