Durham Resident Recalls Charmed Life
Lois Cranford wants you to know that there is not one outstanding thing about the life she’s lived up until now, and she is right. The richness of her life story comes not in the telling of a single, exemplary incident, nor as part of any footnote to history. She was the not the first-this or the best-that. Rather, hers is the ultimate story of a lifetime; that of a life well-lived.
“Now, remind me again, why are you interviewing me — me of all people?” Cranford asks, a bit coyly.
Because everyone says you are fascinating, interesting, fun to talk to. A very cool lady.
“Oh, am I cool?” Cranford laughs. “Good! I have always wanted to be cool. Well, my grandchildren will be thrilled.”
The truth is, Cranford’s grandchildren, and her two daughters, know better than anyone what a special person the matriarch of their family is. A 1942 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Cranford left college with a Journalism degree and a new husband, H.C. Cranford. The young couple shared a passion for public relations, and were both community leaders in their own right. While H.C. embarked on a career to transform North Carolina’s public health and hospital system, Lois balanced raising their two daughters with her own career, first as public relations director at Watts Hospital in Durham, and later as the head of marketing and promotions for the newly developed Northgate Mall.
“This was at a time when the idea of a shopping mall was very new to people, you understand, and people in Durham were used to doing their shopping downtown,” Cranford explained. “First, we had to educate them where the Northgate area of Durham even was, and then we had to convince them that it was worth their time to drive out there.”
It becomes clear as Cranford details the events of her life, that she and her husband were never content to do one thing or another. Rather, they seemed to have their hands in many civic, social and cultural activities at once. Throughout it all, they were a team, and a very good one, at that. The couple played a significant part in shaping life in the Durham that we know today, largely through 60 years of leadership and service in the Durham Rotary Club — an organization that Lois is still a part of today. The Cranfords traveled the world for international Rotary conventions, and the memory of visiting those faraway places with H.C. brings Lois much joy, even today, 10 years after his passing.
“I loved every minute of it, can you tell?” she asks, gesturing to the Asian art, glass and ceramics that adorn her well-appointed residence at Carillon Assisted Living of Durham. “I wanted to bring back a little piece of those places, and I’m glad I did, because they never feel very far away.”
Cranford is exceptionally proud of her two daughters and their families, and says she is grateful that she was not forced to choose between motherhood and a career at a time when many women did not have the same freedom. She thoroughly enjoyed the years she spent as Girl Scout leader for her daughter’s troupe; so much that she remained active in the Scouts for more than 50 years.
Cranford received a lifetime achievement award from the Durham Rotary Club last year. The award proclamation lists her many achievements and years of civic and non-profit service to people and organizations throughout Durham County. There is one, above all others, that perfectly sums up a charming woman and the charmed life she’s led. It reads:
“Whereas, Lois Cranford’s favorite activities were always the personal ones that went largely unnoticed, such as simply providing the ride that enabled a child to attend a Girl Scout meeting, buying a bike for a youngster at Christmas, taking frozen turkeys to area shelters at Thanksgiving, or taking a new Habitat for Humanity homeowner a trunk full of items after their new home was dedicated, all while being a devoted grandmother to her own nine grandchildren.”
on September 1, 2014