When asked why serve on the board of the CPF, Jim stated, “Our police officers have a very tough and dangerous job. It’s an honor to be part of an organization that supports and helps them in their work in the community.”
A life-long Clevelander, Jim was raised in a close-knit Romanian-Italian-American family. Upon graduating cum laude from St. Edward’s High School in 1969. He attended Cleveland State University majoring in Labor & Industrial Relations and graduating in 1973 with a degree in business.
During his college years, Jim agreed to support the pursuit of religious freedom, when in 1974, a Catholic priest asked him to smuggle bibles and catechism books into Communist-ruled Romania. Jim agreed, and that experience began his lifetime advocacy for religious freedom and human rights.
In 1977, he attended the International Human Rights Conference at the Royal Holloway College in London, England and helped draft and sign a memorandum condemning the Helsinki Accords. The same memorandum was prepared and signed simultaneously in Romania by courageous dissidents who were later imprisoned for their act.
Jim began public speaking in 1982 as a member of the Metropolitan Speaker’s Bureau of Northeastern Ohio, his topic, “Life under Communism”. Father John Cregan, Cleveland Police Chaplain, was so impressed with his story he invited Jim to be the guest speaker for the Police and Fire Holy Name Society annual breakfast at the Hollenden House Hotel.
During the early 1980’s, he was a founding member of the Ohio Committee in Support of Solidarity for the Polish people, and all people seeking freedom from the tyranny of communism. He was co-chairmen of Ohio Committee to Renounce Yalta during 1983 and 1984. In 1986, he coordinated a national demonstration of Romanian Americans in Washington D.C. against the Most Favored Nation status for communist Romania.
He was a founding member of the World Union of Free Romanians (WUFR) in 1984 at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, and in 1987 he was elected Vice President of WUFR at the second World Congress held in Paris, France. He was re-elected in 1991 and 1996 in Paris, and again in 2000 in Bucharest, Romania. In January of 1995 he advised the Clinton Administration on the expansion of NATO, representing the Romanian American perspective.
From 1985 to 1991, he was a member of the executive board of the Diocesan Union of Holy Name Societies for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, and served as president from 1989-1991. During his tenure, he chaired an anti-pornography campaign that stopped local convenient stores from displaying adult magazines in plain view where children could see them.
Jim’s other civic endeavors are extensive and includes: former president of West Cleveland Jaycees and being selected by the national organization as one of the “Outstanding Young Men of America” in 1988; former president of the West Cleveland Kiwanis; served as a board member of the West Side Ecumenical Ministry, an organization aiding the needy families and youth of the community; co-chaired the Cultural Committee for International Children’s Games, held in Cleveland in July 2004; chaired the board of the International Services Center from 2002-2009, an agency that resettles refugees and aids immigrants in Northeastern Ohio; past chair of Cleveland’s International Folk Festival; and founder and past Cub Scout Master of Pack #541 of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School, where he currently serves as president of the school’s foundation. In 2006 Jim ran unsuccessfully for State Senate of Ohio in District 23.
On December 15, 2007, Jim was honored to receive the Freedom Award from the American Nationalities Movement for his contributions to world peace, commitment to human rights, and service to the community.
His professional career started in 1976, when he became a licensed funeral director where he worked in the family business, first with his father and then with his brother Joseph. Together they manage the Craciun Berry Funeral Homes of Cleveland and Westlake, Craciun Funeral Home of Middleburg Heights, and Corrigan Craciun Funeral Homes of Cleveland and Fairview Park.
He and his wife Marcy were married for 30 years and the proud parents of five children. Sadly, she passed away in November of 2010.
Jim is very proud of his children. His oldest, Noelle, has a MEd in clinical counseling and is married to Jake Fitzpatrick of Hometeam Marketing. Together, they gave him his first grandchild, Francesca on September 4, 2013.
Oldest son Jason, an award-winning agent with New York Life Insurance, is married to
Monika. She gave birth to Emelia, his second grandchild, on November 13, 2014. Next in line is Jonathan, who is now a licensed funeral director, and as of 2014, a third generation member working in the family business. Along with his cousin, Joe’s daughter Alexandria, they are carrying on the fine family tradition.
Son, Jesse is a freshman at Cleveland State University; and youngest son Nicolas is a junior at Saint Ignatius.