Anneli Crawford, an extraordinary person, died peacefully at her home in Morro Bay the morning of June 8th 2016, after a courageous 10 month struggle with ovarian cancer. She was 74.
She was born in eastern Germany in 1941, directly in the heart of World War II. Her father Erhard was thought to have died in battle on the Russian front and her mother Adina passed away due to typhus when Anneli was three, while they were being held in a Russian internment camp. Anneli was also ill with an incredibly high fever, which led to nerve damage that resulted in a significant loss of hearing, something she dealt with her entire life. After roughly a year in the internment camp, Anneli’s grandfather bribed Russian guards to free her and her siblings Martin and Sigrid Mittman. The grandparents raised the three children through seven tumultuous years in war-torn Germany. At age ten, knowing that Germany was no place to live and after acquiring enough funds to do so, Anneli’s grandfather sent the three siblings by ship to America to live with their uncle and aunt, Emil and Hattie Mittman. Anneli was sea sick during most of the three week voyage and arrived to New York weighing less than 60 pounds, according to Hattie. They came to Anaheim by train, which is where she spent her teenage years.
Anneli always wanted to become an educator. She graduated from Fresno State, spent a year teaching in Anaheim and then moved to Porterville to be with Hattie, who she called Mom, after Emil passed away. She was offered a job at Strathmore High School as a teacher, and it was there that she met the local legend, Jerry Crawford. After many requests, she finally said yes to a date. Their courtship was almost over when Anneli applied for the Peace Corps, but she was denied entrance due to hearing loss, much to the excitement of Jerry’s family and friends. The two were married a short time later.
Anneli worked for 31 years at Strathmore High School, as a teacher, school counselor, principal and eventually superintendent. While her children were young, Anneli was the principal at Frazier Continuation School in Strathmore, where she devoted her time to students who needed more than what the traditional curriculum could offer. She loved educating students, imparting wisdom to those around her and giving to the community of Strathmore. She also coached women’s volleyball and tennis. Her volleyball team won the Valley Championship in 1984.
Anneli and Jerry’s home in Strathmore was a place where all were welcome. Many local children have memories of coming to the home and swimming in their pool.
In 2000, Anneli retired as superintendent of Strathmore High School and moved with Jerry to Morro Bay where they built a house that she turned into a home. They have lived there ever since. It is a place where family and friends were always welcome, especially those from out of town. In Morro Bay, she was involved in various women’s groups, the most notable is PEO.
Although educating was her passion and the community of Strathmore was something she dedicated herself to, her greatest joy came from her family. She unconditionally loved her husband, kids, extended family and especially her four grandkids. After all of the grandkids were born, she would stay awake at night with them so the parents could sleep. She would remain fully awake all night with eyes on them, afraid that if she slept, she would not hear their cries due to her hearing impairment. When questioned about it, she would say “it’s something I want to do so don’t argue with me!”
Anneli was stoic, rarely showed fear and although this is hard to admit, she was tougher than the rest of us. She would step directly into the middle of two fighting students while other teachers stood watching, even if knives were involved; at age 70, she went skydiving and wanted to go bungy jumping among other things. One of Anneli’s greatest strengths was her ability to be in the moment. Due to her hearing loss, she had to focus intently on the person in front of her, reading lips in order to understand. When you were with her, you felt as if you were the only person that mattered, and to her, you were. She did not judge others, rather she would listen intently and offer wisdom when appropriate.
Over the last 10 months, she suffered more than anyone should. She never complained and was adamant that no one feel sorry for her. She wanted to attack the cancer head on and do her best to defeat it. She dedicated her life to teaching and education. This did not change in her final year of life. In the end she taught us how to live with cancer and in the very end she taught us how to die, with inner strength, grit, dignity and grace.
She is survived by her husband Jerry Crawford; her sons, Duke Crawford and wife Jessica, Eric Crawford and wife Tamarra; grandkids Dillon, Maxine, Svea and Ione; older brother Martin Mittman and wife Cathy; older sister Sigrid Proshold; numerous extended family on the Crawford and Mittman sides; by her friends, many of whom she considered family; and by the lives of the students she touched.
Arrangements and services are by Benedict Rettey Mortuary, 1401 Quintana Road, Morro Bay, CA 93442, phone (805) 772-7382 . The service will be at 11am on Sunday, June 12th.