Karen Crane


On March 20th Karen Crane, age seventy-six, suddenly and peacefully passed away with her husband Dan Fruits by her side. “I was a better person from the first day I met her,” notes Dan.

Karen served four-and-half years on the CBJ Assembly and three years on the Board for the Alaska Municipal League wherein she was elected President for a term. Prior to elected public service, Karen served as the Director of Libraries, Archives and Museums for seventeen years.

Former Mayor Bruce Botelho explains that “With Karen’s passing, Juneau has lost a highly competent, caring public servant. From her time on the Assembly to her many volunteer positions including the Partnership Board, Juneau’s Sponsor Circle for Refugees, the Chair of the ACLU-Alaska, and Chair of Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, Karen was dedicated to helping others and making Juneau a thriving community.”

When Karen served on the Assembly she chaired the Finance Committee at a time that CBJ was facing a budget crisis with rising costs and falling revenues. Bob Bartholomew, the Finance Director at this time, notes, “Karen led the way to implement significant cost reductions, reorganize parts of the city, and increase revenues. Instead of solving the problem by applying band aids she instituted a sustainable budget foundation, that benefitted Juneau for many years.”

In addition to her public service as an Assembly member, Karen served as President of United Way Southeast and in 1993 became State President of the League of Women’s Voters. Karen volunteered her service at the Glory Hall, the Filipino Community Hall, and other public events.

Before coming to Juneau in 1986 to serve as the Director of Libraries, Karen lived in Fairbanks and became the Executive Director for Community Services with the North Star Borough. In this capacity she was a member of the mayor’s executive staff while concurrently serving as the Library Director.

In 1995 she received the Outstanding Service Award from the Alaska Library Association. Her passion for the role of libraries in one’s community stayed with her throughout her life and culminated with the establishment of the Mendenhall Valley Public Library.

With her father a career officer in the U.S. Air Force, Karen lived abroad and in several states. Her family roots were in the State of Indiana where she attended Indiana University, earning a Master’s Degree in Library Science, which reflected her lifelong love of reading.

Karen’s colleagues and associates note that whenever Karen applied her problem-solving skills to the task at hand, she was a results-driven force who seldom took “no” for an answer. According to her husband Dan, a noted Alaskan artist, Karen’s no-nonsense approach to problems started early in her life. For example, at the age of twenty-one she became the Indiana State President of NOW (National Organization for Women) because a bank required her father’s signature on her credit card application even though she had been on her own financially for years. She was a fiercely independent, progressive thinker her whole life.

Her longtime friends and neighbors Annie Calkins and Dave Hunsaker said, “She was a constant, big-hearted, loyal friend to us and to everyone lucky enough to know her. We will miss her terribly.”

In addition to her husband, Karen is survived by her sister, Cindy McNevin of Minneapolis, Minnesota, her brother, Randy Crane of Newcastle, Indiana, her god-daughter, Maggie Schoenfeld of Juneau and niece and nephew Dana and Dean McNevin. A Celebration of Life will occur at a later date, to be announced.

The best way to honor Karen is to volunteer in a way that lifts up others and/or keeps Juneau thriving as a special, creative place to live and work.