J. Robert Crouse, Sr.
John Robert Crouse, Sr., was born January 1, 1874 in Hartland, Michigan, son of John Bernard and Betsy Westfall Crouse. His early childhood was spent in Hartland. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio with his family, where he graduated from Central High School of Cleveland in 1893. After graduation from the University of Michigan in 1897 he joined his father, J.B. Crouse, and his uncle, H.A. Tremaine, in a harmonious business relationship that continued for two decades. They were then operating the Fostoria Incandescent Lamp Company in Ohio.
In 1901 they created the National Electric Lamp Association (eventually merging with General Electric) of which Nela Park in Cleveland became the headquarters. Mr. Crouse’s greatest contribution to the electrical industry was his vision of cooperation. He worked hard for this ideal and its ultimate success brought him the title of “The Father of Cooperation” in the electrical world.
Returning home to his boyhood roots of Hartland, Mr. Crouse set out to design his vision for a social and educational experiment for the improvement of rural life. In 1931 Mr. Crouse conceived the plan for the Hartland Area Project. The objective was to bring the privilege of music, drama, handicrafts, library service, health and welfare work to the residents of the rural area surrounding Hartland.
The Hartland Area Project is one of many evidences of J. Robert Crouse’s whole-hearted philanthropy. His faith in humanity and his desire for the enrichment of life has endowed the Hartland Area with the Cromaine (District) Library, the Music Hall, Waldenwoods, Community Life newspaper, and in earlier days the Hartland Area Crafts.
In a special "Memorial Edition" of Community Life, published January 1, 1947, Mr. Crouse’s life was remembered. One of the articles “A Witness to Light” contains the words from the service held at the Music Hall on Monday, July 22, 1946 at 3:00 p .m. The following is an excerpt from the service:
No one could know J. Robert Crouse very long without becoming profoundly impressed with the fact that he was a man of insatiable idealism, a deep dreamer, and a man who was faithful in little things. While it may not have been a matter of chance or pre-destiny, still there is a strange parallel in the fact that his whole life, as an industrialist, an executive and philanthropist was connected with the subject of light. Were one to begin his biography, he could find no more fitting and appropriate sentences to begin with than those found in the opening chapter of John’s Gospel which read: “There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for witness to bear witness of the Light.” And we, who are here this afternoon, know that this scripture has been fulfilled in our day, for such a man was also, J. Robert Crouse, Sr.
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