Anne Cranley Higgins (Mary Anne Cranley), age 55, of Madison passed away very peacefully at Agrace Hospice inpatient facility in Fitchburg, WI, with her daughter, Sydney, holding her left hand, her son, Thomas, holding her right hand, and husband, Tim, looking directly into her beautiful, piercing blue eyes on Saturday, June 10, 2023. Nicolette Larson’s “Appalachian Lullaby” (one of the “baby tapes” Anne loved to help her children fall asleep to) played in the background, and the lyrics “Sleep, baby, sleep, the angels keep you from harm” were on the moment she passed.
Anne was born on April 24, 1968, the daughter of Edward and Mecca (Swanson) Cranley, at St. John’s Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At the age of one, she and her family moved to Madison, Wisconsin. In the early years, Anne and her family lived in a cozy house on Doncaster Drive, eventually settling at her family’s home on Council Crest in the Nakoma Neighborhood. Like her older siblings, she attended Our Lady Queen of Peace through eighth grade, and then Edgewood High School. She attended Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana for three years, where she roomed with Susy, who dated her brother, Paul, and they married after college. They became lifelong close friends and Susy was a constant source of love and support. Anne finished college with an Art History degree from SUNY (State University of New York) in Buffalo, New York. After moving back to Madison, she went back to school to be a paralegal, when she met the love of her life, Tim, through her wonderful friend (and future sister-in-law), Colleen (Fahey) Higgins. Tim knew right away that Anne was incredibly special and talked within weeks of getting married. They were engaged on April 15, 1993 and married on June 11, 1994 at Our Lady Queen of Peace. They were married nearly 29 years to the hour.
After getting married, Anne moved to Dearborn, Michigan, where Tim had started a job at Ford Motor Company. They eventually moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan and enjoyed the college town atmosphere and fun restaurants and things to do, such as Good Time Charley’s with their “Count Twists” and awesome quesadillas. They would often travel back to Wisconsin or Illinois to visit family and friends. In her final position at Ford, Anne was the office manager in the same department that Tim worked. They would often grab lunch outside, where the numerous ducks and geese would gather.
The desire to be closer to family drew Anne and Tim back to Wisconsin in 1995, and Anne soon thereafter landed a great job at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan. She enjoyed the type of work and projects it had to offer. She and Tim had many a “brat fry” in the Kohler/Sheboygan area and bought their first home in Kohler, Wisconsin, in 1996. They worked together to remodel the home into a perfect place to welcome their first child, a beautiful daughter, Sydney Rose (“Toots”), on July 28, 1998. Anne was an absolute natural at being a mother, and Kohler was the idyllic little town to allow Anne to take walks in the sun, something she loved to do. It was a wonderful, special time that she looked back on with a big smile.
Anne knew that she wanted to end up raising a family in her hometown of Madison, so she and Tim moved back in 1999, buying a home on Paunack Ave, just down the street from Our Lady Queen of Peace. She and Tim thought they might just live there a few years, but it turned out to be their home of over 23 years.
On September 2, 2000, Anne gave birth to their handsome son, Thomas Cranley (“Beauty Boy”). Shortly after labor, Anne felt ill and developed a large infection that nearly took her life and required eight days in the hospital, followed by weeks of antibiotics at home. On November 14, 2000, Anne had a routine appendectomy to remove her appendix, which they had determined to be the source of her infection. The next day was devastating, as Anne learned the appendix they had removed was all cancer….and a serious one. Anne would often say that Thomas saved her life because the stress of labor may have helped rupture her appendix, which led them to find her cancer. That was the start of Anne’s cancer, and was followed by the first of several major surgeries on November 22, 2000, and extensive chemotherapy.
Anne’s cancer journey was one of inspiration for all who knew her. Through recurrences and major surgeries and chemotherapy in 2004, 2011, and 2015, followed by three rounds of radiation, two rounds of immunotherapy, experimental drug therapy, and multiple additional years of chemotherapy, Anne handled them all with such grace and composure, it was absolutely incredible! She never let the cancer define who she was and, instead made a conscious decision to be happy each day, have a smile on her face, and truly love life to the fullest.
While battling cancer, she went back to nursing school and graduated as a BSRN in 2010, working at the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, followed by years as a nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison. She loved serving others and worked as long as physically possible, helping patients while not drawing attention to her own struggles.
