Leland  Crabtree
Leland (Lee) Crabtree of Paradise Valley shuffled off this mortal coil at 4:01PM 27 September, 2019. Lee came from humble beginnings in a small Appalachian mountain village or "holler" called Windy. There he and his sister Ruby grew up on the tiny family farm which saw them through the Great Depression better than most city dwellers. They seized opportunities for higher education, earning university degrees. Lee became a university instructor and at one point taught the same class he was taking for credit. There he met Louise Taylor and the two married. Then fate intervened as the US Army called him to serve as an instructor in the new tech field of radar-guided gunnery at Fort Bliss, TX where most of his students outranked him by many levels. Having had enough of Army life, he and Louise moved west to California where Lee worked at Douglas Aircraft as an engineer. From there, they moved to St. Paul, Minnesota where Lee worked for Univac Computers before a return to California and a new opportunity with GE Computer in Phoenix where he was to spend the rest of his life.

Lee was a computer scientist before the term existed and was at the forefront of developing the technology which propelled IT as we know it today, working alongside the father of eventual film director Steven Spielberg, also a GE Computer scientist. Computers were massive and clients were large banks and NASA where he designed and installed computers for Werner Von Braun and his R&D teams.

One of his greatest pleasures in those days was to fly to the East Coast on business when flights to Phoenix had to go through LAX and JFK, no matter the origin or destination. He would often meet up with Senator Barry Goldwater in airports. They would arrange to sit together and would talk tech, some of which ended up in Barry's teched-out car he called "Spot". It was an AMX outside but an aircraft on the inside. While he and Barry differed on politics, they were able to find many areas of agreement and fun.

As companies and markets transitioned, Lee found himself at the GE Electronic Components Division, working with GE designers to create electronics for the defense industry. Having had a Top Secret clearance from his previous Army endeavor, he was able to work on sensitive military projects and would tell his wife in the middle of the night, "I have to go somewhere" but could not say where. Lee left GE and set up his own business providing engineered solutions to companies in the southwest in utility, mining and data processing industries.

Lee enjoyed the warmth of the southwest, loved the Native Americans and respected their many unique cultures and wished that "people would just leave them the hell alone". He loved the richness of Mexican culture and Mexican People and was a lifelong advocate for equal rights and treatment of marginalized groups of all kinds. Like Goldwater, he found himself labeled a liberal as politics changed and his values remained the same. He was proud to be a "flaming liberal" and loved to needle those he called "the lunatic fringe". He enjoyed travel and as YouTube became a "thing", he enjoyed following creators of unique technology on his collection of iPads and computers.

Lee is survived by his wife of 67 years, Louise, son John, sister Ruby Stephens Keeton and family dog, Flaco Jimenez. There will be a private family service followed later by a blow-out, slap-up binge of a party for family and friends. If you feel like doing something in remembrance, help someone in need or donate to Arizona Animal Welfare League or Hospice of the Valley.

Blue Moon of Kentucky, Keep on Shining. - Bill Monroe
Published on October 23, 2019


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John Crabtree
Oct 14, 2019