07/01/09 — ANNA L. CRONE

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June 9, 1946-June 19, 2009

CHICAGO, Ill. -- Anna Lisa Crone, a native of Goldsboro and daughter of Goldsboro residents James and Ethel Crone, probably could have learned any language, but she chose to study Russian because it was the patriotic thing to do at the time.

It was the 1960s, the Cold War was on and the U.S. State Department was calling on more students to learn Russian.

"You have to understand that this was back in the days when the motto was 'ask not what your country can do for you, but rather, what you can do for your country,'" she said in a 2000 interview. "We were taught in school that not enough American citizens understood the language of the enemy."

A retired professor of Slavic languages and literatures at the University of Chicago, she died June 19 of cancer at her Hyde Park home. She was 63. She was a scholar in the Russian language, philosophy and poetry from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Richard Bird, chairman of Slavic languages and literatures, said that her research of Russian literature opened a new chapter in the study of Russian philosophical discourse.

With wit and passion, she had engaged "in a lifelong dialogue with the writers she studied and the students she taught," Bird said.

She was born June 9, 1946, in the military hospital at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where her father was a Marine. She moved to Goldsboro, her father's hometown, at the age of one and lived there until she was in her late teens, attending Goldsboro schools and St. Paul United Methodist Church. She began her higher education at age 16 and got her undergraduate degree at Goucher College in Baltimore, Md., and her Ph.D. at Harvard.

"She had an enormous gift for languages," said her sister Moira Crone, who lives in New Orleans. "She already spoke fluent Italian. She taught herself by the time she was 14. She did this for enjoyment."

"She spoke about nine languages," her sister said. "She had the capability to be accepted in several countries as a native. I was with her in Spain. People refused to believe that she wasn't a Spaniard. In Italy, it was the same thing."

Her husband, Vladmir Donchik, said she was fortunate enough to be taught by two Russians, who had fled their home country.

"She went to the Goucher College, where she was befriended by her Russian professor," her husband said. "This woman became the literary mother of my wife ... After that she went to Harvard where, again a Russian teacher, an immigrant, became another mentor. Lisa was one of the last generations of Americans who was taught by the great Russian professors who escaped from the revolution."

She, in turn, was able to become a "live bearer of that world of literature" he said. She created young scholars at the University of Chicago "who carried that torch."

She came to the university in 1977 and taught through 2006, when she stopped teaching because of her health. But she continued to research and write a final book on Russian religious thought that was accepted for publication this week.

"I can be a harsh critic," she said in the 2000 interview. "But my students know it's a critic in good faith."

Her other survivors include a daughter, Liliana; her parents, Ethel and James Crone of Goldsboro and Chapel Hill; another sister, Laurel Sneed of Durham; and her brother-in-law, Charles Sneed also of Durham.

Services were held June 24 at Bond Chapel at the University of Chicago. She was laid to rest in Oakwood Cemetery in Chicago.


Published in Obituaries on July 1, 2009 1:47 PM