Lela Mabel Thompson Cronk
Died: November 26, 2010
Age: 95 years old
Lela Mabel Thompson Cronk, 95, died at the Mennonite Home due to complications of a stroke.
Lela was born at Coleman, South Dakota, the sixth of eight children born to Martin and Margaretha (Christiansen) Thompson.
As a small child on the family farm, Lela learned to work hard with her siblings and parents as they raised corn and other crops to sustain their large family.
Lela also learned the value of education at an early age, and graduated from Plainview Academy in 1933. At the tender age of 18, she began her teaching career in a one-room schoolhouse with grades 1-8, in Redfield, S.D., and had three delightful years there because she really enjoyed "nob-knobbin" with the adult teachers at the academy nearby. She subsequently taught at Plainview Academy in Redfield, S.D., the school she had graduated from just a few years before.
In 1940, Lela went to Union College in Lincoln, Neb., where she met a young theology student, Ramon Reed Cronk. After his graduation from Union College, they were married on June 7, 1942. The newlyweds were then invited to become part of an evangelistic team in Emporia, Kan., where, in August of 1943, their first son, Jerald Reed Cronk, was born.
In 1944, Ray and Lela accepted a call to mission service in Brazil with the doctor and nurse team, Leo and Jessie Halliwell. The Cronk's second son, Ronald Howard Cronk, was born in Brazil in August of 1946. During their five-year mission experience, ray was the mission pastor, traveling for a month at a time on the medial launch, Luziero, up into primitive regions of the Amazon River, while Lela stayed at the meager mission home in Belem, Brazil, caring for their children and working in the office of the North Brazil Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
In 1949, when they returned from their mission service, Ray went to Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich., and Lela and the children stayed at her family's farm in Coleman, S.D.
After his year of study, Ray was called to the three churches in Twin Falls, Filer and Jerome, Idaho. There again, Lela capably attended her usual duties as wife, mother, home-maker, gardener and Pastor's wife, as well as working as the receptionist and medical assistant for Dr. Harold Drake, until the birth of their third child in February of 1955, daughter Ronda Louise Cronk.
In 1959, the Cronk family moved to Eugene where Ray served as the Oregon State Representative for the American Red Cross. Here again, Lela, still nurturing and caring for her larger family's needs, also worked as the receptionist for eye, ear, nose and throat specialist, Dr. Kern Hartzell.
In 1962, Ray was called to pastor the three churches in Dallas, Falls City and Sheridan. This time, Lela dusted off her teaching credentials and taught for one year at the Falls City Adventist School, and rediscovered her life-long love of teaching.
When Ray was called to pastor the church at Albany, Lela, at the age of 50, went back to school at the Oregon College of Education (OCE) in Monmouth where she earned a master's degree with a 4.0 grade point average in the area of special education.
She then pursued teaching in that field in the Monmouth Oregon School District, first teaching trainable mentally retarded (TMR) children and then moving to director of the Resource Room. The effect of her devotion to the education of challenged children changed the lives of many students and their parents.
Lela so excelled in her field of special education that she was invited back to OCE to teach summer sessions to other aspiring special education teachers.
Eventually, Lela taught in the Independence School District, where she retired after many years of teaching, at the age of 68.
Along with all her studies, her family and her work, Lela was always very involved in the life of her church. She held the offices of clerk, Sabbath School Superintendent, Adult Sabbath School Teacher and greeter, as well as participating in other various church responsibilities and committees.
In her early 70s, Lela joined the Albany Chapter of the National Organization of Gleaners. Eventually, because of her excellent organizational skills and leadership qualities, she was asked to be the president of the chapter, and led her team for several years.
Though she was very involved in her volunteer activities, she always made time for her family, continued her love of maintaining a large garden every year, canning and freezing, and sharing the bounty with family and friends, and those in need.
Ray and Lela enjoyed their retirement years with winter months spent in Maui, Hawaii or Mazatlan, Mexico. They also went on tours to many countries with Lela's younger sister, Mildred Olson, who guided and organized the tours. Ever the scholar, Lela eagerly journaled the activities and sites on their trips to Alaska, Virgin Islands, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Central America and the Panama Canal, the Caribbean and Fiji Islands, the Holy Lands and China.
In 2004, when Ray became terminally ill, they sold their home in North Albany and Lela moved into Alterra Villas in Albany. Even though she carried the sadness and the heavy burden of her husband's debilitation, she participated whole-heartedly in the life of the retirement residence, leading out in plays, working in the residence store, and organizing a "Kitchen Band." Again she was sought out for her leadership and caring personality when she was asked to serve on the "Residence Council." Because of her warm and friendly nature, she was often asked to give tours of the facility to prospective residents, and asked to nurture new residents.
In her "free time" Lela crocheted and donated over 50 lap robes for Albany-area skilled nursing facilities, and likewise a number of baby blankets for a mission in Mexico through Amistad International, brought to her attention by Pam Cronk, her son Ron's wife.
Lela's heart was always committed to the service of others, and she was a great and godly woman, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister and aunt. For many years, she faithfully followed her husband in his pastoral care, and was the "favorite" of all who knew her even in her family. She consistently loved deeply and was devoted to her Lord, her husband, her family and all who came within her sphere. She was beloved by her church and all her co-workers and co-volunteers. She was devoted to her grandchildren, and delighted in her great-grandchildren. Heaven will be crowed with those whose lives she touched.
Lela Cronk was preceded in death by her parents; two brothers, Nels and Julius Thompson; four sisters, Dorothy Thompson, Jean Thompson Combes, Gladys Thompson Ring and Mildred Thompson Olson; husband Ramon Reed Cronk; and daughter Ronda Cronk McCracken.
She is survived by her sister Martena Thompson Bakke of Curlew, Wash.; two sons and their wives, Jerry and Judi Cronk of Milton-Freewater, and Ron and Pam Cronk of Highland, Calif.; chosen son and wife, Paul and Coralie Cole of Brush Prairies, Wah.; five grandchildren, Tony Greer of Albany, Becky Elliott of Beaverton, Heather Wilkinson of Albany (who was very close to her in her later years, and was at her side when she went to sleep in Jesus), Amy Cronk of Chicago, Ill. and Allyson Cronk of Spokane, Wash.; step-grandson Erik Peterson of Oakdale, Calif.; four great-grandchildren; four step-great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.
A celebration of life will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Albany Seventh-day Adventist Church. Pastor Paul Cole of Brush Prairie, Wash., will officiate. Private inurnment will be a later time.
Memorial contributions in honor of Lela Cronk may be made to the "Worthy Student Fund," in care of Seventh-day Adventist Church, 3085 Grand Prairie Rd., S.E., Albany, OR 97322.