Mary Crane

Although she taught home economics for only two years before she married and started a family, and was a substitute teacher for two years after her daughters were older, Mary Crane has used her Illinois State Normal University education in many ways throughout her life.

In 2004, she established the Mary (Scheeler) Crane Family and Consumer Sciences Scholarship Fund at Illinois State University because she was fond of her alma mater and because of her grandchildren and her daughter.

“I started thinking about creating a scholarship around the time my grandchildren were looking at colleges and thinking about the money to pay for it,” she said.  “My daughter, who has taught elementary school and remedial math for 30 years, encouraged me.  She said creating a scholarship would be a fine thing, to help an average student who has the desire but not the funds to go to college.”

Raised in Graymont and a graduate of Pontiac High School, Crane was not sure of her future goals, but she knew she enjoyed sewing and similar creative work.  She also knew her mother had attended ISNU one summer in 1917, so she enrolled at Normal.

Although she has many warm memories of ISNU, one event during her freshman year will stay with her forever.

“It was December, 1941, and I was living with a family on School Street,” Crane said.  “It was noisy in the house so I went across the street to Milner Library where it would be quiet.  I was studying when the announcement came over the public address system that Pearl Harbor had been attacked.  It’s something you always remember.”

Crane got married while she was in college, continued her studies after her husband was shipped overseas and withdrew to live with him when he came back to be stationed in the States.  Not long after Crane’s husband returned to the war front, he was killed in action.  Despite her grief, Crane returned and completed her degree in home economics in January, 1946.

She lived in Rambo House, the home management house which opened in 1939 and exposed home economics students to two complete houses under one roof – one house running on electricity and the other on gas.  “Even the furniture styles were different,” she recalled.  “One side had contemporary furniture and the other, period pieces.”

After she graduated, Crane taught high school home economics in Highland, near Edwardsville, for two years.  But when she married and had her first daughter, she left teaching.

“It was an era when women with children stayed home instead of working,” Crane said.  But with two daughters, she found herself busy.  She also found time for volunteering, including as a Girl Scout leader, a job for which home economics skills are perfectly suited.  Crane later was a substitute teacher for two years, and she team-taught an English-as-a-Second-Language class when she lived in Maryland.

Although six decades have passed since she earned her ISNU diploma, Crane has stayed in touch with many of her classmates, including her childhood “sandbox buddy” and Normal roommate, Bonnie (Rich) Jacobs.  Every few years, the classmates get together in Bloomington-Normal.  Others from the Class of 1945 or 1946 are Mary Olson Ahlrich, Helen (Bundy) Brown, Katherine (Ring) Matone, Dorothy (Havland) Milazzo, Eleanor (Horn) Pistorius, Mary Alice (Glenn) Quinton, Margaret (Tombaugh) Richardson, Virginia (Skaggs) Schrock and Mary (Kelly) Wikoff.

“I still play golf and still use my needlecraft ability, quilting and embroidering,” she said.  “I may not be as good as I used to be, but I do it because I still enjoy it, ever since I started as a child in 4-H.  And I truly still think about my Illinois State Normal teachers.  I remember their faces, like Miss (Mary) Buell, Miss (Francis) Conkey, who directed Rambo House, and Miss (Josephine) Ross.

“I may not have taught in schools for many years, but I used what I learned at Normal through my whole life,” Crane said.