Longtime Somerset physician James Crase dies at 78

James D. Crase, a longtime Somerset physician who served a partial term in the state Senate, died May 28. The Letcher County native was 78.

Crase was a U.S. Navy veteran who worked as a physician for 53 years, including more than 40 years in Somerset, where he served as chief of staff of the Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital and an elder at First Presbyterian Church.

Crase’s obituary said he was proud to have provided care to more than 10,000 families during his time in Somerset. The Kentucky Academy of Family Practice named Crase its Citizen Physician of the Year, the obituary said.

Crase, a small-government Republican, was elected to the state Senate in December 1994 to finish the term of a lawmaker who had been convicted in a corruption case.

Republicans control the Kentucky Senate now, but were in the minority then. In a newspaper commentary, Crase expressed some frustration about the relative lack of power of the minority, and with the legislative process.

“First, one must convince his or her own party to support the measure. Then comes the dubious chore of convincing the opposing party of its merits, thus the trades — you vote for mine, I'll smile upon yours,” Crase wrote.

He did not seek election to a full term in 1996.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Wednesday said Crase will be missed.

“As a veteran and former state senator, Dr. Crase was well-respected in the community and worked tirelessly to improve the lives of his constituents,” McConnell said.

Crase is survived by three children.

Visitation will be June 3 at First Presbyterian Church in Somerset from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The funeral is scheduled for June 4 at 1 p.m. at the church.