January 12, 1985 – June 21, 2018


Our God,

For our faith to be authentic today, we must say to you that our hearts are broken.  We are disappointed and upset that we are here, and Drew is not.

That Drew is with you is part of your grace, and for that we are most grateful.  Yet you know it does not take away our pain.

Drew’s death is a reminder that we live in a world where even the best, the brightest, the most talented, creative, and passionate among us have a fixed number of days.  We are all reminded of our mortality.

We have known one who taught us to make good use of each day.

Drew was like our Lord Jesus in that he accomplished more in 33 years than most people accomplish in two or three times that time.

But we feel cheated, Lord.  Drew is heaven’s gain, but our loss.

Still, we are grateful to have known him, to be loved by him, and led by him.  But we thank you for the years that we were fortunate to have him and the legacy he has left.

Now Lord, what this family needs is your grace to sustain them.  Please give them a double portion.  May your strength be evident in them amid their loss and as they grieve.  Amen.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

Many of you are here today because you met Dr. Andrew Crouch at the Commerce Veterinary Hospital where he was the co-owner.

Drew has known that he wanted to be a veterinarian since he was seven-years-old.

His family had a dog named Boaz. Boaz got a fishhook stuck in his mouth.  Drew went to the vet with his parents and watched the veterinarian surgically remove the fishhook and from that day on, Drew wanted to be a “dog doctor”.   The moral of that story is you never know what day or event will change your child’s life.

He never wavered in his commitment and he never had a plan B, so his mother, Patricia, was probably more relieved than Drew the day Drew got the fat envelope from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

The fat envelope meant you were accepted.  It has all the information forms to sign and return. The skinny one just says, “Sorry, try again.”

Of course, acceptance into Vet School means you are smart as a whip.  It means you have worked very hard academically to make the cut.

Some of you here went to school with Drew and you know how smart he was.

Matt Faulkner was a classmate with Drew in freshman year anatomy lab at UGA.

Matt says, “anatomy lab was and is very disorienting to many students who have had no experience with carcasses. Drew on the other hand was right at home.”

“He had worked many hours in the UGA slaughter facility and as an avid hunter had probably skinned and processed most legal game species in the state of Georgia.”

Matt said that the instructor gave them specific steps in what the students were supposed to do with the cadaver, “a tedious task involving lots of precise scalpel blade incisions.

Based on experience with previous classes, (they) were told the long process would take an average of three days. Drew was done in a little under two hours.”

Drew made a B in physics. “I wasn’t very good at physics,” he said.  “That is one of the few classes I didn’t make an A in. I will say though, when I made the B, I was also taking organic chemistry, anatomy, physiology, and an advanced math class. So, my schedule was pretty busy that semester.”  That is about as close to bragging as you would hear from Drew.

Of course, none of us get anywhere on our own. Not even the smartest among us.  We all need help.  We all need parents, mentors, teachers, leaders, someone to give us a chance, an opportunity, and some encouragement.

Dr. Rob Lafferty was one of those people for Drew.

Drew worked at his animal clinic while he was in high school and college. Dr. Lafferty gladly wrote a recommendation letter to vet school for Drew.

At Dr. Lafferty’s clinic, the staff all called Drew “Baby Huey” because he had such an unusual combination of having a gentle nature with an imposing physical size.

Dr. Lafferty said that one day at work several of (his) female staff members were having trouble restraining a very large dog.  The owner offered to help but Dr. Lafferty told him not to worry because he would get Drew.  He called over the intercom for Drew to come give them a hand.

The owner said, “I doubt anyone can hold my dog.”

At that moment Drew walked in the room and said, “Do you need a hand Doc?”

The dog’s owner took one look at Drew’s massive build and said, “Yup, he can hold him.”

Seven years ago, Drew graduated from UGA’s vet school and he interviewed with Dr. Kinsey Phillips who was looking for a new vet.

Dr. Kinsey writes, “During the interview it was apparent that Drew was the veterinarian we were looking for.  He was very family oriented and was motivated to eventually own his own practice. After spending a few years in practice with Drew, I knew I wanted him to be my partner. He had developed exceptional surgical skills, was level-headed under stress and compassionate with people and their pets. I knew when I eventually retired, the practice would be in good hands.”

