Craig Joseph Odeen
GUILDERLAND — Craig Joseph Odeen dutifully worked for New York State for 40 years but his passion was for the people he loved.
“He was warm and gregarious and committed to his friends and family,” said his wife of 40 years, Linda Walsh Odeen, noting that over 250 people attended his wake.
“He always had a smile,” she said. His picture here was taken at a family wedding. “He never missed a wedding, a birthday, a reunion,” his wife said. “He was big on commitments.”
Mr. Odeen died on Wednesday, July 2, 2014, at St. Peter’s Hospital after a determined battle with cancer. He was 71.
Born in Vermillion, South Dakota, he was the son of the late Philip and Margaret Veronica O’Connor Odeen. His father ran a hardware store where, Mrs. Odeen said, he helped out for years. “He could put together a bike faster than anyone I knew, which came in handy with our boys,” she said.
Thanksgiving was not a big holiday for the Odeen family, she said, because Mr. Odeen, his parents, and his brother were always at the store Thanksgiving Day, putting up Christmas decorations.
Mr. Odeen’s brother, Philip, was eight years older than he. “He was always the little brother, tagging along,” said Mrs. Odeen.
Mr. Odeen graduated from Canton High School in Canton, South Dakota and then graduated with a bachelor of science degree in political science and a master of science degree in public administration from the University of South Dakota, where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi and the Reserve Officer Training Corps.
After graduating, he went to live with his brother and his wife, Marjorie, in Washington, D.C. where he worked as a policy analyst for South Dakota’s Senator George McGovern. Mr. Odeen was in Chicago in the summer of 1968 during the riotous Democratic National Convention, where Senator McGovern, after the assassination of Robert Kennedy, stood for those opposed to the Vietnam War; he came in third in delegates, behind Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy.
Mr. Odeen was then inducted into the United States Army and assigned to a supply station in Vietnam.
He met the woman who would become his wife on Thanksgiving Day in 1971 at a friend’s home in Schenectady. “We had 24 inches of snow,” recalled his wife. “Lorraine took in any friend who didn’t have a place to stay. I met him there. She had eclectic friends.”
The couple married at Christ the King Church in Guilderland. A deeply religious man, Mr. Odeen remained actively involved with the church for 40 years. A Eucharist minister, he was a member of the pastoral council that helps the pastor steer the church. He sang in both the regular church choir and the resurrection choir, which sings at funerals.
“He felt he was born and baptized Catholic; that was his commitment he needed to honor,” said Mrs. Odeen.
Mr. Odeen started his career with New York State at the Department of Civil Service, moving to the state’s Office of Children and Family Services from which he retired as assistant director of finance.
“He liked his work but it was never all-consuming,” said his wife. “He dutifully went to work, but his family came first.”
She went on, “He was absolutely the best father I’ve ever seen.” The Odeens raised two boys, Andrew and Stephen.
“He was a cub master and a soccer coach,” said his wife. “He taught them to ski and he supervised every field trip.”
Mr. Odeen was also very involved in the Knights of Columbus, serving as Grand Knight.
In the last six or seven years, his wife said, he enjoyed working as an associate with Williams-Sonoma. “He found his calling in retail,” said his wife. “He loved working there.”
“Craig’s passions were his wife, children, politics, theater and entertainment, and especially friends and family,” his family wrote in a tribute. “Commitments were very important to Craig, especially those to family and friends.”
In addition to his wife, Linda Walsh Odeen, Craig Joseph Odeen is survived by two sons, Andrew Odeen and his wife, Breeze, and Stephen Odeen; and his two grandchildren, Kemper and Adelia Odeen.
He is also survived by his brother, Philip Odeen, and his wife, Marjorie, and their children, who, his wife said, were like second children to him — Pamela Odeen-LoDato, and Mark and Karla Odeen.
He is survived, too, by his wife’s sister, Lizabeth Regon, and her husband, Ronald, in addition to other family members.
Funeral services were on July 8 at the Church of Christ the King in Westmere where a Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated. Interment was at Prospect Hill Cemetery in Guilderland.
Arrangements were by the McVeigh Funeral Home of Albany. Condolences may be left online at www.McveighFuneralHome.com.
Memorial contributions may be made to Christ the King Church, 20 Sumter Ave., Albany, NY12203, or to a charitable organization of choice.
— Melissa Hale-Spencer