Annette Fogt Crawford grew up in Tower Grove Park in St. Louis — with a 289-acre back yard of grassy meadows, thousands of trees and many varied flowerbeds.
Crawford’s dad was the landscape foreman of the Victorian park, and housing in the park came with his compensation. The public park and arboretum is maintained, operated and programmed by an independent board of commissioners and staff. Her dad was especially proud of his work on the lily ponds, and Crawford jokes that he may have taken more photos of them than of his family.
“Growing up in these old homes — like the castle (home she lived in known as the West Gate House) on Kingshighway that was built in 1870 — while I was living there I don’t think it hit me how really old that was,” Crawford said.
They later moved to another home in the park on Magnolia Avenue built in the early 1900s. “I was so used to living like that. As a kid, and you’re surrounded by this all the time, you take it for granted. I was always jealous of friends who lived in ‘normal’ houses. To me, I wanted neighbors. I didn’t realize how good I had it,” Crawford said.
When people would drop her off at the house the first time, she recalled, “I would tell them, ‘OK pull over’ and they would say, ‘But that’s the park.’ I would say, ‘I know.’ They would never believe me.”
The house on Magnolia had a driveway that was partially hidden in the summertime by trees. Her brother drove out of the driveway one day, and a police officer pulled him over, accusing him of cutting through the park recklessly instead of driving on the streets. Her brother had to convince the police officer that he lived there.
Hooray for Catholic
Having the park as her back yard was great. But she couldn’t follow in her dad’s footsteps because she doesn’t have his green thumb. They lived in the house on Kingshighway from 1959 to 1970 and then moved to the three-story house on Magnolia. After Crawford’s family moved out, the house was rented to a group of women religious.
The Fogt family were members of Holy Innocents Parish, which was across Kingshighway a bit from the park. She and her two brothers attended the parish school. Her father, August, died in 1992 and her mother, Hilda, lives in Oakville. Her parents, faith-filled Catholics, were immigrants from Germany. The Gus Fogt Site is a picnic area in Tower Grove Park, just down the road from the tennis courts.
She has great memories of her grade school, especially the library. She attended a closing event at the school and purchased some books which had her name on the card showing who borrowed them. Crawford appreciated her education there and at DuBourg.
She wanted to go to journalism school at the University of Missouri-Columbia, but wasn’t sure how she’d pay for it. While in high school, she worked at McDonald’s on South Kingshighway and walked past an Army Reserve building. She told her dad that perhaps she’d stop in there. He handed her a U.S. Air Force brochure that she’d picked up months before and had discarded. He recommended the Air Force because he liked the way they treat their people.
Air Force, Catholic values
She entered the Air Force soon after high school graduation and had a long career there, working in recruiting in her last assignment on active duty before working as a civilian in recruiting as a writer in the marketing department. “So I was writing the very brochures that I had thrown away,” Crawford said with a chuckle.
Today, she continues to work at Lackland Air Force Base in public affairs. She speaks highly of her time in the Air Force and the people she’s met. “I’m very thankful my dad got that stuff out of the trash,” Crawford said.
She missed out initially on a job in public affairs, at first getting the OK because of her test scores, her writing and work on the school newspaper at DuBourg. But a procedure change meant she’d have to go to tech school. So instead she became a medic, working in the Philippines, Ohio, Alaska and Belleville, Illinois. That’s where she met a patient who worked in public affairs, and he connected her with a position. She was stationed at the Air Force Academy, upstate New York, Turkey and two bases in San Antonio before retiring in 1996.
Her faith education in Catholic schools, she said, matches Air Force core values — integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do — as well as respect, tradition and similar traits. “I was so used to that. That was emphasized at home and school. I took those lessons I learned at Holy Innocents and DuBourg and that carried me to where I am now.”
Having been raised Catholic allows her to be the best person she can be, she said. “Everything I do is grounded in what I learned at Holy Innocents and DuBourg.”
Crawford is a member of the Friends of Tower Grove Park and appreciates the work that maintains it and its importance in the community. “It really has an impact on people. Sometimes they say they grew up in the park, and they mean it metaphorically. I can say that literally.”
>> Where’d you go to high school?
Even though Annette Fogt Crawford lives now in Texas, the unique St. Louis question follows her: Where’d you go to high school?
That’s how she learned that U.S. Air Force Major Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, the Air Force’s first female fighter pilot, also is a graduate of Bishop DuBourg High School. “Hey, fellow Cavalier here,” Crawford said she told the general, who then was commander of the Air Force Recruiting Service and later director of operations and communication, Headquarters Air Education and Training Command, both at the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.
Same thing happened when Crawford went to a show by blues musician Frank Zito, also a DuBourg grad. She heard he was a St. Louisan and a Catholic high school grad, and when she approached him wearing a shirt with a DuBourg logo, “I had to ask the St. Louis question,” Crawford said.