Remembering “The First Lady of Lawton”

Published: May. 31, 2023 at 6:32 PM CDT
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - Marilyn Crane passed away at the age of 92 in a Lawton nursing home on May 25th. Her services took place at 1:30pm on Wednesday, May 31 at First United Methodist Church.

She was known as “The First Lady of Lawton” and dedicated a majority of her life serving the poor and homeless.

Originally from Missouri, Crane would later find herself in Oklahoma. After seeing a need in the community for those less fortunate, she and her husband decided to take action.

They founded the Lawton Food Bank in 1985.

“So Marilyn Crane started the Lawton Food Bank in her garage. She had such a giving heart and from that garage, the Lawton Food Bank has become a staple in the community for helping our neighbors,” said Mac Lechel, the current executive director of the Lawton Food Bank.

Crane was able to bring together community leaders, churches, and local businesses to jumpstart the project, which is now helping over 1,000 families a month.

“You can feel her touch in everything. She’s touched countless families. She’s just created this cornerstone of a community, and to know that I’m just any part of that, it feels amazing to be able to help continue that,” Lechel said.

But the food bank wasn’t the only legacy the Crane family left behind. They also started the first two homeless shelters in Lawton.

“She saw a need in the community, and felt that we needed to have a place for people to come who are homeless and didn’t have shelter,” said Sheryl Gregory, the current executive director of Great Plains Improvement Foundation. “So she came to Community Action, Great Plains Improvement Foundation to ask if we would partner in that effort to establish a new shelter in Lawton, and so we did. At that time it was called the lighthouse shelter.”

Established just one year after the food bank the shelter’s name was later changed in honor of Charles Carter Crane, Marilyn’s husband.

Even after many close calls with shutting its doors for good the shelter has prevailed.

“It continues to be, like I said, the only long-term homeless shelter in Southwest Oklahoma, so we have been able to continue that tradition and continue the mission- or vision that Mrs. Marilyn Crane had,” said Gregory.

While Lawton will feel the loss, the impact Crane made will live on through the numerous things she has done for the community.

To read more about her life, or learn more about her services view her obituary here.