Former Mayor and Long-Time Enid resident Johnny Criner Jr. passed away on Wednesday, June 9th, in Kingwood, TX, at the age of 78.
He was born November 12th, 1942, in Tulsa, OK. He was united in marriage to Cheryl Ann (Bartling) Criner on January 29th, 1965.
John was preceded in death by his wife Cheryl last November.
John is survived by his son J.R. Criner and his wife Terri Criner. He was also a loving grandfather to two grandchildren, Austin, 23, and Alicen, 19. He is also survived by his sister Barbara Reeves and her husband Ted, brother Jerry Criner and a sister-in-law Mrs "Skip" Jan Criner. He is further survived by an abundant number of nieces, nephews, and friends.
John graduated from the University of Tulsa with a B.S. in Business. While at The University of Tulsa he was a member of the ROTC. After graduation, he began working for the F.W. Woolworth Company. John worked in multiple Woolworth stores throughout Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi. He was then transferred to a new retail division for F.W. Woolworth called Woolco. John was manager of his first Woolco store in Enid, OK, in 1973.
John and his wife Cheryl soon fell in love with the City of Enid and decided to make it their permanent home. The Woolco chain closed all its stores nationwide in 1983, but under John's leadership the Enid location became one of the most profitable stores in the company. This feat soon drew the attention of Hobby Lobby owner David Green. Due to John's excellent managerial skills and leadership, David Green opened what would be the 8th store in the Hobby Lobby franchise with John as store manager. After 22 years with Hobby Lobby, John retired in September 2005.
In 2006, John ran for mayor of Enid. John won the election and served as mayor from 2007 to 2011. He proudly served and was honored to represent the citizens of Enid. As mayor, he worked diligently with the Enid City Manager and Enid City Council on an array of projects while also improving the cities finances.
In addition, to being Mayor, John also worked to help the community though AMBUCS organization. AMBUCS is a national charitable/civic organization that works to help communities and special causes. John was an active member of the Enid AMBUCS, holding several titles within the organization including President. He was also an early advocate in starting the women's AMBUCS chapter in Enid which is still active today. John absolutely loved his AMBUCS brothers and sisters and the work they accomplished together.
John and his wife Cheryl were member of North Garland Church of Christ. Some of their favorite pastimes were to spend time with their friends and family taking trips to various restaurants not only in Enid but also out of town, including a few out-of-state road trips. The moments and the stories created from those times were always incredibly special and fondly remembered to both John and Cheryl. John was also an avid collector of comic books and has an extensive collection old music records and memorabilia.
Over the last two to three years, John and Cheryl have lived in Kingwood, Texas, near their son and his family. The family is bringing John and Cheryl home to Enid, where funeral services for John will be Saturday, June 19th, 10 a.m. at North Garland Church of Christ, 703 N. Garland Rd. The service will include a celebration of life where friends and loved ones will have an opportunity to share any stories about John and Cheryl.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to be made to one of the local Enid AMBUCS chapters or their charitable causes. The family would like to thank all of the staff at Water Crest Assisted Living Center in Kingwood, TX, for all the wonderful care and support.
Former Mayor John Criner was remembered by friends Friday for his passionate love of Enid. Criner died Wednesday at the age of 78. “John always worked hard for what he thought was best for Enid,” said Kip Miles, former owner of Miles Music and a member of Enid AM AMBUCS. “He did what he thought was right. When he took on a job or project, he was in 110%. He was all for it.”
Former Enid city manager Eric Benson, who worked with Criner when he was mayor from 2007 to 2011 and became good friends, said Criner was “fearless” and showed “very strong leadership in the face of criticism.”
Benson said the period Criner was mayor saw some of the biggest advances in Enid in terms of sales tax growth, development and infrastructure work. “He wasn’t afraid to be straight up with you,” Benson said. “If you want leadership, you better find a John Criner.” Benson said he and Criner didn’t always see eye to eye on projects, but they always would talk things out, never leaving a discussion with hard feelings.
“We would sit down and work out the issues,” Benson said. “John loved
Enid. He did not have to do what he did.”
Miles said Criner was the best business manager he’d ever known.
Criner moved to Enid in 1973 to manage the Woolco store, building it into one of the most profitable stores in the company. When F.W. Woolworth closed the Woolco chain in 1983, Criner helped convince Hobby Lobby to open a store in Enid. Criner was manager of Hobby Lobby for 22 years before retiring in 2005.
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“He didn’t care about being popular,” Miles said of his friend. “He just wanted to do what was right.”
There isn’t anyone more loyal, more sincere or who had a bigger heart than Criner, Miles said.
“First and last, he was my friend,” he said. “I am heartbroken he is gone.”
Criner was born in Tulsa in 1942, and graduated from the University of Tulsa with a business degree. He died Wednesday in Kingwood, Texas, where he had moved to be closer to his son, J.R.
“As a father, he was one of my best friends,” J.R. Criner said. “He took the time and guided me in the right direction.”
Criner’s funeral will be 10 a.m. June 19 at North Garland Church of Christ, where he and his late wife, Cheryl, were longtime members. She preceded him in death in November 2020.
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