In Memoriam – Laura Cranshaw

NORTHAMPTON – Laura Elton Cranshaw, 89, of Northampton, died on July 15, 2018 after an extended illness.

She was born December 11, 1928 in Highland Park, Michigan to Wilma (Bachelder) and Col. Norman Elton. As the daughter of a career officer in the Army Medical Corps, during childhood she moved often, ultimately graduating from Newton High School in 1946.

Following in her mother’s footsteps, “Lossie” attended Mount Holyoke College, graduating in 1950 with honors (Phi Beta Kappa) as a Zoology major. During this time she met Philip Cranshaw, whom she married in 1950. They ultimately settled in Wellesley in 1956, where they raised five children.

After her divorce in 1972, Laura returned to school to earn a degree in medical records administration. This was followed by a very successful career beginning as a records administrator at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, followed by positions as Director of Medical Records at Framingham Union Hospital, and as Coordinator of Medical Records at the Harvard Community Health Plan. During this period Laura was recognized nationally as a leader in the emerging transition within the medical industry to electronic medical records and served as the President of the Massachusetts Medical Records Association from 1978-79.

After retirement she moved to Northampton in 2003, where she could partake in the many social and cultural opportunities available in the Pioneer Valley. She also sustained a lifelong association with her now nearby alma mater, which recognized her outstanding service in 1972 with the Alumnae Medal of Honor.

She was an active and beloved member within the Lathrop Community where she long resided, and the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence.

With her keen mind and curiosity, she was an energetic lifelong learner, and took regular advantage of various Learning in Retirement courses. She was also an outstanding speller, winning her first spelling bee as a fifth grader in a statewide contest in Buffalo and continuing with her regular captaining of the Mount Holyoke team in Wellesley, a perennial winner. This interest was also reflected in her lifelong interests in word games and puzzles, and she almost always completed the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle, in ink.

Also in retirement Laura volunteered with Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic in Cambridge, and Recording for the Department of Disabilities at UMass. During this time she helped prepare and personally recorded scores of books in the small studio she set up in her home. At age 79 she was the recipient of their Exceptional Service Award, in recognition of her thousands of hours of recording work.

Laura had a great many interests that she was able to pursue until illnesses became restricting in the last couple years of her life. An enthusiastic alto singer and lover of choral music, she was a longtime regular of Unitarian church choirs in Wellesley and Northampton, and participated for years in the Berkshire Choral Festival. She was a lifelong knitter, and made countless mittens, socks, and scarves to donate to others. Duplicate bridge, swimming, and reading were other favorite pastimes.

Predeceased by her parents, brother Richard, and grandson Bill Cranshaw, Laura is survived by a brother, her five children and goddaughter, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Saying good bye are: William and Sherry Elton of Kelso, Washington; Whitney Cranshaw, Sue Ballou and Sam Cranshaw of Fort Collins, Colorado; John and Shelly Cranshaw of San Francisco, California; Russell and Moira Cranshaw of Leeds, Jenn Cranshaw and Jack Cranshaw of Boston; Bill Cranshaw and Paula Northrop of Maynard, Janet Cranshaw, Jon Mink, Laura and David Mink of Pittsford, New york; and Lynne, Ric, Sam, and Jared Zimmerman of Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Her kindness, intelligence, vivacity and independent spirit will always be remembered by her friends and family.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence.

In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory can be sent to Mt. Holyoke College, the Northampton Survival Center, the Unitarian Universalist Society of Northampton, or the Hospice of the Fisher Home.

And as a final fitting tribute to this special woman, we should all heed her favorite aphorism, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

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Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on July 17, 2018