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Jeannette man loved his family, hometown and basketball

| Monday, July 17, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

John “Bunny” Criner loved basketball, his town of Jeannette and his family, but he especially loved his wife Betty, with whom he celebrated a 70th wedding anniversary in April.

“I take that as a model, how their marriage was and how they treated their kids. That's what you got to have, a role model,” said Mr. Criner's son, Donald.

John A. Criner died at home Sunday, July 16, 2017. He was 92.

Mr. Criner was born in Jeannette on March 30, 1925, a son of the late Louis and Helen Criner. He was the youngest of 12 brothers and sisters who grew up in a two-room home.

When he was 10, he and a group of friends hopped a trolley down to Forbes Field and saw Babe Ruth hit his last home run.

Mr. Criner attended Jeannette High School, where he excelled in basketball, but he never finished his studies. He left to work to support his family during the Great Depression.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army and served with the 98th Air Squadron of the 440th troop carrier in the European theater. Donald Criner said a favorite story of his father's was when he was stationed in Miami Beach.

One evening, Mr. Criner was pulled from leave and put on guard duty. He was walking toward the gate and there was much commotion, including women screaming. Mr. Criner walked to the gate past another uniformed soldier — Clark Gable.

“The women were about to storm the gate,” Donald Criner said, recalling the story his father liked to tell. “The women weren't too thrilled that my dad was down to take Clark Gable's post.”

His father returned from Europe by traveling around the world, including through India and South America. He was sent by train from Miami to Fort Indiantown Gap near Harrisburg to sign his release papers, and then thumbed his way home to Jeannette.

He married Betty in 1947. Later in life, he traveled on a lot of cruises, but wasn't interested in returning to Europe. “He said, ‘I already been there.' He didn't want to go back,” Donald Criner said.

Mr. Criner loved basketball, and he played on local industrial basketball teams as a 6-feet tall center. He worked at the Jeannette City Sewage Department until he was 70 years old, and enjoyed gardening.

He worked at the Jeannette City Sewage Department until he was 70 years old, and enjoyed gardening.

Mr. Criner is survived by his wife, Betty; sons, Donald of Jeannette and John of Pittsburgh; daughter, Nancy Korber of Jeannette; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Friends will be received from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the John V. Graziano Funeral Home Inc., 228 N. Second St., Jeannette, followed by Mass at 11 a.m. at Sacred Heart Church. Memorial contributions may be made to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Kevin Zwick is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2856, kzwick@tribweb.com or on Twitter @kevinjzwick.

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