Cratis Maxwell Shannon, 81, passed away peacefully in the presence of family Tuesday morning June 20, 2023.
He was an extremely talented man who lived a very full and interesting life. Growing up during the forties and fifties in Louisa, Kentucky, he was known as Max or “Harvey” and perhaps a few other colorful nicknames. Later in life, in his adopted home of Louisville, he was known as Cratis, Mr. Shannon, Dad or Pop, and “that [blank] Ref!”. Though the names may have changed, he always remained the same unassuming, hardworking, proud country boy who took real pleasure in the simple things, such as: soup beans and cornbread; his mom’s chocolate pie; wearing his standard uniform—a blue button-down oxford shirt and tan khakis; playing checkers; cowboy movies; and his family—especially his grandchildren. Although his adult life took him away from Louisa his heart never really left, and he took great joy in his trips home for reunions with his Louisa High School Class of ‘58, relatives, friends, and the Blackburn and Martin families. Unable to attend this year’s reunion and visit with friends and family was very disappointing for him. To all those who welcomed him home with open arms, I sincerely thank you. He genuinely loved you all.
A natural storyteller, Dad would proudly regale anyone who would listen—for hours—with tales from his youth. He had an endless supply of stories which he told in such vivid detail one would believe that they had happened just yesterday. A mere fraction of his stories included, how he got his name, the family farm, school days, his beloved pony, his strawberry patch, driving teams of horses, plowing fields, cutting timber, swimming—or half drowning—in the Levisa Fork and Big Sandy, taking his father’s car without permission, the Louisa football team, and his adventures, as well as his misadventures, with “Brother Bill”. Their relationship was complicated, rivaling, at times, Cain and Abel, but there is no doubt that he had a deep bond and great love for his brother. While his early life was beyond difficult, full of tragedy, hardships, and problems barely conceivable in today’s world, he would share his stories with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face leaving the listener with no doubt that he believed those were the best of times. My father truly believed he never met a stranger; he just needed a minute to get to know them. A trait, along with hard work and a steely resolve, he acquired from his mother, an extraordinarily strong and intelligent woman whom he dearly loved and held in the highest esteem.
Upon graduating from high school at the age 16, forgoing a career as a mechanic, he followed his mother’s advice and entered U of K in the fall of 1958. Working his way through school, he attended two years before withdrawing, during which time he married Glenda Sue Preston, they divorced in 1964. They had a daughter Sherry Dale. He returned to U of K and graduated with a B.S. in Commerce. Upon graduation, he worked for a Lexington CPA firm for the next two years. During this time, he married his late wife, Melva Lee Archibald. Soon thereafter, he returned with Melva to her hometown of Louisville where they raised their two sons, Cratis Maxwell “Max” II and Archibald McClellan “Mac”. Following a two-year stint with Sealtest Foods he began a fourteen-year career with American Standard. He was most proud of his work as a member of the task force which built Standard’s manufacturing plant in Paintsville, Kentucky in 1969. In 1980, he passed the CPA exam, an accomplishment of which he was extremely proud and one of the few areas of his life he could lose his affable nature—to him, “bean counter” was fighting words.
In 1982, following the closure of American Standard in Louisville, he and Melva began to operate the antique business her parents started in 1948, Geneva Archibald Galleries. Not confident in this career move, he had declared that he would give it a year and, if it didn’t work out, then he would return to traditional accounting work. He never left the family business. Dealing in fine English antiques, print framing, and lamp wiring, clearly was not the career he had envisioned but, with Melva, it became an incredible partnership that produced an enduring legacy. His skills and abilities were the perfect complement to Melva’s. Given his precise mathematical nature and mechanical aptitude, he was able to bring Melva’s artistic genius and inspired creative visions to fruition. Despite often telling Melva that her concept was impossible to create, too costly to produce, or could not be accomplished on her desired scheduled, after some tinkering and deliberate thought, he never failed to produce something that exceeded all expectations. Enormous gratitude to all those who supported my father and mother in their endeavors with Geneva Archibald Galleries.
Late in life, with his sons out of the house and his golf game sputtering (he enjoyed telling people that after playing nine holes with his father in-law, a scratch golfer, he was told, “Cratis, you either have to learn how to play this game or give it up.”), inexplicably he decided to become a soccer referee. Except for watching his sons play, he had no real experience with the sport, yet somehow it became his real passion to which he fully committed himself. In 1991, he was chosen as the best high school referee and worked the state tournament. He refereed youth, high school, and college for eighteen years before retiring in 2005. He truly loved being around the game, players, and the comradery he shared with his fellow referees. With all the abuse referees could experience, I once asked him why he did it. He smiled and said, “because without refs the kids can’t play and they deserve an official who loves the game and wants to be there”; then, he winked and said, “besides, I never wear my hearing aids when officiating.”
Checkers, perhaps trivial in the scope of his life, but it would be remiss not to acknowledge his prodigious skill at the game. He learned how to play as a child from adults he always described with great reverence. Although viewed as a simple game, he played it with a deftness, foresight, and ruthlessness that made him nearly unbeatable. And when he did lose a game, he never lost a series. It was maddening to play him, even in his final days. Invariably, just as you thought you had him, he would smile, point at the board, and gently chide, “No, no. You have to take that jump”, leaving you to then helplessly watch him take four pieces in a single move. Like the game of Checkers, there was a simple elegance to my father and if not closely observed a depth and complexity easily missed.
My father loved life but had no fear of death. He often said, “this world and one more will get us all”. In his final days, when the doctors gravely explained his treatment options and the attending risks, Dad simply smiled and quoted a poem he claimed to have learned in second grade:
Life is but a stopping place,
A pause in what’s to be,
A resting place along the road,
to sweet eternity.
We all have different journeys,
Different paths along the way,
We all were meant to learn some things,
but never meant to stay…
Our destination is a place,
Far greater than we know.
For some the journey’s quicker,
For some the journey’s slow.
And when the journey finally ends,
We’ll claim a great reward.
Enjoy your great reward, Dad. One of these days, the good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise, we will meet again. You are loved and very missed.
He was preceded in death by his mother and father, Eldean “Aldean” (Martin) and General William Shannon; and his wife and eldest son, Melva Lee (Archibald) and Cratis Maxwell Shannon II.
He is survived by his brother, Billy Davis Shannon and his four daughters; his daughter, Sherry Dale Shannon; his eldest son’s widow and two grandsons, Valerie, William, and Harrison Shannon; and his youngest son and family, McClellan, Andrea, Eva, and Alex Shannon.
Expressions of sympathy may be made to FEAT of Louisville, Families for Effective Autism Treatment, any local Hospice, or by any act of kindness to a referee.