Helen Lucile Crane

June 28, 1924 - June 24, 2020

Helen Lucile Crane passed away peacefully on June 24, 2020, four days before her 96th birthday, at the home of her daughter, Alice Yothers, in Valley Springs, Calif.  Having been a longtime resident of Basin, Wyo., Helen returned to her native California in 2017 to live with her daughter and son-in-law.

Helen is preceded in death by her husband of 66 years Wilson Dale Crane and their young daughter Edith Lucile Crane.  She is survived by her daughters Barbara Rountree (Robert) of Cody, and Alice Yothers (Steven) and her sons Sidney Crane (Susan) of Chico, Calif., Stephen Crane (Doris) of Basin, Wyo., and Martin Crane (Ariadne) of Peach Tree City, Ga., as well as 10 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.

Helen was born in Whittier, Calif., on June 28, 1924, the only child of Claude Martin Nutley and Barbara Sawin Nutley.  While studying at the University of Washington, she met Dale, a handsome sailor, stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.  They married on Oct. 21, 1944, at the University Baptist Church in Seattle.  After the war they moved first to Dale’s hometown of Mathis, Texas, and then to East St. Louis, Ill., where Dale studied aviation maintenance engineering at Parks Air College.  After leaving East St. Louis they made their home in Arlington, Texas.

In Texas Helen settled in as a mother and homemaker and resumed her childhood study of piano. She was soon taking over beginning students from her own teacher’s studio as well as playing the piano at church.  It was in Arlington that she and Dale suffered the untimely loss of their firstborn daughter, Edith, age 5, due to complications from a routine tonsillectomy.

In 1958, the family moved to Longview, Texas, where Dale took a position as instructor of aviation at the newly formed LeTourneau Technical Institute.  He would eventually become technician professor and head of the School of Aviation, as it became LeTourneau College.  Helen kept busy nurturing their growing brood and maintaining her home piano studio.  In addition to teaching piano, she was also active in the LeTourneau College Women’s Club, Christian Women’s Club, Longview chapter of the Texas Music Teachers’ Association, and the Longview Literacy Council, where she taught reading to functionally illiterate adults.

After 17 years in Longview, Dale was offered the position of director of the Aviation Maintenance Foundation and editor of the Aviation Mechanics Journal in Basin, Wyo.  After just one summer visit, the family packed up and moved to the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming.  Soon Helen was busy acquiring piano students and becoming involved in the music offerings of the area.

Helen was instrumental in bringing the FAME (Fine Arts Mini Experience) program to the local elementary school. For many years she was the accompanist for the community chorus and was the “roving” pianist for several of the local churches. She entertained weekly for many years at the Bonnie Bluejacket Memorial Nursing Home, playing 26 titles from A to Z by memory, even after losing much of her vision to macular degeneration. Helen was active in the Allegro chapter of the Wyoming Music Teachers Association and served a term as state president.  Helen was named Wyoming Music Teacher of the Year in 2004.

In 1984 Dale and Helen created Capstan Publications to publish Dale’s aviation related technical books.  Helen formed her own imprint, Timber Trails, through which she published regional historical books by local authors, including Vera Saban, Lylas Skovgard, Tony Elliot and Phyllis Letellier. In addition, Helen held offices in the women’s philanthropic organization PEO, Chapter AN; served on the South Big Horn County Hospital Board, was a charter member of the Basin City Arts Center, and was an active member of the Women’s Auxiliary of the American Legion.  In 2009 Helen was honored by the town of Basin by being crowned “Lilac Queen” for her many years of service to the community. 

Helen was a member of Grace Fellowship in Greybull, Wyo., and Glory Bound Fellowship in Burson, Calif.  Throughout her long and productive life Helen, along with Dale, lived a life of genuine Christian faith serving their Father in Heaven, and leaving a lasting legacy of eternal hope for their children and for those fortunate to have known them.

Services are planned for June 2021 in Basin.  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to MMS Aviation, mmsaviation.org, Pilgrim Radio pilgrimradio.org, Wyoming Music Teachers Association, or the charity of your choice.