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updated: 8/30/2012 8:03 AM

Arlene Crane, wife of Phil Crane, dies

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  • Arlene Crane in 1981

    Arlene Crane in 1981


Arlene Crane, wife of longtime suburban Republican icon and former U.S. Rep. Phil Crane, died Tuesday in Virginia.

She was 79 and is survived by her husband.

Former state Rep. Al Salvi of Wauconda, a friend of the family, remembered Crane as a quiet supporter of her husband who never wanted the fame that came with his political ambitions.

"Phil is the kind of guy that was willing to go out there in the political battles," Salvi said. "She was an important person advising him, but she never liked the spotlight."

The spotlight shined brightly for Crane in the suburbs for a long time. He entered Congress in 1969 and remained there until eventually losing the 8th District seat to Democrat Melissa Bean of Barrington in 2004. The defeat was stunning, and he referenced his wife from the U.S. House floor shortly after the loss.

"I told my wife at the time that my defeat may have been God's birthday present," he said. "It may have been an opportunity to get back and relax and reflect and decide what I would like to do yet in the remaining time I have."

Crane, who lived at times in Des Plaines, Mount Prospect and Wauconda, flirted with the presidency, running in the 1980 Republican primary eventually won by native Illinoisan Ronald Reagan.

His wife's support was crucial, Salvi said. "Phil went through a lot of things in his life, and she was always there for him."

It was his wife who helped prod Phil Crane into seeking treatment for alcoholism -- a decision that paved the way for his chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means committee in Congress.

"We know that he had to give it his all to get that chairmanship," Arlene Crane told the Daily Herald in 2000. "So that's it. That's really it."

Lake County Republican Chairman Bob Cook said she had great common sense.

"She would always give me some good advice," Cook said. "She was a very thoughtful person."

Services for Arlene Crane will be held in Virginia, where she lived with her husband.

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