Dr. Phillips lost interest in his work and retired sooner than expected at the end of last year.

But remember, I told you Drew was smart.  Drew’s keen medical observations helped Dr. Phillips and his family seek the medical help that he needed.  He was diagnosed with a brain tumor a month and a half later.

Thanks to the resolution of his brain tumor, his desire to practice returned and in April, Drew invited him to join him for TPLO surgery training in Florida. He wanted to improve on the technique they used to repair torn ACL’s in dogs.  As he had shown many times before, he proved to be a quick learner.

He returned to Commerce and upon acquiring the necessary equipment, promptly did six TPLO’s.

Dr. Phillips said that “he was always looking for the best way to care for his patients and improve his skills in doing so.”

The story of Dr. Phillips and Drew is a microcosm of Drew’s real work.  His real work was making the world a better place for you as a person, for the animals that live here, and the environment that God made for them.

I think his friend Jimmy Dorough knew this well.  They met at the animal hospital about five years ago.  Beyond their working relationship, they established a bond in seeking to be good husbands, good fathers to their daughters, and good hunters.

Jimmy witnessed firsthand the talents and the gifts that God gave Drew, but he said because Drew was so humble, you had “to spend time with him to see these talents, which were several.”

Jimmy writes, “He was a man’s man. A guy that we all wanted to be like and what made us want to be like him was the fact that he wasn’t arrogant at all or a talker.  He was a doer.  He did a lot of things and he did them well.”

“And what was so impressive was he did the right things, the types of things that mattered like take his wife on a date to see a concert, take his daughters fishing, work hard as a veterinarian, take his friends hunting, being a good boss and a good leader, being a good brother, brother-in-law, uncle, son, and so on and so on…

“He was a good person who sought to do the right thing all the time even if it was the hard thing to do. He didn’t care about titles or status or anything materialistic or shallow. He cared about things that mattered like family, friends, hard work, having fun and boy did he love the outdoors. He was an animal lover, a dog lover, a talented surgeon and a compassionate vet. He was a man of integrity, ethics, and a leader.”

The prophet Micah might have summed up Drew’s motivation in life: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love kindly and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8

Drew was simple in that way.  Why is simple so hard for most of us?  I think it’s hard because we become distracted with things that are not important.  We complicate our lives by adding too much to our agenda.

Jimmy nailed it when he said that Drew “sought to do the right thing all the time even if it was the hard thing to do.”

Of course, we all need grace, because none of us get it right all the time but making it our goal is essential.

He also said that Drew “was fully present in the lives that he came into contact with.”

I believe this quality was the gift Drew had that drew people to him.  From little children to older people, they were comfortable in his presence because you WERE his priority. He was interested in you and your animal(s).  You had his full attention.  This is a Jesus quality.  It’s rare these days.

Doug Dailey is alive today because of this quality Drew had.  September 25 of last year, he carried the family cat, Tulip, to the clinic for her annual visit.  But Doug got sick in the parking lot and Dr. Crouch went to check on him and then took him inside.

He recognized the symptoms of a heart attack.  He put him in his truck and drove him to the hospital.  The doctor at the hospital said Dr. Crouch saved his life.  Drew was fully present.

A man that is fully present is concerned about the needs of others and isn’t caught up in his own issues, even when he’s got them.

When Kelsey Baker began as the office manager at the hospital she was scared to death, but Drew believed in her, which is why he appointed her to the job.

She writes, “He was sure to tell me every single day for two months that I was doing a great job, and still continued saying that on days that he knew I needed encouragement. He taught me so much about my job, and so much about life.”

“I remember a day that I was struggling with going to an event for my son or going to an event for work because of obligation. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘You always choose your family.’ And that’s who he was. “

“He led by extraordinary example. Dr. Crouch was loved by all the clients that entered our office.”

One lady praised him for picking up her dog from her classroom on the way to his clinic. Another for taking care of an injured baby chick that no vet in Atlanta would fool with.  Another for saving their dog’s leg when all the other vets told them it couldn’t be saved.

