Richard Crooks

Richard Crooks first visited Loon Bay, the lake expansion of the Saint Croix River, in 1923. Crooks was a guest of the musical accompanist and arranger Frank LaForge. LaForge had built a studio on his father-in-law's 2,700 acre summer estate, and operatic proteges such as Lily Pons and Gladys Swarthout not only honed their talents but enjoyed camping forays along the river. The grassy knoll overlooking Loon Bay was a favorite camping spot.

By 1925, Crooks was taking advanced musical studies in Europe, but he did not forget the quiet woodland splendour of Loon Bay. His career took him to the Berlin State Opera, Belgium, and Sweden. Crooks made his American debute in 1930, and he went on to play Manon in Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera in 1933. The happy times at Loon Bay remained on his mind, and he bought the knoll overlooking Loon Bay in 1934. Crooks drew up his own blue prints for the lodge, and supervised its construction.

Whenever possible, Crooks stayed at the lodge between performances. He enjoyed canoeing , horseback riding, fishing, gardening, and photographing wildlife. Saturdays often comprised of rehearsals with his wife Mildred accompanying him on the piano. Crooks made his last appearence at the Met in 1943, and retired several years later. A degenerative throat condition, and the distance from the homes of his children, Patsy and Richard, were factors in his retirement and the sale of Loon Bay Lodge. Crooks sold the lodge in 1948, but continued to call the new owner expressing his desire to be at Loon Bay until his death in 1972.

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