In September, on Nancy Crawford's last day working at the Oak Creek Town Hall, she took a long lunch break and watched as town officials, community members and her family replaced Colfax Avenue street signs with new ones reading "Nancy Crawford Boulevard."
The town of Oak Creek wanted to find a special way to honor Crawford's dedication and love for the town.
Although many of her friends and other community members did not know it at the time, Crawford was battling ocular melanoma, a type of eye tumor that often affects the usual functioning of other organs.
Crawford, 57, died from her battle with cancer Wednesday morning at her home in Oak Creek.
"I am so thankful we did what we did for her then so that she was able to enjoy it," Oak Creek Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman said. "Even though she didn't like that kind of attention, she was glowing that day. You could see it in her face."
Rodeman, along with Craw--ford's husband of 36 years, Ce----cil, and her daughter Amy were with Crawford on Wednesday morning when she died.
"She looked up at me while I was holding her hand and telling her I loved her. She said, 'That's why I was afraid to tell you I was sick,'" Rodeman said.
Amy Crawford drove from Farmington, N.M., to be with her mother and said that her death was peaceful and painless. Cecil and Nancy Crawford have another daughter, Libby Raisch, who lives in Grand Junction with her two small children, Canon and Chloe.
"She was everything to us," Amy Crawford said. "She was a great mom. She loved her grandchildren. She was very dedicated to all of us and would do anything for her family."
Cecil Crawford said Nancy enjoyed retreating home after work to be alone and enjoy her personal time even though she loved working for the town.
"She liked to cook a lot in her free time. She baked, too. She liked to come home and hide out in her sanctuary," he said.
Amy Crawford said her mother didn't want people to know she was sick because she didn't want people to start treating her differently or wasting money on flowers.
"She never wanted flowers, she always wanted people to donate money to the Oak Creek playground," she said.
Crawford was diagnosed with the disease in June 2004. She had her eye removed, and doctors told her family that the cancer was "99.9 percent gone." However, in August, she began feeling ill again. She started receiving experimental medication and treatments from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver.
Crawford was born in Neb--raska but lived in Colorado most of her life. She spent the past 36 years living and working in Oak Creek.
Police Chief Linda Koile said Crawford not only had a wealth of knowledge about local history, but she also was encouraging and supportive of Koile's decision to become police chief.
"We are what we are because Nancy believed in us," Koile said. "I will miss her. She was inspirational and will continue to inspire us."
Court Clerk Vivian Johnson said she had never had an employer like Crawford and considered her more of a friend than a boss.
"(She) was a boss like no other. She treated all of her employees with care and respect. She never thought of herself as our boss, but rather, our equal. We, as individuals and as a group, will miss her leadership greatly," she said.
Town Board member Karen Halterman said Crawford had a gentle spirit.
"Nancy has always been such an easy person to interact with. Surely, we were so blessed to have had her in our lives for the time we did," Halterman said.
Rodeman said she would most miss her morning ritual of walking over to Crawford's door with a cup of coffee and getting "debriefed" on the latest town gossip.
"She would fill me in on the half of the town she knew about, and I would fill her in on the half of the town I knew about," she said. "She really was a great friend. She was the strongest woman, the strongest person, I have ever known."
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