Life Story / Obituary
Janet Louise Cranley (nee: Heidenreich) passed away peacefully in her sleep on Tuesday, November 26th, 2019. Janet was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 13th, 1940 and raised in Racine, Wisconsin. She had a wonderful childhood growing up in Lake Park with nine siblings. Her beloved parents, William J. Heidenreich and Thora Marie (Dolly) Heidenreich (nee: Knudsen) meant the world to her and she took excellent care of her father into his old age and passing. She was preceded in death in 2017 by her husband, Dennis, whom she married in 1966.
Janet, our mother, was a doer and a giver. You would think that with 7 children (Richard, James, Amy, Patrick, Michael, Thomas and Jack) she would have enough on her plate to keep her busy. But, no, that was not the case. For example, she volunteered and helped so much at Fratt Elementary School over many years that they declared a Janet Cranley Day and presented her with the key to the school. She worked for peace and justice with various groups fighting for world peace and workers’ rights. Maps of the world, Einstein quotes, and reminders to be kind adorned her kitchen walls. She inspired us to think beyond our own lives and remember that everyone walks their own path. There was always room for one or ten more at the dinner table, on family camping trips, outings to the zoo or quarry and sleepovers for the kids. She never said no. She loved children and was a big proponent of letting kids be kids and enjoy their childhood. She also supported her children’s choices to do and try new things and to travel. There was never any guilt laid upon us when we told her that we couldn’t make it home for a holiday or event. She simply celebrated our endeavors and happiness. Of course, there were times when our shenanigans tested her and we all have some one liners that we remember fondly (now) but we will share those over a beer if you're ever curious!
Our mom rarely, if ever, complained even when there were things worth complaining about. We joked that her hair could be on fire and if you asked her how she was, she would respond: Great! At one point in her life, with three children in tow, certain furniture and a refrigerator had to be “returned” due to financial hard times. The men moving the items out of the house were in tears at having to do their job and yet there was Janet, offering them sandwiches and lemonade. She always knew that everything would work out and it did. She was forever grateful that she had the privilege of being a stay at home mom and having a husband who worked hard and was present at home as well.
Our mom enjoyed hosting family for holidays (there was at least one year where 34 were seated at the Thanksgiving table). She also made sure family reunions were a tradition. She loved all of her siblings (Bill (KW), Richard, Bobby, George, Jim, Laura Lee, Karen, Dorothy, Joan), her husband, Dennis’ siblings (Mike, Pat, Joe, Jim,Tom, Colleen, Kathleen), their spouses, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces and nephews dearly. It was nice to see that and to grow up watching the thick and thin of being from a large family.
Mom truly enjoyed traveling! She visited all 50 states and was in love with the magnificence of this country. She was lucky enough to go to Turkey with Amy’s friend, Figen, and came home with tears in her eyes at the beauty of the people and the warm welcome she received. She also traveled extensively in Asia: Thailand, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia. One funny story, one that still makes us laugh, is a new habit she acquired when visiting Thailand. The Thais press the palms of their hands together and perform a slight bow (called a “wai”) when greeting each other. Our mom loved this custom so much that she started “waiing” everyone and everyTHING. No person or plant was safe from a wai. She just loved and appreciated it all.
Carol Holbus. Our mom’s oldest and dearest friend. The laughter, the cribbage games and the phone calls - the marathon phone calls. We would leave for school some mornings with a blown kiss as she was talking to Carol on the phone. Eight hours later, we would arrive home with the “one second, I’m almost getting off” finger in the air. We were fairly confident that they had been on the phone the entire day. Our suspicions were confirmed when an extra long phone cord, one that could reach the washing machine in the basement, was installed. The Holbus family is our family and we know our mom’s passing is indeed very sad for her kind and loyal best friend.
We will have a gathering to celebrate our mother’s life in the early part of the new year. We will announce it in the newspaper and here online. Please feel free to share any memories or thoughts you care to. Our mother treasured you all and surely passed away a happy and fulfilled person.