Ellen Giangiulio Craney, 88, a teacher in the West Chester Area School District, died Wednesday, Feb. 13, of cancer at Medford Leas, a retirement facility in Medford.
A native of West Chester, Mrs. Craney was a lifelong borough resident. Intending to spend her last days there, she moved in 2013 to Barclay Friends, where she made friends, took classes in painting, and participated in horticulture.
But a November 2017 fire at the Quaker-run senior community forced Mrs. Craney to relocate. She moved to Medford Leas and thrived there, staying active and mentally sharp until her death, said her son, James E. Craney.
Born into a close-knit Italian American family, Mrs. Craney was the daughter of Agostino and Annetta DiMuzio Giangiulio.
Mrs. Craney always wanted to become a teacher. After graduating from St. Agnes High School in 1948, she earned a degree in 1952 in elementary education from what is now West Chester University.
Over the following four decades, with time off to marry and start a family, Mrs. Craney taught at public schools in West Chester. Early in her career, she taught fourth grade at the High Street School. In the 1960s and early 1970s, she raised her three sons, and then returned to teaching in 1973.
Mrs. Craney was a reading specialist at the Stetson Junior High School for several years before joining the faculty at Penn Wood Elementary School. In 1991, she was recognized by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for her work in education. She won a stipend to pursue independent summer study through the NEH. She retired several years later.
Her husband, James F. Craney, was a high school English teacher in the Great Valley School District, and later, the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District.
As part of what they viewed as public service, Mrs. Craney and her husband mentored adults who needed a graduate equivalency degree (GED). “That was one of things I was most proud of,” said their son. “One or two nights a week, they went to help these adult learners.”
In the Craney household, there was an emphasis on proper grammar and diction. “If we didn’t enunciate, we were always encouraged to speak properly,” he said. “I was fortunate to have been raised by two parents who were teachers.”
After retiring, Mrs. Craney taught confirmation preparation classes at St. Agnes Parish. She volunteered at the Brandywine River Museum of Art, making holiday ornaments shaped like animals from the dried plants, shells, and pine cones she and fellow crafters collected on the museum grounds. The ornaments, called “critters,” were sold to raise money for the museum.
She also painted in watercolors and acrylics, knitted mittens and scarves, gardened, volunteered for Meals on Wheels, swam, canned tomatoes, and made jelly.
At Medford Leas, Mrs. Craney knitted caps for newborns and made peanut butter sandwiches for a Camden food bank. “She was a good mom,” said her son. “She had a very rich and creative life.”
Mrs. Carney’s husband died in 1990. Besides her son, Mrs. Craney is survived by two other sons, Michael A. and John A.; two grandchildren; and two sisters.
A viewing starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, will be followed by a 10 a.m. Funeral Mass at St. Agnes Church, 233 W. Gay St., West Chester. Entombment will be in St. Agnes Cemetery, West Chester.