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June 20, 1964 – July 27, 2010
This is the tale of a wonderful friend, loving wife and mother, adoring daughter, and fierce competitor.
Kimberly Ann Croak, 46, born June 20, 1964 in Illinois to Sherri Temple (IL) and Larry Strawser (PA), was killed in an automobile accident July 27, 2010. Kim and her husband Darrel were running errands when about 1 mile from their house a loose dog ran out in front of Kim’s SUV. Being an animal lover to the end, Kim swerved into the opposite lane to miss the dog but an Amish buggy coming in the other direction made her swerve back. At this time she lost control of her vehicle and collided with a telephone pole, killing her on impact. Kim leaves behind her parents Sherri and Larry, seven siblings, husband Darrel, and sons Travis Miller and Darrell Horcher.
Kim began her journey in the rabbit hobby at the age of 16 forming Kim’s Cuddly Kritters Rabbitry and has been a member of the ARBA on and off for the last 30 years. Kim got her love of animals from her mom who is a very success trainer of German Sheppard Service Dogs. Kim would always bring news of her mom’s accomplishments to the shows and the pride in which she took in her mom was obvious in her voice and beaming smile. Kim moved to PA from IL in the early 90s buying a home at the base of the Tuscarora Mountains where she could continue her passion for rabbits and other animals in the midst of Amish country. Over the years Kim maintained: horses, cows, chickens, ducks, exotic birds, dogs, cats, goats, and even a pet turtle but her main love was her rabbits.
Like many aspects in her life, Kim preferred to just jump right into things and learn as she went. Kim loved to tell of her greenhorn days on the farm. If you were lucky enough to know Kim you were probably lucky enough to hear the story of her loose pet bull. Noticing the bull was missing from its pasture, Kim immediately drove her truck over to the neighboring farm to retrieve her wayward pet. When she gets there, the farmer asks what she brought to get him home. Looking around she realizes she is quite a ways from home, she didn’t have a stock trailer, heck, she didn’t even bring a halter! The farmer taking pity on the clueless blonde woman fashioned a halter and tied the bull to the truck so he could trot beside the truck as Kim drove. At first the plan was working well and Kim thought they would make it home in no time but a bull’s patience is fleeting and soon he began ramming his head into the side of the truck. As the distance increased so did the force with which the bull protested and by the time Kim got home, her poor truck was demolished but the bull was back home and safe.
After moving to Pa Kim met her current husband Darrel Croak who became the yang to her ying and was the missing puzzle piece to her life. It has been said that Kim was the brains and Darrel was the brawn to the marriage but however you look at it, it was very clear that those two were an inseparable pair. At Kim’s service Darrel remarked that he had lost his team mate and that is exactly what they were, partners that relied on each other like no one else. With Darrel’s help, they ran a very large rabbitry averaging 150-200 rabbits at any given time. Kim has bred and shown many types of rabbits such as Triantas which close friend Valerie Knowles tells me, Kim had the first granded Thrianta in the country, Sunny D. Kim also had, Flemish Giants, Mini Rex, Netherland Dwarf, Holland Lops, Dutch, Mini Lops, English Lops, and Tans. Close In 2001 Kim purchased what would soon be the mainstay of her rabbitry, Lionheads. Kim was one of the first breeders in PA to actively work with the Lionhead breed and would eventually rise to be a nationally recognized breeder and in 2008 was awarded a COD for their development. Kim’s COD colors consisted of: Silver Marten, Otter, BEW, Chestnut, and Lilac Tort. This may seem like quite the hodge podge of colors but that was exactly what Kim was known for, we affectionately called her the Queen of Color. If you could produce it, Kim had it. Kim was very active in showing and had consistently been in the top 10 of North American Lionhead Club sweepstakes points for the last several years including an assortment of first place finishes in her many variety endeavors.
Just recently Kim expressed to me a desire to be in more of a leadership position within Lionheads. She had already had experience as a 4H Leader, active in PaSRBA, ran the rabbit barn at the York County Fair, and was a charter member of the Cumberland County Rabbit Club here in Pa. As a matter of fact, CCRC has created the Kim Croak Memorial Award in her honor. It will benefit youth and 4H members that show a competency in the areas of showmanship, community service hours, demonstration skills, and participants must have bred at least one litter. Kim is credited with getting countless youth breeders interested in rabbits including close friend Natalie Knowles. Natalie’s mother Valerie remarked that Kim was known to draw a crowd at a fair, “wherever a crowd of people were, that’s were Kim was”. She would invite people to go to the fair and from there a new rabbitry would be born because people would get hooked on rabbits, all because of Kim. Kim had maintained a lower personal profile within our breed however. We talked on several occasions about wanting to reach out to the west coast breeders and get more involved in club affairs. If you asked someone to describe Kim they might say fighter, tiger, pistol, headstrong, survivor, and believe me, she was all of those. But Kim was also a very private person and didn’t allow a lot of people see the more cautious and humble side of her. Kim volunteered to be Director of our state club, Keystone Lionhead Rabbit Club and also volunteered her time to the North American Lionhead Rabbit Club National Exhibition. For the select few of us that were inside Kim’s guarded outer shell we found a true friend that was loyal, a great listener, who never judged, was generous and kind. One of the first things I thought of when I had been informed of her accident was, I can’t believe I will never sit in her kitchen and bs again, never to carry on like junior high school girls, never eat her home cooking, never again hear Kim scream, “MISSY! Oh no you didn’t!!” Kim leaves behind a wealth of family and friends that will miss her dearly and that are mourning the loss of a life taken way too soon.
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