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Constance Helen Crooker ’69

A picture of Connie Crooker

Constance Helen Crooker ’69, April 10, 2015, in Portland.

Connie earned a BA from Reed in art, writing her thesis on the revival of Italic handwriting with Prof. Lloyd Reynolds [English & art 1929–69].

After Reed, she did window dressing for J.C. Penney and earned money buying and selling clothing. She adopted a hippie lifestyle, she wrote, and lived in a teepee. Her career in law began when friend Michael Krasik ’73 asked, “Why don’t we take the LSATs?” She discovered an aptitude for law and earned a JD from Northwestern School of Law (Lewis & Clark Law School) in 1977. Connie established a practice in criminal defense, focusing on the Hispanic community, and led efforts in Oregon to professionalize the use of interpreters in the courts. She also was the first woman in Oregon to contract with the state to run a public defenders office, serving the community of Tillamook for many years. In 2000, she retired from legal practice, but taught comparative criminal law at the Universidad Latina de America in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico.

She joined the board of directors of Portland’s Corbett–Terwilliger–Lair Hill Neighborhood Association and continued to travel and to study language. She presented a mock criminal jury trial in Morelia for the legal community there, accompanied by Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Edward Jones ’69 and attorney Jenny Marlin Cooke ’71.

Connie’s talents would stretch any catalog: photography, skiing, hiking, camping, dancing, singing, and playing the guitar and the balalaika. She played with Richard Crandall ’69 in the Reed band Central Nervous System and also performed in Raw Silk. Connie remarked, “I’m glad that, back then, we weren’t ashamed of our musical naivety, because our youth, our unbridled optimism, and our drive to have rollicking good fun made for a special time in our lives.”

One of her passions was writing and she established a pen name, Constance Emerson Crooker, taking Emerson from ancestor Ralph Waldo Emerson. For Paideia 2005, she conducted a four-session creative writing workshop. She served as editor for Over the Hill Hikers, which chronicles the ups and downs of a group of White Mountain hikers led by her mother. And she wrote and published several books, including Gun Control and Gun Rights and The Art of Legal Interpretation. Connie lived with stage four melanoma for eight years. In her book Melanoma Mama: On Life, Death, and Tent Camping, published in 2012, she shared her experiences of a cross-country trip she initiated to celebrate an unexpected reprieve from cancer treatments. “The cumulative effect is a poignant, sweet-and-sour tale of a life lived with intensity and unbounded curiosity,” she wrote.

That same year, Connie underwent surgery for a brain tumor. “Having a perfectly good day suddenly detour this way is not one of life’s finer moments,” she wrote, “but I’m recovering well from the massive surgery with lots of help from my sister-caregiver and her family.”

Connie also published Doc Jackson’s Letters Home: A Combat Medic’s 1968 Letters from Vietnam.

In an interview in 1994, “Ten Most Interesting Portlanders,” for Portland’s Downtowner newspaper, Connie remarked that she was encouraged by her parents to pursue the things that interested her. “My only goal is to throw myself fully into whatever I do for as long as I can.”

Survivors include two sisters and a brother and extended family, including niece Elizabeth Crooker, for whom she was a second mother.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2015

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