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Graduation Season Reminds North Hills Alumni Of 1978 Tragedy

Basketball star Ed Crankovic drowned days after graduating.

Had fate not intervened, Ed Crankovic, a West View native, would be in his 50s today. Perhaps married with children, maybe a son or a daughter who inherited some of his athletic and academic abilities. But it was not to be. 

Just days after graduating from in June of 1978, Ed Crankovic drowned at a hotel pool in Wildwood, N.J., while vacationing with two of his classmates.   It was an accident that defied explanation.

News of his death on June 8, 1978, turned the joy of the last day of school at North Hills into one of the saddest in the high school’s history. 

“I’d gotten a phone call from the funeral home,” said Tom Maloney, a retired guidance counselor at North Hills and Crankovic’s basketball coach. “It was really hard on everyone, the school students, he was such a fine young man.” 

Maloney, 69, retired 10 years ago but still has time to officiate basketball and softball games, when he is not spoiling his four grandchildren. He said Crankovic was impossible to forget. 

“He was such a fine kid,” he said. “As a coach he was the type of kid you never yelled at because he never made any mistakes. And if he did make a mistake, he learned from it. He was a team player. He was all those things a coach would want in a player.” 

Crankovic was North Hills’ all-time leading scorer. Armed with a 3.75 grade-point average, he had been offered scholarships at Princeton and Bucknell, and chose Bucknell because, Maloney believes, it was a little closer to home. He would have been only the third player in North Hills history to play Division I basketball. 

Crankovic’s athletic abilities were not limited to the basketball court. He also swung a mean golf club. 

“I was captain of the team in 1977 when Eddie was a junior, and I remember his swing being so powerful because of his 6’ 3” height and large swing arc,” said Matthew Cook, who now lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

“If I was hitting a five-iron he was hitting a seven- or eight-iron from the same distance. His swing wasn't pretty but he would just torque up, with his long arms, let it rip.  He could really eat up the course if it was on the short side.” 

Cook said Crankovic approached golf, as he approached life. 

“He was unassuming and pretty modest about his game, on the quiet side personality-wise,” Cook said. 

Crankovic was inducted into the North Hills Sports Hall of Fame in 2008. His parents had passed away by then, but his brother Anthony and sister Nancy were able to witness the celebration of his athletic career and his life. It was a sharp contrast to those horrible days in June of 1978. 

“I remember vividly the visitation at the funeral home in West View and watching people come in with shock on their faces,” said Cook. “I think about Eddie every now and then, especially around graduation time and during the summer.” 

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Editor's note: Matthew Cook is the author's brother.

Janet Latini June 15, 2012 at 01:46 PM
I was just thinking about Eddie the other day; he was my neighbor and everytime I drive past his old house, I think about him. His mom, God Bless her soul, was NEVER the same; I don't think she ever left the house again after he died. He was such a fine young man, with a whole life ahead of him. May his soul rest in peace.
Val Mengine June 15, 2012 at 02:04 PM
I also was thinking of Eddie just recently - I was a junior and can remember vividly when the announcement came during school on that tragic day. I also remember that it was Eddie's performance on the court that brought a huge fan base to NH basketball (vs. football, for once!) including me and my girlfriends, who had never really attended bb games before, and the actual start of the Rowdy Rooters was in the bleachers at varsity boys' basketball! This truly had a life-long impact on all of us who went to school with Eddie and he will NEVER be forgotten.
Joan O'Brien June 15, 2012 at 03:55 PM
There have been many tragic student deaths in the North Hills School District, but this one one of the most painful. Thank you for remembering Ed. His family can take comfort in the fact that Tom Maloney was his coach, because Tom was nurturing and respectful to all of his athletes and students. Ed must have loved him. Joan O'Brien, Ross Township

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