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WILLA GENE "CHRIS" CRAMTON

Willa Gene "Chris" Cramton of Wheaton Willa Gene "Chris" Cramton, 75, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, Feb. 7. 2012, in Tucson, Ariz. after several months of illness. She grew up as the only child of William Fraser Christianson and Genevieve Dorothy Hodge in Aberdeen, S.D., Pierz, Brainerd and Austin, Minn. "Chris," as she preferred to be called, completed her undergraduate studies at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. in 1958, earned a master's degree in education from the University of Delaware in 1966. and later completed a master's degree in history from Northern Illinois University in 1991. As a social worker, Chris served as assistant director of the Young Adult Department for the YWCA in Boston, Mass. from 1958 to 1960, and as teenage director for the Worcester, Mass. YWCA from 1960 to 1962. Chris developed expertise in American Midwestern frontier history as part of her work as site historian for the reconstructed 1816 fort in Fort Wayne, Ind., while the living history museum was being developed and built between 1974 and 1977. Her work included background research and oversight of the design and handsewing of costumes for the first-person women interpreters who guided the public through the Fort. She also oversaw the selection and design of furnishings for the Fort and trained the interpreters to portray the characters they represented with historical accuracy. Chris' later research interests included Fort Dearborn (Chicago), American women's history, historic textiles and domestic furnishings, particularly the cultural significance and day-to-day use ("material culture") of the historic artifacts she collected. Chris made educational presentations to a wide variety of adult groups in Indiana and Illinois on topics including early American decorating crafts, textiles, antique artifacts and customs. She particularly enjoyed being invited to make interactive, hands-on demonstrations of pioneer life to classes of school children. Chris served on the board of directors for several organizations, including the YWCA of Fort Wayne, Ind., the Illinois State Historical Society and the Chicago Area Women's History Conference. She was a longtime member of several local organizations, including the Glen Ellyn Historical Society Quilters Guild. She was a member of the Glen Ellyn First Congregational Church for many years, and was devoted to her work in the church library and the annual Christmas toy project for children from families with limited means. She is survived by her two children, Sarah and James; her former husband, Thomas J. Cramton; and four grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, at the First Congregational Church of Glen Ellyn, IL 60137. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be donated to the church.


Published in Chicago Suburban Daily Herald on Feb. 19, 2012
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