Betty Cranmer: 90 years young and counting
Granby, CO Colorado
In her 90 years of life, Betty Cranmer has had her share of close calls.
“I haven’t always been a Christian,” she said, at her home on Garnet Avenue in Granby.
Once a WW II nurse with the U.K.’s Royal Women’s Airforce at a hospital specializing in burns and plastic surgery in East Grinstead, Sussex, Cranmer had seen her share of hardship and had narrowly escaped a bomb dropped from a German war plane.
She had wheeled patient Frederick (Henry) Mahn – who eventually became her husband and father of her first two children – to the movie theater that day. They left the movie early, and upon their return to the hospital, the bomb dropped on the theater they’d been in moments earlier. Eighty people were killed, all movie-goers.
“The people sitting next to us – they never found their remains,” Cranmer said.
Another time during the war, Cranmer was at her home in the English countryside when the engine of a pilotless plane stalled, sending the craft into a nosedive. It made a crater in the earth about 100 yards from where Cranmer stood, killing one cow.
But perhaps Cranmer’s most serious brush with near-death was in the late 1990s.
She was struggling with a very rare from of cancer called Leiomysarcoma, a cancer of smooth muscle tissue, when she was prescribed the strongest chemotherapy available. Her body almost gave in during the first treatment, which lasted 96 hours straight.
Her doctor had told her he was not optimistic. But Cranmer persevered. She endured eight more rounds of treatments. They were successful; but immediately after finding out she was free of those tumors, she faced the onset of colon cancer.
Through radiation treatments, remarkably, she overcame that too.
“I’m a very strong believer,” she said. “By the Grace of God, I sit here.”
Cranmer’s active lifestyle and sharp mind could outpace most of her peers decades younger.
She attributes her health to three things: God, exercise and eating right – in that order.
Betty had always been a runner and continues that athletic drive to today.
Three times a week, she swims at the YMCA, treading water on the deep end with her foam “dumbbells.” On days off swimming, the senior works out on a rowing machine and stationary bike in her basement. And she often can be found taking walks up and down the steep Granby streets, or caring for her garden out front.
Her wise father-in-law once advised her to cultivate relationships with younger people when old-age approaches, so Cranmer is involved in five different Bible studies to keep busy. A retired assistant kindergarten teacher at Granby Elementary School, Cranmer has been volunteering in the school by helping first-graders with their reading for nearly three decades.
She is the mother of six children, five of whom are living.
“I wanted 12,” she said. “I love children; I love babies.” It was for this reason her husband Chappell had suggested she obtain her degree in early childhood development, which she accomplished.
Chappell, who died in 2000, was the longtime priest at the now Cranmer Chapel in Winter Park. He and Betty had met shortly after she had moved to the U.S. to escape post-war England in 1946, with one child and another on the way.
Her first husband had been a pilot whose plane was shot down during the war. He survived for 16 days on a raft boat by eating a seagull in the final days. Due to gangrene he acquired from that period, both of his legs were amputated at the hospital where Betty worked, and in the 11 months he stayed there, they fell in love. But after they were married soon after the war, Mahn died of severe health complications.
Her second husband Chappell catered to Winter Park’s “spiritual side,” where his father George Cranmer had greatly enhanced Winter Park’s “commercial side,” Betty said.
The bow-tie wearing individual who served as assistant mayor to then-Denver Mayor Ben Stapleton, George Cranmer was a visionary credited for the construction of Red Rocks in Morrison and Winter Park Resort.
Red Rocks, Betty said, was originally built for symphony and classical music concerts held on Tuesday evenings.
“He would turn over in his grave now if he knew what was going on at Red Rocks,” she said.
The same could be said of the resort, she said, which she said her father-in-law originally designed for the recreation of Denverites and less for real-estate ventures and destination tourism.
Betty Cranmer’s colorful life from humble beginnings to wartime England to the society circles of Denver, to her life as a priest’s wife in Granby for 41 years, are recorded in the soon-to-be-released book, available on Amazon, “A Journey to Joy, Memoirs of Betty Andrews Cranmer,” by Cynthia Karnoscak-Wigdhal, due out soon.
The book debuts just around the time of its subject’s 90th birthday.
Asked what that age means to her, “Same as 89,” she said. “It’s how old you feel, and I don’t feel any different. I’m still moving.”
Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603
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