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Jeremy Blake Crane

September 6, 2021

Jeremy Crane treasured the family he acquired mid-life, loved nature, and, with quiet competence, lived a life consistent with his values. As Jeremy wrote in his essay for our Fiftieth Reunion classbook, his best life decision was marrying Fran in 1993, which made him “an instant dad to five young men who gave him five granddaughters.”

Trained as a lawyer at the University of California Boalt Law School, Jeremy joined VISTA in 1974 and worked as a legal assistant volunteer at Papago Legal Services in Sells, Arizona, home of the Tohono O’odham Nation, before returning to his roots in Wisconsin.

Subsequently, Jeremy found that his first love–horticulture–was more fulfilling than practicing law (or his second career as a restaurateur at Madison’s finest eating establishments), and ultimately devoted himself to organic gardening. He spent four years in rural Panama, working on a coffee farm owned by his son, Joseph Brodsky. In his fiftieth reunion essay, Jeremy described these years as “a priceless exposure to another culture–as well as to raising chickens, sweet potatoes, and citrus fruit and helping dry the natural-process coffee cherries.” Jeremy was an excellent linguist, fluent in Spanish, capable in Russian, and adept at surviving in whatever local tongue happened to be called for.

Jeremy came to Yale from Madison, Wisconsin, where his father, Frank, was a legendary professor at the University of Wisconsin. He was Secretary of the Yale Russian Club, a Political Science major, and a member of Trumbull. As a boy Jeremy took great satisfaction in working in his family’s large garden and demonstrated a flair for coaxing the best from the plants he cared for. His love of nature was reinforced by memorable visits to a cabin on the Flambeau River in northern Wisconsin that his grandfather had acquired in the 1930s. Jeremy became an expert fisherman, a somewhat less expert hunter, and a sometimes overly intrepid canoeist—activities that became lifelong sources of pleasure for him and those he guided along those paths.

With typical modesty, Jeremy described himself on his graduation from Yale as “more well-rounded academically than socially” and remarked that “it took more time and experiences in the years since to make me more at home in the world and with other people.” Those who accompanied him on expeditions to the woods and rivers of northern Wisconsin, however, describe him as a delightful story-teller and an inveterate and highly expert punster. One of his young acolytes recalls a fun-loving mentor who “took us kids out walleye fishing in the evening, took us on adventure walks down to the spring to get fresh water and watercress, taught us a thing or two about hunting, and teased us for being afraid of the wolf spiders inhabiting the cabin even though they really were enormous. He knew a ton of games and hundreds of off-color jokes that would get you canceled in 2021.”

In retirement Jeremy and Fran devoted themselves to turning a place in western Wisconsin into “an organic garden/nature preserve/permaculture plot.”

— Mark Greenwold