Meet The Cramers: A Husband And Wife Team Dedicated To Each Other, And Their Hometown
Al Cramer said people sometimes ask him what the secret to a long marriage is. He and his wife, Coke — likely one of Newtown’s longest-tenured couples — tied the knot 66 years ago.
“The secret is... broad range of interests,” Mr Cramer said while sitting with his wife in their Partridge Lane home, a house full of reminders of so many interests, notably in photos from their trips together.
Ms Cramer’s photography skills have also helped the family document their many adventures. They have hiked in Austria, Ireland, Norway, Russia, France, South Africa, New Zealand, and Hawaii... the list goes on. She has won state photography and art competitions.
Mr and Ms Cramer both like to do a lot of things, and their shared hobbies — namely hiking, backpack camping, traveling, volunteering, generally being active — brought them together and have played a role in keeping them as a team all of these years.
Both are 90 years of age, but for the record, Ms Cramer is a month her husband’s elder.
“And he doesn’t let me forget it,” she said with a laugh.
Truth be told, both are — in many ways — a young 90.
“We gave up skiing when we were 85,” Ms Cramer noted.
No, that is not a typo.
Hanging up the skis at 85 is impressive, but the Cramers have continued to do a lot of other things. Life members of the Appalachian Mountain Club, their active lifestyle has not only contributed to the longevity of their relationship as well as their lives, but also their involvement in town.
Throughout all of the changes in how things get done, with the implementation of computers and then the internet, for example, the Cramers — 54-year residents of Newtown — keep at their volunteer work in retirement.
Ms Cramer is the only living founding member of the Newtown Women’s Club, and both she and her husband volunteer for Meals on Wheels, regretfully stepping away from the delivery process a couple of years ago. Both continue to put in effort on the Newtown Forest Association board. The Cramers were bell ringers for the Salvation Army for many years.
“I enjoy it immensely,” Ms Cramer said of helping out with various organizations, including with Meals on Wheels, where she continues to serve on the board, arranging the yearly audit.
Ms Cramer gave her time out of town, too, volunteering at the veteran’s hospital in Rocky Hill. “I like the people very much,” she said of why she has volunteered all of these years.
Mr Cramer served as president of the Newtown Rotary Club. An interesting tidbit from back in 1972: in addition to Mr Cramer serving as president of the Rotary, Ms Cramer was president of the Women’s Club, and an unrelated man, Herbert Cramer, was president of the Lions Club, Mr Cramer said. “It was Cramer, Cramer, and Cramer,” he added with a laugh.
Although not part of a law firm in town, there are many things in which Mr and Ms Cramer had involvement around town. Mr Cramer served on the board of directors for the Newtown Ambulance Association, was a committee member of the first master plan for Fairfield Hills, and served as chairman of the charter revision committee in 2008.
They are well-known in town, and it is not all that uncommon that a former student of theirs will say hello.
“The kids are all in their 50s and 60s,” Ms Cramer points out.
“It makes you feel good,” said Mr Cramer, who along with his wife, have son, Jeff, and two grandsons, Andrew and Matthew.
Education has been a link for this couple from their time dating through a big part of their careers. They met in college, at the State University of New York Cortland, which leads us to meaning behind the nickname Coke.
“I sign my checks Cora but everyone else knows me as Coke,” said Ms Cramer, explaining that she did not drink and that is how she earned the nickname. “When I got to college, it stuck.”
Al is not short for Albert or Alvin, but Alvah, by the way.
Both Cramers were significantly involved in the town’s education process. Ms Cramer was a substitute teacher in Newtown as well as Bethel for 30 years. Mr Cramer, who did his graduate studies at Columbia University in New York City, was principal at Newtown High School from 1965 until 1985. He developed educational specifications for the new high school and pushed for the school’s creation due to the crowded status at the old school (today’s middle school), which at the time housed students in middle and high school grades.
The General Assembly gave Mr Cramer a citation for planning and development of the new high school in 1970, and he was later inducted into the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) Hall of Honor.
A Dedication To Sports
Mr Cramer was the president of the CAS and served as associate executive director of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC). In 1978, the CAS Association of Secondary Schools awarded Mr Cramer with a citation, its highest honor. Mr Cramer, who played football, basketball, and baseball in high school in New York, is known for his dedication to increasing participation in and safety of high school sports in the state.
In 2007, the CIAC dedicated its state championship ice hockey program to him. Although he never played or coached the sport, Mr Cramer certainly had a good understanding of how to help improve the game. He worked with 15 sports medicine doctors on the Connecticut Sports Medicine Committee to come up with requirements for better equipment and a rule in which teams with three or more major penalties are not eligible to compete in the state tournament. He was instrumental in having the National Federation adopt a football rule to not allow blocking below the waist in the open field.
Mr Cramer takes pride in the fact he increased participation of schools with hockey players by 17 by developing the cooperative team concept that allows for individuals at schools without their own programs to join other school teams.
Before Mr Cramer’s time with the CIAC, the state did not crown a state champion in football. Under his direction as chairman of the CIAC Football Committee, the CIAC established the playoff points system that determines state postseason qualifiers back in 1974. Through numerous changes the playoff points system has stood the test of time and is still in place today.
Mr Cramer was also responsible for increasing the number of state championships in sports across the board. Cross country, for example, had just two divisions, and Mr Cramer led the efforts to the CIAC adding four more, allowing smaller schools a chance to compete against other similarly-small schools for a more even playing field.
He served in the Army during the Korean War and worked in the athletic administration office as well as on the physical trainer committee. Mr Cramer has a photo of himself that includes Willie Mays, along with an autograph from Mays, the famous former New York/San Francisco Giants and New York Mets center fielder. Something Mr Cramer is especially proud of is his involvement with getting basketball courts set up at a dozen supply bases in southern France. His plans were used to set up backboards on wooden stanchions. Prior to this, there were no courts for servicemen, Mr Cramer said.
In addition to all of their travel, career pursuits, raising their son, and volunteer work, the Cramers found time to look into their family history and piece together a book detailing their respective family trees dating back a few hundred years. Ms Cramer is from Maine, one of the many states they have traveled to, and they found information on her ancestors dating back to when Maine was part of Massachusetts in the 1600s.
History and family lineage are important to the Cramers. So, too, is giving back. Mr Cramer said being involved with Scouts as a child helped shape him. The rules and regulations to be a Scout, earn badges, and work up to Eagle Scout status exposed him to a wide range of activities.
“I think that’s where I picked it up,” Mr Cramer, whose son and grandson Matthew are also Eagle Scouts, said of having those varying interests. “If you have a large range of interests — things you like to do — you’re going to be active and proactive.”
It is fair to say that both Coke and Al Cramer certainly have made things happen throughout the decades.