SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) -It’s been a sad day around the WTOC office as we remember our long-time friend, Craig Harney. Craig passed away over the weekend at the age of 65.
Craig was our creative services director, he was the heart of our newsroom, and he was deeply committed to our community.
He was recently inducted into the Savannah Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame earlier this year. The remainder of this story is a transcription of a video presented at the awards ceremony, arranged by us at WTOC and narrated by Maggie Harney, one of Craig’s two incredible daughters.
begins the same way — a person, a place, and an incredible circumstance. For this story, it’s about a camera, my Dad, and the prettiest little town in America.
“He’s the perfect citizen of Savannah," says Gene Cartledge, President of the Gene Cartledge foundation. "Many of us are indebted to him.”
“He’s the man in Savannah as far as I’m concerned,” said Jane Vaden Thacher.
“Savannah Central, the spirit of the city,” said Bob Jepson, CEO of Jepson and Associates.
“He’s the real deal," says Bert Tenanbaum, Principal of the Heritage Capital Group. "A genuine hometown hero. A true everyday hometown hero.”
“And he’s just he’s fantastic telling about this whole Savannah story,” said Dale Critz, Sr. of Critz, Inc.
Dad was a Savannah boy through and through. He went to public school right here: Juliette Gordon Low, then Jenkins, then Armstrong University. It was there that he made his way into the story of the city, by way of WTOC.
“I was playing doubles Armstrong, playing tennis at Armstrong,” Craig recounts in an interview taped earlier this year. “After practice, we were over at my doubles partner’s girlfriends house. Her mom comes in and says, 'Hey they’re looking for someone to answer the phone at WTOC at night’ so I’m like ‘OK well I need a job. I can work at night. That sounds great’.”
“Well, the first time I met Craig, he was answering the phone at night at WTOC," said longtime anchor and news director Doug Weathers. “That’s the first time I met him. I didn’t know him from Adam’s house cat, but I tell you, boy, that was a lucky day for me. Craig has an incredible work ethic/and he’s productive always working on projects that touch the community. Get into the fabric of the community, getting out there.”
“If you’re the community station it means you’re developing contacts and friendships and you know where things lead, and you know - relationships,” Craig said.
The only way Dad knew how to be there for people is to actually be there for people. There was never a secret to telling a good story. It was just about showing up. And one of those stories was W.W. Law.
“Doug and I produced that first documentary,” Craig says. “W.W. Law, “In His Own Words” and I realized that I have never met a more articulate man in my life. We asked Mr. Law to write his own epitaph and he said he hadn’t thought about it much, but he didn’t think it was important that you have a big ending, but rather that you go each day and do the best you could for that day. So that’s what I do, I do the best I can each day."
Dad always told a lot of stories at the dinner table. Especially about the season that belonged to Savannah’s Irish- St. Patrick’s Day
“He was involved in the production of the mass for St. Patrick’s Day, put all the pieces together for St. Patrick’s Day,” says Bishop Kevin Boland.
“The honor from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee was wonderful but, but they honor me every time I’m in their presence,” Craig says. “They recognize me as a friend. They recognize me as someone on this on the same side. They recognized that I’ll guard their history as if it were my own. So, the plaque/ trophy was very nice, but to get a call from Tommy Brunson, Jerry Hogan, Jim Forbes. You know all those guys. That, that you know. That trusted me. I think that’s really, these people trust you with their story. You cannot let them down.”
That trust — the kind that must be worked for — was also earned with Savannah’s most influential citizens.
“That Hall of Fame contains the best names this city produced in the last 50 years I would say,” Craig says. “Finding out how those people got to that point was absolutely stunning to me. And one tells another whether or not they should trust me. We want Craig to do your story. I couldn’t be more honored than anything in my life then, ‘We want Craig to do your story'.”
The other story — the one he’s always held closest to his heart — is our family. And that begins with the Little Blue House on 48th Street.
“This house means everything,” Craig says. “My wife took really, pretty dilapidated, really, I paid twenty-five thousand dollars for this house um when I was in school. When we got married, she began to do, to do all of the magnificent um authentic things you see to it.”
“It’s just so unique," says Annie Harney, Craig’s daughter. "It’s free for expression and that’s what Mom and Dad created.”
“And of course, both of the girls were born into the house,” Craig said. “All of the happiness and all of the great moments of our lives have been in that house.”
Of the things that were important, maybe the ones that mattered most were the things Mom and Dad invested in us — the opportunity to be better, the freedom to be ourselves, and the undeniable truth that wherever we went, their love was with us.
“I would say that family is everything, the root of who he is,” said Annie Harney. “The simplicity of enjoying each other’s presence, it helps all of us remember the simple things about life. The love we share.”
“Annie never wanted to walk when she could stand,” remembers Maggie. “Dad’s head is where Annie lived her life for at least 10 years. Some people like the couch, I like Dads head. The three pals down Battey.”
“I’ve always asked the girls ‘why did God put me here?’ And the answer is to take care of you,” Craig says. “And I’ve always believed that. Yep There, there is no other reason to be here other than the children – our children. And you know, nobody loves you kid like you do, yeah – yup.”
At every turn, Dad connected us to Savannah, to the community that we were a part of. More than anything, he wanted us to understand the richness of the place that we call home, through the eyes of all those who call it home.
And that home will always live on.