Then there was this letter from Clyde Wylie.  Clyde saw Drew often, sometimes every day when he had a litter of puppies.  Drew docked their tails, clipped their dewclaws, gave them shots, and gave them medicine.

Clyde went to see Drew when he initially went into the hospital about a month before his surgery.

He said Drew stood up the entire hour he was there, making drawings of the heart and talking about the different options he had for his operation.

As a physics teacher, I’m sure the two of them connected on a very intellectual level.

As they talked about medical options, Clyde asked him if he ever became tearful or emotional. Drew had open-heart surgery three years ago and it’s not unusual for this to be a side effect of this kind of surgery.

Drew said that he never had. Then he paused and said, “You know, I never cried until recently. When my daughters came along, and when I thought about leaving them I was scared. I cried.”

I think this is what it means to be present in the moment, to be real enough to admit where we are now, to be emotionally vulnerable, to share our deepest fears with a trusted friend.

Not too many men will do that.  Not too many men will sit and listen to another man and be comfortable with it. But these two men shared a special moment that day

Drew wasn’t afraid to go where he was uncomfortable if he believed that he could be helpful.

Justin Safley, our minister of youth, needs men, young men to help mentor our youth.

Do you know how difficult it is to find men with a heart for youth, a lifestyle for them to follow, and a willingness to give their time to help?

Julie said Drew felt out of his element with those middle school youth, but he loved being with them and offering a different perspective for them.

Drew was very gifted.  I have mentioned how he could easily draw detailed drawings of the body.

He was an armature taxidermist and once stuffed a squirrel for his mother-in-law for Christmas. He sewed an outfit for it and mounted two toy guns in the little creature’s paws.  Then he mounted it on a log. It’s the funniest animal mount I’ve ever seen.

He could crochet.  He was a good cook.  He canned his own meat and made his own jerky.

He was creative and had been so since childhood.  Once he tried to catch the tooth fairy by tying his tooth to dental floss and he used a lot of dental floss and made a trap that looked like a spider’s web.

From a very early age Drew had a passion for fishing and hunting.  Bruce taught the boys how to fly fish and how to tie their own flies.

When Drew was five, Bruce noticed that their bulldog had a circular spot shaven off his hind end.  On further investigation, he discovered that Drew had cut the dog’s hair to have material to make flies for fishing.

At age 11 Drew ran out of worms on one of their fishing outings so he took the rubber bands from his braces and made fake worms and caught fish with those.

His brother-in-law Kevin said that he once made a fishing fly of his sister Leigh Ann’s hair and the foil from a Capri Sun container and Kevin said it looked like professional grade.

Drew’s rule was that you could not leave any fishing pond, lake, or stream without catching at least one fish.

His dad has seen him try over twenty different flies trying to entice one fish over a period of about 90 minutes.  Drew usually got his fish.  His dad said this spoke to Drew’s determination.

I have read many stories of men who have fished or hunted with Drew.  All of them speak of his skills and his joy of being with nature and sharing nature with others.

I don’t expect this to resonate with all of you, but for the men or women here who have ever spent time in the woods on a hunt, listen to Jimmy’s words again.

“We would silently slosh through the mud and the ice in the dark and wait for the sun to begin to rise. I would look over at him, eagerly waiting until shooting time and he would give me his knowing smile and nod. I’m pretty sure he didn’t mind me tagging along with him because all I was good for was blasting my shotgun into the air. He was a crack shot and could hit any duck that came close. As he would collect his limit of ducks and I would collect my spent shells. He would often make excuses for me. He would say that he got lucky and that I was just a hair out of position and unlucky because of the way the ducks were flying. That is who he was: selfless, easy going, and humble.

Daniel Zogran, Drew’s father-in-law, says that “some of my best memories are the times he and Drew would get up at zero dark 30 and set out to go hunting in his quest to shoot a deer on his property”.

Once at the property they would gear up and set off for the deer stands they had put up.  Once in the deer stands, they put on their headsets and waited.

It was at these times that Daniel has his fondest memories.

He writes, “The headsets amplified everything – the rustling of the winds in the leaves, the bird calls (and Drew knew every bird making the call), and the squirrels chirping at each other in the trees.  At that time the sun was just coming up, just kissing the sky and barely illuminating the surrounding woods.  Drew could spot a deer from far away, and we would hope it would get close enough for me to get a shot.  Unfortunately, that chance never came.

