ST. PETERSBURG — Several weeks ago, Shirley Crane decided she needed to organize her books. The historical fiction and thrillers she loved packed the shelves of her Old Northeast home, about 18 feet long and seven shelves high.
She inventoried about 800 titles as a librarian might, grouping them by author and subject.
The books were her way of connecting with people, of drawing out strangers at a party or recharging her intellectual batteries.
But the person she knew best — her husband — didn't share her appetite for fiction.
She met Don Crane at meetings of the Southwest Water Management District, where he served on the board and she was the executive secretary.
"She was the glow in the office," said Crane, 76, a former state legislator (1970-1974) who also had an insurance agency.
She was divorced. Crane's first wife, Bevelle, had died while piloting a small plane.
Before Don and Shirley Crane married in 1986, a minister administered a Myers-Briggs personality test and announced that they were diametrical opposites.
In some ways it was true. She didn't care much for politics any more than he wanted to read every book John Grisham wrote.
"We knew each other's limits," her husband said.
Once, the couple were returning from an antique car show, towing a 1930 Rolls-Royce he had been restoring for 30 years. Mrs. Crane swerved in traffic, causing the Rolls to tip over.
The wreck destroyed the Rolls but did not even dent the relationship.
"I doubt anybody would believe this, but we never had an argument," her husband said.
After Swiftmud, Mrs. Crane worked for 17 years assisting Carl Kuttler, president of St. Petersburg College. She retired in 2004, but continued to work part time for the college.
She let Labrador retrievers stay at her house until they were ready to become guide dogs, and was active in First Presbyterian Church.
Born Shirley Scott in Greenville, S.C., she attended Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., and got an associate's degree from the University of South Florida.
On Sept. 15, her husband returned from a Rays game with his grandson and found his wife on the bedroom floor. Doctors told him she had suffered a massive stroke. Mrs. Crane died Sept. 16 at Bayfront Medical Center. She was 75.
Her husband has always prized an oil painting of his wife that caught the light from her eyes and smile. It hung in his office for years. Out of modesty, she would not allow him to hang it in the dining room, which opens into the living room, as he had wanted.
"But it's there now," he said.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.