Hinsdale residents remember ‘remarkable person’
Charmaine Atkenson Crane (second from left) with her husband, Ken, and their daughters Catherine and Elise.
Updated: August 6, 2012 6:20AM
“A remarkable person who had a remarkable journey in a short 52 years of life.”
That’s how Walter Atkenson described his younger sister Charmaine Atkenson Crane, who died June 25.
Crane, who lived in Hinsdale with her husband, Ken, and their two daughters, was diagnosed nearly six years ago with lung cancer. Through all the years of treatment, “she never complained of pain. She never complained she was afflicted with this terrible disease,” Atkenson said.
“She looked at it almost like a gift or some sort of redemption,” Atkinson said. “If she could try to battle through this, maybe her suffering could help someone else.”
Charmaine was a very close friend, said Rebecca Wimbush, one she has known for 20 years.
“She was an amazing, amazing person. Remarkable doesn’t begin to cover it,” Wimbush said. “She was so dynamic and so much fun. I thought of her as a tiny giant.”
Crane was only 4-feet, 11-inches tall. But in her obituary, her family described her as “a fireball of charm, a tornado of will.” After she dislocated her knee rehearsing for “Peter Pan” in high school, she still performed her role of Tinkerbelle mid-air, with her leg in a full cast.
“She always had a twinkle in her eye,” Wimbush said, even a week ago, “she still had that twinkle. She really taught us to live life to the fullest.”
“She also taught me how to take charge of your own health care,” Wimbush said.
Crane regularly conferred with her doctors, participated in trial treatments and counseled other lung cancer patients.
Mary Buddig, past president of the Hinsdale Central High School PTO, remembers when Crane was one of the first presidents to get the PTO involved in a wide range of activities.
“We just had the book grant and that’s a great program, but Charmaine, who was an attorney, wanted the PTO to work with the library. She loved reading and started the Reading Rocks program,” Buddig said.
Crane also helped get the One Book, One Read program going.
“She inspired the women to come up with other (projects) for the PTO,” Buddig said. Since Crane was president, the number of PTO committees has grown from seven up to 30, all designed to give back “to the school, to the teachers, to families that need help.”
“When you think of what your purpose is in life and who you can influence, maybe your spouse, hopefully your kids,” Atkenson said.
But his sister, through her life, “took the opportunity, not to persuade, but to show (others) the value of honesty, morals, faith and the belief in God, to be able to spread those things around to people she never met.”
Crane posted journal entries on the website, Caring Bridge, about her health, her treatment, outings she went on with her family, and how her family and friends helped her.
“Her writings were so inspiring,” Atkenson said. “She showed how precious life is and that it isn’t always easy. You have to take what God gives you and battle through to try to help others.”
Crane did not let her illness stop her from attending her daughter Elise’s graduation from Purdue University last month, nor from going to church, even when she was weak, to pray for other people in need.
“The cancer wasn’t stopping her,” Buddig said.
Nor did it prevent her from maintaining her sense of style. Crane loved the designer Lilly Pulitzer’s clothes and bright colors.
“She was always dressed to the nines,” Buddig said. When she lost her hair from the cancer treatment, “she’d go out with her little bald head, and she had all these great hats. She always looked beautiful.”
Crane asked her friends and family to wear bright colors, especially pink to her funeral. Her family invites people to honor that request, “as a celebration of Charmaine’s life.”
Funeral services were held Saturday with a Mass in St. Isaac Jogues Catholic Church in Hinsdale.
The family suggests memorials be made to the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, 1100 Industrial Road, No. 1, San Carlos, Calif. 94070 or www.lungcancerfoundation.org.
For more information, call (630) 325-2300.