by Henry Lane Hull
For the past several decades, on numerous occasions, residents of the Northern Neck have been the cultural beneficiaries of the music of The Northern Neck Baytones. The group of talented singers has performed in a wide range of venues and before a variety of organizations. They are folks who enjoy performing together and have become a mainstay before local audiences throughout the region.
Bill Croner was one of their most enthusiastic members, a baritone who delighted in singing in public. When one spoke of singing, everyone who knew him had something to say. He was tireless in promoting The Baytones ever since he and his wife, Jan, moved to the shores of Ingram Bay after retiring from their careers in Washington.
The retirement home they built overlooking the channel capitalized on the lot’s view. Once here, they proceeded to settle into local life with vigor. When not singing, both of them probably were playing bridge, which they pursued with abandon. When not singing or playing bridge, they most likely were traveling, exploring native and foreign lands to quell their insatiable intellectual curiosity. Originally from Pennsylvania, they thoroughly immersed themselves in Northern Neck activities.
Nearly 15 years ago, they sold their home on The Bay and moved to Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury in Irvington, which afforded Bill new opportunities for singing. At one point, Bill’s fellow members of The Baytones elected him their president. The honor led him to work even longer hours popularizing the group, getting venues for their performances, and making the task his full-time job. At one point, I suggested to him that the group be renamed “The Crooning Croners.” He modestly demurred.
The motto and theme song of The Baytones is “Keep the Whole World Singing.” Bill took that admonition to heart. He enthusiastically promoted their performances at local nursing homes, retirement residences, and churches, as well as before civic and patriotic groups. In the latter area, Bill, an Air Force veteran, thrived singing at ceremonies honoring the United States Flag.The Baytones produce traditional barbershop harmony singing that resonates quite well among retirees.
In recent years, Bill’s health began to decline, but his commitment to The Baytones remained unshaken. He had spent his working years in the publishing industry in Washington, which talent he easily adapted to the promotion of The Baytones. In every conversation, the group was for Bill an important topic, with him telling those with whom he spoke when and where the next performance would be. Without ever having heard me sing, he wisely surmised not to suggest that I attempt to join the group, except in the audience as a listener.
Jan and Bill were an impressive couple. When they walked down the hall at RWC, they held hands. In the realm of music, Jan was Bill’s biggest fan. As long as her own health permitted, she accompanied him to every concert. As her health concerns mounted, Bill devoted himself to seeing to her every need. Neither of them ever complained, always being grateful for whatever kindness or fellowship they experienced. They were extraordinarily generous in supporting local causes, which they viewed as their responsibility toward helping others.
Last month, Bill died at the age of 87. He was one who truly loved life and did his part to make it as meaningful to others as it was to him. He and Jan came to the Northern Neck to enjoy the quality of life we experience, and in return, they contributed mightily to enhancing it in their own way, modestly eschewing any praise or glory for themselves.
William Nevin Croner, January 21, 1933 – July 17, 2020. R.I.P.