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Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • Still remembered through the years, Tom Cranna receives alumni award 45 years after death

  • The legacy that one leaves behind is not measured by time.
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  • The legacy that one leaves behind is not measured by time. For a family with deep roots in Devils Lake, a recent experience reminded them of just that.
    Tom Cranna, a 1958 graduate of Devils Lake High School, was posthumously honored with Minnesota Law Review Alumni Award, at the publication's annual special banquet in Minneapolis, Minn., this spring. The annual event celebrates the law students who make the law review possible as well as commemorating the efforts of alumni who made special contributions through their work for the Minnesota Law Review and beyond.
    In 2014, Cranna was one of two men to receive the great honor. Nearly 45 years after Tom's unexpected death, he was remembered for his  positive qualities and contributions by a publication that meant so much to him.
    "Attending the event really was an awe-inspiring experiencing," Kip Cranna, Tom's younger brother who attended the banquet. "To realize that so many people remember and recognize the efforts of someone who passed away so long ago says a lot about the kind of person Tom was."
    Man of Accomplishment
    When Tom died in the October of 1969, it was a shocking blow to all that knew him. It was seen as a sad, abrupt end to a life with so much promise.
    "It was extremely tough for all of us," Kip pointed out. "So unexpected and shocking to see someone you care about who is destined for a great future taken away in an instance."
    In 29 years, however, the lawyer and family man lived an extremely accomplished life. Born to Scotty and Anna Cranna in 1940, Tom excelled in both academics and extracurricular activities while growing up in Devils Lake. He was recognized as a leader in his class, participating in band, chorus, debate, the student newspaper and drama club.
    The 1958 graduate of Devils Lake High School, who earned an A average, was also a standout in athletics. He excelled while playing for the school's hockey, football and baseball teams. After graduation, he continued his hockey career into his college days at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. During his senior year, Tom served as captain of the varsity team.
    Following graduation, Cranna spent the next several years as an active military man. A naval aviator, Tom was stationed in Vietnam in 1965 to fly transport helicopters. After more than a year in this position, he was wounded in action and was honorably discharged at the rank of Captain.
    Back home, it didn't take the man very long to decide what he wanted to do going forward.
    "He was very committed to becoming an attorney," Kip stated. "It truly was his life-long dream and he went after it."
    Making a dream come true
    Page 2 of 3 - It was on the first day of Law School at the University of Minnesota when Devils Lake native Gary Stenson first connected with Cranna. Four years younger than Tom, Stenson knew of his older schoolmate, but first had the opportunity to get to know Cranna during their time together at the University of Minnesota.
    "It was a great chance to get to know Tom and become friends with him. He really was a special man," Stenson, a 1962 Devils Lake High School graduate, told the Journal. "Tom, I and Jim Holmes (a law school classmate from Walhalla) made a connection during our time there. We built a strong friendship."
    While excelling academically, Cranna also served as the president of the University of Minnesota Law Review. Through his efforts at both the publication and law school, Tom earned a reputation as a smart, hard worker with a special ability to bring people together. In 1969, he graduated from the law school magna cum laude.
    "Tom made a great impression on anyone he met there," Stenson said of his friend's time at the Minnesota university. "He was a terrific, real leader. Very smart and at the same time very friendly and concerned about others, Tom was a special individual."
    According to Stenson, the 1969 University of Minnesota Law School was a very close group of individuals. That continues today as around 30-40 graduates gather each year for a special reunion get together.
    "It's a class that have always gotten along very well," he stated. "There are a lot of great individuals in the group and Tom will always be high on that list."
    His memory, his family
    After graduation, Tom looked forward to October 17, 1969 with great anticipation as it was the day that he was set to be admitted to the Minnesota Bar Association during a special presentation. Cranna, however, never made it to the event. He passed away unexpectedly of a cerebral hemorrhage earlier that day in his Minneapolis home.
    He left behind his wife Barbara with whom he had a young, five-member family. Together, they had a daughter, Cathleen, and twins sons, Mike and Mark.
    "It was tough," Kip stated. "His family was so young. It was especially difficult because there were three young children who were without their father and a wife without her husband."
    Through friends and family sharing memories of Tom, the couple's three children learned more about the kind of person their father was. Years later, Cranna's memory is being shared with his five grandchildren. Kip notes that the special award from the Minnesota Law Review has helped Tom's children's children learn more about their grandfather.
    "They are now hearing how cool of a person their grandpa was," Kip told the Journal. "It's been a lot of fun to tell those stories and memories."
    Page 3 of 3 - Kip, Barbara, and Mike had the opportunity to hear a number of stories of their own while visiting with a number of their lost loved one's friends and classmates at the Annual Law Review Banquet. For Cranna's wife and son, it was also a chance to visit the Minneapolis home that they lived in.
    "The whole experience brought back a lot of memories," Kip said. "To speak with so many people about Tom was amazing. The banquet was a humbling moment that reminded us that Tom is gone, but never forgotten. It was very touching."
    Always home
    The loss of Tom not only hit his family and friends but also his hometown: Devils Lake. While Tom was born in Bismarck,  Scotty and Anna moved to Devils Lake in 1940 before their son's first birthday. Tom and Kip, who both graduated from Devils Lake High School, actively participated in school and community activities during their childhood.
    "We both had tremendous memories of our time in Devils Lake," Kip, who has been the Director of Music Administration at the San Francisco Opera for the past 35 years, stated. "It was where we grew up, made friends and went to school. A special place."
    The Lake Region has always had a special significance to the family, he pointed out.
    Scotty, who owned and managed Ramsey Motors, and Anna both were extremely involved in the community, Kip noted.
    With an affection for the area, the couple stayed in Devils Lake the rest of their lives. Anna passed away in 1996. Scotty died in 2000.
    Devils Lake has always been a special place for the Cranna family.
    "For our parents, Tom and I, Devils Lake will always be home," Kip said.

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