Pie judging not the same without T. Peter Craven
July 29, 2006
“I don’t believe this is in keeping with the spirit of Peter Craven,” pie judge Davis Farrar said of the concept of a moment of silence.”We want a moment of rowdiness,” he declared, and his fellow judges erupted in agreement.After almost a straight minute of hollers and yells in honor of Chief Judge Peter Craven, who died of a heart attack last month at age 65, Farrar somehow managed to sound solemn and devious at the same time when he pronounced, “Let the games begin!”The official theme of this year’s pie competition at Carbondale’s Mountain Fair was “Be your own judge,” but the unofficial theme was Craven’s life and times. All 27 of the contest judges received free T-shirts sporting a photo of Craven from one of his earliest appearances at the contest, in which he dressed as a mad hatter. Above the photo were the words “Peter Craven – a judge for all reasons.”
But the judges also paid homage to their fallen comrade in their own ways – by retelling old stories, by proposing toasts, even with what they wore.Farrar, for instance, wore Craven’s own robes, which were distinctly blue and not the typical black. Bill Jochems, a longtime friend of Craven’s, wore a blue-and-orange tie checked with peace signs that used to belong to the judge.”At one point, he was appointed by Richard Nixon as counsel for draftees. When draftees wanted to know their legal rights, they’d come to Peter, and he’d always wear this tie when he was advising them. So I hauled it out for this,” Jochems said.Even Jochems’ presence at the judging booth was a tribute to Craven. All the empty seats available were specifically offered to friends of Craven’s.Said Calvin Lee, a Carbondale lawyer who practiced with Craven from 1984 to 1991 when Craven earned his appointment as 9th Judicial District judge, “I’m sure Peter is watching all of us and salivating.”
Lee, who is also an accomplished artist, also amused the gathering by producing a painting of Craven’s favorite pet – his basset hound, Tappel. In claiming that people often look like their pets and vice versa, Lee said, “Tappel had brown fur, Peter had brown hair, Tappel had a large head, Peter had -” and before he could finish the crowd burst into laughter.Lee said Craven’s absence left a huge impact on the fair and the pie contest especially.”He was pretty much a fixture,” said Lee, whose invitation this year, like Jochems’, was a tribute to Craven.He was more than a fixture to Lee Ann Eustis, however, who’s been judging pie contests even longer than Craven did. For her, Craven was essential.
“He was essential for the humor and the intellect and guiding us in just the right direction of always proper discernment for taste,” said Eustis, who has known the Cravens since the ’70s.But even though the judge was a staple at the contest, it’s not commonly known that the seat he held wasn’t even his seat. It belonged to his wife, Carol.”It’s always been Carol’s seat,” said Harmony Hendricks, who’s helped organize the contest for the past eight years. “Every year, we call and ask Carol if she wants to sit, and she never has.”At least, only once before this year. Though a bit reluctant at first, Carol Craven finally acquiesced and sat in judgment at the contest this year. Whether or not she’ll continue to judge, year after year, as her husband did, is anybody’s guess.What is certain, though, is that Judge Peter Craven will not soon be forgotten.