She Was the Bee's Knees

Burt Prelutsky

10/19/2007 12:01:00 PM - Burt Prelutsky

Until I read her obituary in this morning’s paper, I had never even heard of Eva Crane, who died the other day at 95. She was, it seems, a most admirable English woman. Back in the early 1930s, she earned a master’s degree in quantum mechanics and a doctorate in nuclear physics. But in spite of being an obvious brainiac, she was clearly a sensible and reasonable person. Otherwise, I very much doubt that she would have ever said, “I was the only woman studying physics at the time, but it never bothered me. I have often been the only woman, but I have never been discriminated against.” How refreshing when even spoiled heiresses, wealthy actresses and Nancy Pelosi, all whine about their lot in life.

But, as impressive as her academic achievements were, that’s the least of it. What made Mrs. Crane so astonishing was the fact that one of her wedding gifts was a box of bees that transformed her life. When I first read about the bees, I figured it had been a gag gift from a disgruntled suitor. But it seems that sugar was in such short supply in England during World War II that the means of providing honey for one’s tea was actually a very thoughtful present. For some people, at any rate. Mrs. Crane just happened to be one of those people.

She became so fascinated by the little critters that she read everything about them that she could lay her hands on in the university library. Then, when she discovered that there were no scientific journals devoted to the field, she started one. But that was only the beginning. Before she was done, she had written a slew of books about bees, initiated the International Bee Research Association, become the editor of Bee World, and visited over 60 countries in 50 years, often traveling by dog sled and dugout canoe, in order to lecture on her favorite topic.

Mrs. Crane was quoted as saying that she marveled at how the world’s “curious passion for a small insect can transcend barriers and bring strangers together as friends.”

There are people of an optimistic nature about whom it’s said that when life gives them lemons, they make lemonade. But from a box of bees, this unique woman not only made honey, but discovered a passion and made a wonderful life.

If there are bees in Heaven, they must be all a-buzz with the news that their good friend Eva is on her way.