So, whenever you go out in the woods early in the morning, or are out in the waking dawn hours, turn those headsets up (or take them off), and listen carefully, as you just might hear Drew.

(Side note: just moments before the family arrived at the graveside, a deer walked slowly by the gravesite. One of the vets that worked with Drew was there to see it walk by.)

His brother Justin enjoys telling about their alligator hunt when they brought an eight-foot gator into the boat before it was dead.  That will either bond you as brothers or end the relationship.

Speaking of gators, who but Drew could serve up gator tail during the Georgia Florida football game?

Julie said she never knew what he was going to bring home, but they always ate it.

I was deeply moved by the essay written by Justin Sims, Drew’s friend since high school.

Justin writes, “The first time I hung out with Drew outside of school was on a weekend at his family’s home in Alpharetta. We spent the whole day shooting pellet guns, playing in the woods, sharpening knives, and talking about fishing. I remember thinking this is my kind of guy. He must have thought the same about me because we quickly became very good friends and hung out almost every day.”

Justin wrote about how generous Drew was.  He wore a hat all through high school that Drew gave him, which he still has.

Then there was that time they went to the Bass Pro Shop together. Drew wanted Justin to help him pick out a knife.

Drew said. “Are you sure you think that’s the best one?”

Justin said, “Yea, that’s my opinion”

Drew bought the knife then he handed it to Justin and said, “Here you go.”

Justin writes, “I wasn’t expecting it at all and it almost made me cry then. I’m sure you can imagine I’m balling my eyes out now.”

“Then more recently he did a surgery on my dog’s leg and wouldn’t let me pay him. He said it was a wedding present. Then the same thing happened to the other leg and he fixed it too. Of course, he didn’t let me pay him for that either. I could go on forever with stuff like this. He was always taking care of the people he cared about.”

“I have so many good memories of Drew. He was an incredible human being, and one of the best people I’ve ever met. He was insanely smart, a legitimate genius. He had a heart of gold and always, always did what he said he was going to do. He said he was going to marry his soul mate, Julie, and have a family. He obviously did that, and it breaks my heart that he can’t be there for his girls and Julie. He was and would have been the best dad imaginable. He said he was going to become a vet and have his own practice one day. He said that at age 14 or 15 and from then on worked for it until he got it. He didn’t stop there. He was becoming well-known for his skills.”

“He was even pulling off experimental surgery, possibly changing the way vets do procedures and inventing cures basically. “

“There is no telling what Drew would have ended up accomplishing and the world is worse off without him for certain. It doesn’t make any sense to anyone who knows him. He was making everyone around him better.”

“He taught me so many things, so many lessons in life. He was my best friend, but he was always giving advice in the level of a grandfather or something even as kids. He was truly wise beyond his years and this place won’t be the same without him.”

Then Justin had a request for me.

“I hope you can in your message at the funeral help us all to understand why something like this could happen and help us all stay strong and have faith in the future.”

I suppose that is part of my job Justin, but it is not an easy one.

I want to be very clear that I have never been in this family’s shoes.

I have sat where many of you sit and listened to preachers say things that have been trite and to be honest, not very helpful.  So many times, what they have said didn’t help me a lot.  So, I am very cautious.

I did notice that Justin didn’t ask me to tell him something that will take away our pain or our grief. There is nothing I can tell you that will make you hurt less or grieve less.

He did ask me how something like this could happen?  How is it that someone who is doing so much to make this world a better place be taken from us?  The deeper question he may be asking is “Why didn’t God stop Drew from dying, or even having issues?

Drew might be the one to lead us.

Drew knew that his goodness wasn’t enough to keep him from being at risk during the surgery.  That’s the reason the surgery gave him pause.  He knew the surgery came with some risk, but the greater risk was to do nothing.

Drew’s goodness wasn’t enough to ensure that he would live a long life.  Neither is yours.  Neither is mine.  Jesus was perfect.  He lived the same number of years as Drew.

