Monique Cronk pictured with her sons. From L to R: Jack, Tanner, Monique, and Dylan.

After serving for 20 years in the Navy, Chief Paul Cronk continued to serve his fellow Sailors and their families by volunteering in the After Hours Assistance Program at NMCRS Patuxent River. Cronk was the first chair of the program, which makes sure that Sailors or family members in need of emergency assistance when the NMCRS office is closed can still get the help they need to tide them over until the office reopens.

“My husband always volunteered for the Society. He received awards for his many hours of evening chief duty,” recalled Monique Cronk. When Paul Cronk died, Maureen Farrell, director of the NMCRS Patuxent River office, attended the funeral to pay her respects.

“Maureen and Paul had a good working rapport,” Monique explained. “Paul left a mark on the Society. Whoever he met he affected in some way.”

“Maureen reminded me that if I ever needed anything to come talk to her,” Monique said. Unfortunately, the Cronk family did need assistance, but fortunately NMCRS was able to help.

Shortly after Paul’s death, the Navy withdrew his retirement benefits from Monique’s bank account. The couple’s 21-year-old son Tanner had to register for his college classes the day after his father died, but the student loan he had already secured was rejected because it had been in Paul’s name. Monique had to go through the application process all over again. Monique’s youngest son, Jack, has severe asthma, and his medication is not covered by insurance. The family still had significant living expenses to pay for while survivor benefits and 401K beneficiary payments were processed, and they were struggling.

As the co-owner of a small business called Two Hens (https://www.facebook.com/twohensfeed/) a garden center that also raises bees and small animals and teaches classes—Monique was spending much of her time and resources on growing the business, which opened in December 2017.

“We were asking ourselves to choose between food, water, heat, or paying the mortgage,” Monique said. “If it wasn’t for the Society, I don’t know what we would have done. They helped me with two mortgage payments. And they’re good huggers and they’re sweet ladies. I met [NMCRS volunteer] Patty the day I got the loan. She had lost her husband and she shared her story with me. You never know what it’s like until you’re part of the club.”

“The Society has helped me tremendously since Paul died. To have the worry of paying the bills out of the way is huge. They are lifesavers.” Maureen was able to convert part of the loan into a grant so Monique did not have to pay back the full amount of the loan after her survivor benefits finally arrived.

“I had 28 years with Paul, and our family unit is strong because of him. Growing a strong family was the best thing we ever did,” said Monique. “We’re going to be ok.”

By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso

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