Anne was an amazingly positive person who loved her immediate family and spending time with her siblings and siblings-in-law and their families, who she was very close with and absolutely adored. Anne loved getting text messages from their sibling group chat - “Cran Sibs Rock”. She loved her friends, and enjoyed her travels and adventures with them. Anne had a bright, sunny, glass-half-full attitude and didn’t sweat the small stuff or worry about minor things. She was intensely devoted, loyal to, and protective of her children, and they were incredibly lucky to call her the “Best Mom Ever”. Anne was a stay-at-home mom for many years, and was very interactive and involved with her kids: playing PlayDoh, timing swim races at Shorewood Pool, dancing in the living room to “The Nutcracker” and “ABBA” soundtracks… the list goes on and on. Anne was a goofball, did not take herself too seriously, and could take a joke. She was easy going, easy to have fun with, and a joy to be around. Anne always saw the good in people, and gave them the benefit of the doubt. She was a very sentimental person, and had the longest hold on a woobie (“Woobs”) of anyone you would know. Anne enjoyed the simple pleasures in life, and was comfortable spending time by herself enjoying her own company. She never left the house without a little bit of makeup on (but wore it very naturally), and always had a Chapstick (or several flavors) in her purse. Anne was an incredibly kind, accepting person who treated everyone equally, equitably, and with respect. She had exceptionally beautiful natural blonde hair and piercing blue eyes that caught many an eye.
Anne especially loved going on beach vacations, listening to the ocean waves, walking along the shore, and watching sunsets. She was an avid baker, and always had to have baked goods in the house to satisfy her sweet tooth (she always needed to finish off the day or follow a meal with “a little something sweet”). Some of her favorites were poppyseed muffins, Rice Krispie treats, molasses cookies, and “white cake with white frosting” (especially if it was cold). It often smelled like yummy bread or a batch of cookies she had just made. When her kids would come home from school, they would walk in the front door and hear music right away (she almost always had music on, whether it was Pandora, CDs, Spotify, or the radio). Anne was a sucker for some reality TV shows…..“Selling Sunset” was her most recent guilty pleasure, along with old favorites “The Bachelor/Bachelorette”, “American Idol”, “Chopped”, and “The Great British Baking Show”. She always kept up with “the scoop” on General Hospital. Anne was an avid reader, and would be excited when books she had been waiting for became available on her Tablet/Kindle or at the library - she particularly enjoyed historical nonfiction and mystery novels. Anne loved being outside, traveling and taking in new experiences, looking for flights and trip planning, and taking hikes, especially when her beloved dogs, Louie (“Doo-Doo”) and Betty, would join. One of her favorite things in the world was being out on the boat in Northern WI, especially at her and Tim’s cabin west of Minocqua, and having the wind blow on her face and through her hair. She also loved kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, as well as viewing all the northern “critters” as she and Tim referred to them.
Anne loved going to the movies (getting too much movie popcorn, of course) and the theater - she loved going to shows at the Overture Center and American Players Theater. She could take down a Dairy Queen Blizzard (typically Snickers with an occasional Heath when she wanted to “mix it up”), and a good thin-crust pizza (but no green peppers or olives!). Anne could be competitive at card games like “Gin Rummy” and “13” (she would almost always win), and loved playing a good round of BananaGrams or Yahtzee. She enjoyed working on art projects like embroidery and sewing, and was good at them, too! Anne was a Christmas fanatic - she loved to bake Christmas cookies, sing along (loudly and would often make up lyrics) to Christmas Songs, decorate the tree and house, and made the Cranley family favorite “Christmas Bread”. She loved to go “out and about” - usually to TJMaxx with Susy - and run errands. Anne loved beautiful, colorful flowers, and was so happy when Tim would bring them home for her. At the end of each day, she liked to cozy up and put on her “Jim-Jams”.
Anne is survived by her devoted and loving husband, Tim, her absolute pride and joy children, Sydney and Thomas, granddaughter Briella Anne, siblings Martha (Larry) Cranley, Patrick (Sue) Cranley, Elizabeth Cranley, Paul (Susy) Cranley, Philip (Gabriel) Cranley, and Peter Cranley, and her wonderful nieces and nephews, Andrew (Amanda), Michael, Rubia (Mitch), Lindsay, Samuel (Kathleen), Emilie, Maggie (Bashar), Teddy, Erica, Leah, Sofia, Katherine, Emma, Juliana, Owen, Liam, Paul, Mary Kate, Aidan, Joe, Fiona, Lucy, and Eyasu. She is preceded in death by her parents, Edward and Mecca, and grandparents Edward and Ann, and Pete and Martha (“Yaya”).
A visitation will be held from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm on Saturday, June 17, 2023 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, 401 S. Owen Dr., Madison, WI 53711, followed by a Funeral Mass from 12:00 pm until approximately 1:00 pm.
Please share a memory at www.CressFuneralService.com .