Earl Crabb, 1941-2015

Tuesday March 31, 2015 - 08:02:00 AM
Earl Crabb, 1941-2015
Earl Crabb, 1941-2015

Born September 6, 1941 in Le Sueur, MN. Died February 20, 2015 in San Francisco, CA of complications from pancreatic cancer. Son of Robert Joseph Crabb and Catherine Boucher Crabb (both predeceased.) Technologist, photographer, entrepreneur, online maven, music philanthropist, and dear friend, Earl transformed those who were lucky enough to be part of the myriad of communities he created, nurtured, and embraced throughout his life.  

Earl majored in economics at Williams College from 1959-1964.  

He was a pioneer in computer programing, designing the first on-line-banking programs for Bank of America, the first touch screen program for a Canadian tourist bureau, bank security, and investment software for financial institutions. He consulted with a range of corporations, but was particularly inspired by smaller businesses and nonprofits. He built financial models for the Pickle Family Circus and Ten Speed Press. He served on the boards of a host of nonprofit organizations including Piedmont Springs Hot Tubs, the California Jug Band Association, and the Pickle Family Circus, for whom he served as Acting Executive Director (1991-1992). 

He was a beloved fixture of the 1960’s traditional and folk music scene as a producer, photographer, organizer, and jack-of-all trades. From 1968 until his death, he was owner of Humbead Enterprises, creating and publishing posters (including, with Rick Shubb, “Humbead’s Revised Map of the World,” “El Hashish,” and “Edantodreamia,”) and distributing books by David Goines. Earl photographed weight-lifting, fashion, album and magazine covers, circus performers, theatre events including the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and people, markets, cities, and events in countries around the world.  

In 1987, he joined “The WELL,” the world’s most influential virtual community. Host of the News Conference and one of the WELL’s most ubiquitous members, in 2012 he led a group of participant-investors to purchase The WELL ( from Salon. As he said at the time, "Every single member of the WELL can take a bow, pop the champagne, and celebrate.” He served as President and CEO of the WELL from 2012 until his illness became too much. Thousands of WELLtrons past and present have shared their recollections of his kind and generous online activities. Earl described himself in his WELL profile: “I do software product design, user interfaces, online systems, programming, photography, sailing. In past lives have done lots more stranger things.” 

He is survived by his wife, the love of his life, fashion designer and entrepreneur Giselle Shepatin as well as Robert Crabb and John Crabb (brothers), Christy Crabb, Cindy Crabb, Robin Wenzel, Brian Crabb, Caty Crabb, Andy Crabb and Mariah Crabb, (nieces and nephews).  

He helped hundreds of friends with business plans, random questions, and a place to stay. Deeply interested in people and ideas, Earl, always with his camera around his neck, was unfailingly kind and generous. His curiosity, passion and caring were contagious. “Earl, you made everything better,” says a statement from the circus Les 7 Doigts de la Main, “Thank you.” Citizen extraordinaire and lover of everything creative, he was, and will always remain, an inspiration.  

Family, friends, and the folk musicians he inspired and was inspired by, will celebrate his remarkable life at a joyful tribute concert on May 31 at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, CA.