A longtime fan remembers Betty Cranmer, ‘a truly unforgettable personage,’ who died July 21 at 100
Grand County and the Town of Granby have declared August 29 Betty Cranmer Day
For Sky-Hi News
I remember Betty Cranmer well. How could anyone forget her?
Even though she died last week while in assisted living in Glenwood Springs, I’m sure her life here in Grand County will be cherished and marveled at for years by many people other than me.
In 28 years as the editor of the Grand County newspapers, I don’t think a month ever went by when I didn’t hear her name, write about her or comment on her. She was that sort of a prominent and awe-inspiring woman who nonetheless lived humbly and with grace.
My very first experiences with Betty took place in and around her home on Garnet Avenue in Granby in the early 1980s. I had a good friend who was a therapist for Forrest Cranmer, Betty’s son who was afflicted with a life-debilitating brain tumor. I remember clearly thinking to myself, as I witnessed Betty’s tender and forthright love and care for Forrest, that she was a saint beyond my own understanding.
I was truly astounded and in awe.
And yet in spite of that very difficult task of nurturing Forrest, Betty always came across to me as positive and life-affirming — but not in a pollyannaish or naively optimistic way. She was an optimistic realist.
And she was active in ways that inspired me.
She touched me and many others here in the county directly through her work as Miss Betty while helping with the reading program for kindergartners at Granby Elementary School. My oldest son Sebastian was one of the many children who benefited directly by Miss Betty’s enthusiastic, careful and egalitarian approach toward reading in her work as assistant kindergarten teacher.
By egalitarian I mean to say that every child was given special and careful attention in her reading circle and I can’t help but think that my son profited from her approach, both for developing an appreciation for reading and a wonder about the joys of life conveyed through the miracle of books. Conveyed, also, by the sparkle of Betty’s sharp personality.
I’m sure her British accent helped when it came to getting the children’s attention.
Betty was awarded for her volunteer contribution at the school with a Colorado Association of School Boards award in 2007.
Every time I met Betty after that she was sure to ask about Sebastian. She remembered him I’m sure along with the scores of other young children she inspired.
Betty was also an important part of my infatuation with Nordic skiing, which started not too long after I arrived in Grand County. Yes, I knew her as the wife of the Episcopalian priest here in Granby, Chappel Cranmer, and as the mother of Forrest and Bruce Cranmer, a top-notch Nordic skier.
But when I saw her out on the trails at Snow Mountain Ranch, skiing like a champ herself despite her age (She was almost 40 years older than me!), I vowed to myself that I wanted to pursue this activity of Nordic skiing. I could see through her example that it was truly a lifetime sport and fun.
Even better, when the technique of skate skiing came along, she mastered that as well. I have a very clear picture in my mind of her skate skiing on the trails at the Y by the Nordic center with a huge smile on her face. She greeted me happily as she skied by me.
She was inspiring and her joy in life was absolutely infectious.
In Betty Cranmer’s house was a stained glass hanging window decoration that featured a seagull flying in an ocean setting with a glorious sky above and a tempestuous sea underneath. It was a beautiful decoration.
Long ago, she explained the significance of it to me.
Her first husband, before he met Betty, had been an aviator during World War II in Great Britain. His plane had been ditched in the ocean and he was floating at sea in a life raft hoping for rescue. His plight was desperate until a seagull flew by and then landed on his raft. He grabbed the seagull, killed it and ate it, probably giving him the sustenance he needed to survive his ordeal at sea.
Betty met him when she was a nurse in Great Britain. He was suffering from severe gangrene in both his legs. They were amputated. He and Betty fell in love and married, but he died soon thereafter, after having two children with her.
She kept that talisman, I like to think, as a reminder of the stark beauty of life, survival and resilience.
She then travelled to the U.S. and met Chappel Cranmer and began her eventful life here and had four more children, moving to Granby in 1970.
One more thought … there was always something about Betty Cranmer that reminded me of my mother. Betty served her country during WWII, as my mother had. She met her first husband in the midst of that service, as my mother had. She raised a large family (she had six children, there were eight in my family). She was religious, as my mother was. She endured her share of hardship and yet she volunteered in her community.
She was stoic and smart, like my mother was, and her love of the community was irresistible in its firm, optimistic insistence.
So I saw a lot of my mother in Betty Cranmer.
My guess is many other locals saw her that way too.
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