FLORENCE — If Walter Crawford had to choose a life motto it would be "live in excellence."

It's the last thing he says these days to callers on the telephone, as well as to friends as they part ways.

"I try to leave people with a positive thought, maybe just a little something to think about," Crawford said.

It's not just a gentle directive for others, but a driving passion for the 83-year-old Scotland native. 

Having lived in the United States since 1970, Crawford spent 65 years preaching the gospel of Christ.

Also an accomplished accordion player, music has been a vital part of his life, as has his love of writing. He's published more than 40 books, mostly in the science fiction genre.

Keeping a slower pace these days, his time in the pulpit is over, but the fire in his belly to love others and share the love of Christ is still roaring, as is his passion for writing.

Growing up poor in Scotland, Crawford said his rowdy youth seemed a way to cope with the circumstances of life — a life that would take a major turn and ultimately route the raucous, jack-of-many-trades to distant lands.

He'd never really concerned himself with the fact that his native Freserburgh was in such close proximity to Germany — that is until World War II broke out and his town was being bombed regularly.

"I vividly remember that cold, dark and humid concrete shelter and the bombs hitting all around," he said. "It was the most traumatic time in my life, but it gave me a heart to pray for people, for kids."

Growing up he admits he wanted nothing to do with religion, and only attended church with his grandmother because she paid him a quarter.

"I needed that quarter to get into the movies," he said.

By the age of 13 his lifestyle of heavy drinking and staying out all night was starting to take off. 

Soon thereafter he began crab fishing on the North Sea with his grandfather, serving as cook for the boat crew of 10 men.

At 16, while reveling with friends celebrating the New Year, he drunkenly opened the door to a home when a blast from a coal fire hit him in the face.

The next thing he recalls was a voice speaking that he says was clearly the voice of God. 

"I was drunk and cold sober at the same time," he said. "The voice said, 'Is this the life you want?'"

Soon thereafter, there was a change in the way he spent his days. He recalls attending a church service and once again, he heard that voice. 

"Right then I just said, 'Lord, my heart is yours.'"

At 17, Crawford went to work as a crab fisherman full-time with this grandfather, sometimes on the boat for two to three months.

All the while he was studying the Scripture and learning more about God.

At 22, he was thrust into preaching at the Church of Scotland for his friend who'd taken ill. He died soon afterward, leaving a young Walter Crawford in a big job that he'd keep for another year before accepting a position with another church. 

But the voice was active again, he said, telling him he was going to America. With a one-way ticket, that trip to came to pass. 

With his two children, their children and his great-grandchildren living in Delaware, he doesn't have the opportunity to visit them often, and he no longer drives, which he says, frees up plenty of time to write.

Rising at 4 a.m. daily, he's at the computer long before the first light breaks through the two large windows in his living room.

With a slow, deliberate gait, he makes his way to his computer to call up his latest work, a sci-fi e-book story that's sure to make its way to Kindle reading devices everywhere.

"I'd always wanted to write, but there were always disturbances and I just couldn't get the process going," he said. "But now, this is my life and it's what I do. I'm older now, so I'll write an hour and take a break. My goal is 1,000 words a day."

Crawford said he's not one to impose his opinions on others, but he has advice for anyone wanting to write.

"Just write what's in your gut," he said. "We don't need any more theories."

Crawford's writings are admittedly unique in that they are Scripture-based with the message of love woven throughout.

"I've had a full life and I tell people that I'm still growing up, but I'm always, always striving for excellence."

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