Marianne Crowder celebrates 104 years


Click on pictures to enlarge and see captions.

By Jane Knoerle

Almanac Lifestyles Editor

They came to wish their teacher "Happy Birthday," bringing cards, flowers, even a box of homemade fudge. Marianne Crowder's girls (and boys) were at the Menlo Park Recreation Center on April 23 to celebrate her 104th birthday.

The birthday party is a not-to-be missed annual event at Menlo Rec, where Ms. Crowder taught dancing and exercise for so many years. Daughter Sue Miller has been hosting the party since her mother reached 85.

Party-goers were students of Ms. Crowder, who first designed her exercise class in 1949 and taught it for 50 years.

First called "Mariantics," then "Forever Fit," the class has always emphasized a smoothly flowing set of exercises and stretches that work everything from the face to the feet.

When she retired, daughter Sue took over. Cyndi Jung now teaches "Forever Fit" on Monday mornings.

Nancy Schumacher of Menlo Park was among those who came to pay tribute. She took exercise classes 40 years ago, at the same time her daughter, Carol, enrolled in Ms. Crowder's dance class for children.

William Grindley of Atherton was a student with Ms. Crowder from 1974 to 1983. That's nothing compared to his wife, Susan, who took lessons from the time she was a little girl.

"We have a relationship that goes back 57 years," he said. "My wife and her five sisters all took classes from Marianne, as well as their mother, Helen. We've become good friends. We have her over to the house whenever we can."

A native of Colorado, Ms. Crowder studied dance and theater arts for years, heading the dance department at Colorado College. After moving to Palo Alto, she started teaching dance on the front lawn of the family home. Today she still lives in Palo Alto, in the same home she and her late husband, Paul, moved into in 1938.

Ms. Crowder's two daughters, Sue Miller, and Anne Gully of Tempe, Arizona, were on hand for the party, along with Anne's husband, Tommy, and two daughters, Emma and Megan. The next day, there was to be a family party with the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

On Friday, however, when nearly 100 guests crowded in for a hug or a chat with their beloved teacher, it was a time for Marianne's former pupils to feel they were all in the family.

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Like this comment
Posted by Kitté
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on May 11, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Worried about my poor posture, Mom enrolled me in Mrs. Crowder's dance class in the early 1970's. There was no disguising my lanky adolescent body destined for six feet stature. Mrs. Crowder taught exercises for life. I think about her everyday when I stretch. She had the straightest spine ever and the sweetest smile, too! Happy Birthday!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Jennifer Crowder
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2010 at 9:45 am

Your readership extends well beyond the East Bay--this comment comes from the community of Ballard in Seattle, Washington. My cousin Rod has been forwarding links to your articles about Marianne Crowder, my aunt (perhaps great aunt?--she was married to my grandfather's brother). I'm attaching this comment to the story about her birthday party rather than her recent passing, because to me she'll always be a vibrant presence in my thoughts, with her big personality and megawatt smile. She was an amazing woman and deserved every party she was given. :) All of us should be so fortunate. Thanks for writing about her.

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