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Alan Crane: A Remembrance

May 30, 2014 By Deborah Hamilton
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The folding carton industry has lost a legend. Alan Crane (1924-2014) was a visionary, mentor and cherished friend to many, including members and suppliers of the Independent Carton Group (ICG), who remember him fondly. Despite the brutally cold weather in suburban Chicago on February 26, with temperatures hovering in the single digits for most of the day, over 400 people had traveled from all over the country to pay their respects at his standing-room-only funeral service—a testament to the many lives he touched both inside and outside the industry.

“Alan was one of the greatest men I’ve ever known," remarked Charlie Hirsh, owner of Accurate Box and Crane's long-time friend. "When he walked into a room, you knew that a special person was there. He’s going to be missed by anyone fortunate enough to have known him."

Accurate Box was one of the ICG’s earliest members. Hirsh introduced Crane to the ICG when the group was still in its infancy. His company, Crane Carton, became an ICG member in 1984, and it remained a member until 2001, after Caraustar Industries acquired it. Crane served multiple terms on the ICG’s board of directors. Because he was known and revered by so many and he was so knowledgeable about the packaging industry, he was often a special guest at ICG meetings long after his membership ended and even into his retirement years.

Crane founded Crane Carton in 1962 with two employees and a modest 20,000-square-foot facility. During its successful 38-year run, with Crane at the helm, the company became a premier independent folding carton manufacturer. It employed 220 people and had reached $46 million in annual sales just prior to its acquisition by Caraustar in 2000. The 200,000-square-foot facility at 555 N. Tripp Avenue in Chicago that was once home to Crane Carton is still in operation today, under Caraustar’s ownership, and many of Crane’s former employees still work there.

“To my dad, it was always about the people,” said Bruce Crane, the youngest of Alan’s three children. (He also had three stepchildren he loved as his own, as well as 15 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was happily married to his supportive wife Lori for 41 years.) Bruce joined his father at Crane Carton in 1982 and became COO in 1994. His sisters, Beth and Jennifer, also worked for Crane Carton for a period of time, in customer service and quality assurance. Following the acquisition, father and son both stayed on for four years to maintain leadership continuity; they served as senior manager and general manager, respectively, of Caraustar Chicago Carton. In August 2002, the elder Crane said to an industry reporter, “If we hadn’t told our employees that we had sold the company, they wouldn’t even have known.”
 

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