Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy 94th Birthday, Fay Brandenburg Cramer (1917-1946)!

Wally Cramer's first wife

Fay is my step-grandmother of sorts, and has no descendant of her own to honor her.

Fay Gloria was a petite brunette born in Provo, Utah, the middle of Homer and Leonora Brandenburg's three children.  When the flu epidemic of 1918 struck, Leonora and her two young children were afflicted.  Leonora and Fay contracted rheumatic heart disease, which would lead to their early deaths, and young Joe lost his hearing from spinal meningitis.  Because her brother was deaf, Fay learned to sign for him.

Fay graduated from high school in Salt Lake City and enjoyed camping trips in Heber Canyon with aunts and cousins, sleeping in tents and burying watermelons in the snow to make them cold.  She attended LDS Business College and worked at the Credit Rating Bureau.  A colleague there said, "Fay suffered from a heart condition but I never knew her to complain or ever be unpleasant to anyone.  I can still see her happy smile and the sprinkling of freckles across her nose--she was a dearly loved, really wonderful girl."
Merle, Leonora, Fay Brandenburg
During World War II, Fay worked at Fort Douglas.  There she fell in love with Wally Cramer, a redheaded Methodist Army officer nine years her senior.  Unfortunately, she was engaged to someone else at the time.  Her fiance Bob Davey was a prisoner of war on the Corregidor death march.  It was very difficult for her to write him the news that she was going to marry Wally instead.
Fay & Wally
They were married in 1942 in the Jade Room of the Hotel Utah (now the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and coincidentally the same room in which I had my own wedding luncheon).  It appears from photos in her scrapbook that they took a trip to the Utah parks of Bryce and Arches, and that may have been the honeymoon.  They also visited Nebraska together, to see Wally's family and hometown.

The couple worked together, and in the evening liked to go out to eat or to dance, although with her weakened heart and increased need for rest, Wally would take a pocket alarm clock along on dates so as not to keep her out too long.  Fay must have been thrilled when her husband was baptized a few years after their wedding.  Yet by this time, her health had deteriorated so much that she was confined to home.  (The Cramers had moved into her family's home since her parents both died in the early 1940s.)

After World War II ended, Wally was transferred back to San Francisco.  They traveled to California, driving through the hot desert heat, which Wally said was mitigated by a cloud which seemed to cover and follow them so that Fay didn't suffer.  However, they stayed at a hotel in San Francisco upon their arrival, and unfortunately the city's elevator operators and butchers were on strike.  Wally had to climb eleven floors three times a day to bring Fay her vegetarian meals.  She was then admitted to the hospital, and Wally gave her a blessing.  Fay lamented (in a letter to her sister) being told by the doctors to take a rest cure: "All I've been doing for two years is resting!"

laminated obituary Wally kept in his wallet
Wally cared for his young wife with great devotion.  She spent her 29th birthday, their fourth anniversary, and Wally's 38th birthday in the hospital, and then passed away.  Fay was buried at Wasatch Lawn cemetery in an exquisite formal dress she'd only worn once before.  Wally stayed close to her brother Joe, and even asked his permission before taking a second wife (my grandmother Anna).  In fact, he and Anna were sealed together as proxy for Fay before their own marriage.  For years afterwards he arranged for flowers to be put on Fay's grave and sent to her home ward in remembrance of their anniversary and her death date, and Anna always honored and respected Wally's love for his first wife.

I visited with Fay's sister Merle Pullin in a nursing home in Baltimore in 2000 to interview her about Fay, and some of us Cramers gathered at Fay's grave in 2001 to remember her.
me with Merle Brandenburg Pullin

I would give you a chilled watermelon on a June birthday camping trip, Fay, and the love of your step-descendants here!


  1. That's such a sweet and sad story! I'd give her a chance at more modern medicine: maybe that would have helped.

  2. Anita,
    I will always remember how mom deferred to Fay as the first wife. It was pretty humbling to see her faithfulness of the concept of eternal marriage.