Neither is our goodness enough to grant us entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.  We need more than goodness.  We need the grace of Jesus.

That is the reason that the song Mallory sang today is such an important song for us to hear: “Amazing Grace.”

We need what we don’t deserve.  We need a gift from God.  In fact, our very lives are gifts from God.

What I see as hope for the future is not found in the number of the days that we live, but what we do with the days that we are given.

What makes Drew Crouch such a great person and such an inspiration to us is that he didn’t waste time.  He lived a passionate life for God, his family, his friends, and the stranger.

We will always grieve when time for our friends and loved ones is more brief than we think it should be.  God grieves with us when there is loss.

But God also grieves when we live but do not die to self.  God grieves when our lives are not lived as a living sacrifice to Him, because we are wasting valuable time and focusing on things that are not important.

Three years ago, when Drew had his second open-heart surgery, he wrote Julie, Sidney, and Avery letters.  Recently he updated those letters.

He wanted them to have a very personal word from him in case he did not make it through the surgery.

Again, Drew was aware that we are mortal.  He was present enough with nature and the animals he worked with to understand that our time is limited.  The thought of not being here for his family weighed on him.

These letters are too personal to be shared with us, but he wrote these letters because he wanted them to be shared with his daughters later so that they would know how deep his love is for them. He wanted Julie to how much he loved her and how proud he was of her accomplishments.

In those letters Drew spoke about how important it is to trust in God in all situations and he wanted his daughters to always trust and love God.

While we know that Drew is with God, that does not keep us from the grief and pain of our separation from him.  However, our hope for the future lies firmly in the belief that God continues to be with us.

Angel Abounader, the librarian here in Commerce was one of Dr. Crouch’s clients.  She said that the evening that Dr. Crouch died, she saw a rainbow over Commerce.

She said, “I feel rainbows are messages of peace, as they are associated with the Holy Spirit after the flood.”

“I believe in my heart Dr. Crouch and God were sending us a blessing of peace for our hearts as we mourn. Our loss is heaven’s gain.”

Because God is with us, we will continue to affirm the words of the Apostle Paul who said, “My grace is sufficient for you, my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Obituary for Dr. Andrew Crouch

Dr. Andrew Crouch, age 33, of Jefferson died Thursday, June 21, 2018 at Emory Hospital. Dr. Crouch was born in Atlanta to Bruce and Patricia Moore Crouch of Canton, GA. Dr. Crouch was a veterinarian and co-owner of the Commerce Veterinary Hospital. Dr. Crouch was a member of the First Baptist Church of Jefferson, AVMA, GVMA, and the Commerce Kiwanis Club. Dr. Crouch was an avid UGA fan and an outdoorsman who enjoyed hunting and fishing, working and maintaining his well earned property in Nicholson, and spending time at the lake and the beach with his family and friends. Dr. Crouch was a patient educator of all people and skills and had a servant’s heart, always trying to make others more comfortable and more confident in themselves.

In addition to his parents, Dr. Crouch is survived by his wife, Julie Zogran Crouch of Jefferson; daughters, Sidney and Avery Crouch both of Jefferson; brother, Justin Crouch (Ashley) of Cumming; sister, Leigh Ann Vaughn (Kevin) of Canton; Father-in-law and Mother-in-law, Dan and Jackie Zogran; Brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, Courtney and Katie Daniels, Kim Zogran and Chuck Kempf, Cody and Alex Smith, and Shannon Zogran; nieces and nephews, Addison and Cooper Crouch, Hayden Vaughn, Carson and Ansley Daniels; many friends and clients.

Funeral service will be held Sunday, June 24th at 3:00 PM from the First Baptist Church of Commerce with Dr. Michael Helms officiating with the interment following at Evans Memory Gardens. The family will receive friends at the funeral home Saturday from 4-8 PM.

A memorial scholarship fund has been set up in Dr. Crouch’s name to recognize academically gifted students who want to pursue veterinary medicine in the Northeast Georgia area. Donations can be submitted to any South State Bank branch or mailed to the Commerce Branch at 1851 N. Elm Street, Commerce, Ga, 30529 and written out to the Doctor Andrew Crouch Veterinary Medicine Memorial Scholarship fund.