It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to Norma Cranberg, who died at age 85 on Saturday, September 12, 2009. Below is the obituary which appeared in the Des Moines Register on Sunday, September 13th, 2009.
Norma Elaine Ansher Cranberg, 85, of 427 Fifty-first Street in Des Moines, died Saturday, September 12, at the Iowa Jewish Senior Life Center, from complications following gallbladder surgery.
With a career spanning more than 50 years, Norma was a pioneer in the private practice of speech pathology. She trained with Wendell Johnson at the University of Iowa, where she received Bachelor's and Master's degrees. Norma chose the relatively new field of speech pathology private practice to enable her to pursue a career while raising her family and also to attend to her adored, increasingly ailing mother, Genevieve Ansher, diagnosed with cancer in her forties. Norma’s father, Louis Ansher, a well-known Des Moines attorney, also died in his forties, of a heart attack in 1943.
Norma gave her family the gift of unconditional love. She is survived by her husband of 58 years, Gil, her brother Richard Ansher of Des Moines, four children -- Lee of Boston, Marcia of Washington, D.C., James of Glendale, WI, and Andrew of Buffalo Grove, IL -- eight grandchildren, and a large number of cousins and in-laws.
Norma’s interest in language was evident in a lifelong infatuation with reading. She was never without one or more books at hand. Wherever she lived, her haunt was the local branch library. She was fond of describing librarians as her favorite people. She served for many years as an elected trustee of the Central Iowa Regional Library Board.
Perhaps because of her work with people struggling to overcome handicaps, she had special empathy for ordinary people whose lives were hard. She treated them with respect, and they responded in kind and with loyalty.
Memorial contributions may be sent to the Des Moines Public Library Foundation, the Iowa Jewish Senior Life Center (whose staff provided loving care), or Temple B'nai Jeshurun.
The burial service on Monday, September 14, 2009 at Jewish Glendale Cemetery will be private. The family will observe visiting hours at 30 Fifty-sixth Street, Des Moines, on Monday, September 14 from noon to 3 p.m., with a Shiva service to follow at 3 p.m.
Mom was a complex character. She was always interesting.
She was unaffected, genuine, possessed of enormous, old-fashioned common sense, the real deal.
She hated shopping.
Her honesty drew people to her. She called a spade a spade and brooked no nonsense. She would tell you what she thought; in this age of packaged everything, this was a cherished quality. And while you could generally count on her to speak her mind, this was always tempered by her decency and kindness.
Mom was super-smart and really funny. Nothing got by her. She had very good intuition about people – and she used it so often to say just the right thing to make you feel better or provide encouragement.
I was always so proud that she was the only mother I knew among my friends’ mothers with a full-time professional career. Mom was rightfully proud of her private practice in speech pathology, and derived tremendous satisfaction over several decades in providing concrete help to hundreds of clients. She did this while juggling four kids and a busy household, long before anyone dreamed of something called women’s lib.
Despite her intellect, she loved simple things the most – first and foremost, her voracious lifelong reading. As well as autumn leaves, the smell of lilac, rain, snow, family, and kind, modest and unaffected people. She was deeply interested in genuine, unassuming people, of which she was one; and her favorite people of all were librarians.
Finally, you can’t talk about my mom without talking about my dad. For nearly 60 years they were each other’s best friend, with an active intellectual and social life. Mom always said her favorite thing to do in all the world was to sit in the living room, with Dad, each in their respective chairs, reading. This was not just force of habit. They really had fun with each other. When I would ask Mom how she and Dad passed the four long days in the car as they drove to their Florida home each winter, she’d look at me in surprise that I would even ask such a question, and say simply: “We talked!”
We will all miss talking to Mom.
My daughter Rianna is named after her two grandmothers. At Rianna's naming ceremony on February 22, 1998, I made the following remarks about one of her namesakes -- my mother. I repeat those remarks now at my mother's burial:
“I want to talk about some of the ways that my mother parented me which I aspire to copy in the parenting of my children. For one, my mother game me a vivid sense of my roots through numerous stories she told about my ancestors. My mother's father had died before I was born. So, of course, I have no memories of him. And my mother's mother died when I was only two-and-a-half years old, and my memories of her are very limited. But I have a very real sense of who each of my grandparents was through my mother's many different, loving, detailed stories about them. The stories were mixed with grief because her parents had died at such young ages, but through those stories, my grandparents came alive for me. My mother also told me stories about her own grandparents and about herself growing up, and I treasure all the stories I heard. They told me about my heritage. I had a place in the world.
“Another trait I often appreciated in my mother was that she was extremely well organized, efficient, and reliable. I want to stress her reliability. If she consented to a request of mine, I knew it would not be forgotten or overlooked or postponed indefinitely. She kept lists of things to do, and things got done. I could count on her.
“Another aspect of my mother was that she knew me very, very well. She was so attentive and keen that she could read me completely – recognizing my motives for certain behaviors or accurately and empathetically predicting how I would feel in certain situations, knowing what would make me uneasy, knowing what I would welcome. It was all very comforting in a way, knowing that I was understood by at least one person in the world, and it help validate my sense of myself.
“So these are wonderful gifts my mother gave me and which I will attempt to bestow on Julian and Rianna. I am very proud that our daughter will be carrying both Camille's name and my mother's name.”
Genevieve (mother), Richard (brother), and Norma (approximately age 6)
Engagement picture (age 26)
Gil and Norma
Marcia, Andy, Gil, Lee, Norma, Jim (circa 1996)
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