Howard Grant Crane, loving husband, father, and grandfather, dear friend, teacher and scholar of Ottoman and Islamic art and architecture, died at 80 in Columbus, Ohio, on March 4. His life was unnecessarily cut short by COVID-19. Howard was born February 16, 1941, in Ridgewood, New Jersey, to Howard and Edna Crane. In 1960, he met his wife of nearly six decades, Meral Galin, while building a schoolhouse in eastern Kentucky at an American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) work camp. Howard’s love for Meral drew him to study Turkish and live in Turkey for four years, where they had a daughter, Dushka, and taught in Tarsus. There, Howard became interested in Islamic art history, which led him to pursue a doctorate in Harvard University’s Department of Fine Arts and conduct archaeological expeditions in Turkey and Afghanistan (1970s-2000s).
Howard and Meral settled in Columbus, Ohio in 1975 where they had their long awaited second child, Nicholas. Howard taught at The Ohio State University (1975-2010) and served as Chair of History of Art (1978-1983). He wrote countless articles, reviews, and chapters on Seljuq and Ottoman art and architecture. He also produced four books—one on fieldwork in Tarsus, and three critical editions of key Ottoman primary sources, e.g., “to adorn that Beyt Allāh [House of God]… Let [the pure gold in the blessed roof of the Temple of Jerusalem] illuminate the world, not like the philosopher’s stone but rather like the most luminous sun.”
A generous educator and unceasing learner, Howard refined his teaching throughout his career, and remained intellectually curious until his death. He advocated fiercely for peace, social justice, and our planet, and he expressed these commitments with a modesty that family and friends recognized in his personal life. An avid reader of The New York Times, Howard wrote eloquent, engaged letters to the editor. His granddaughters inspired a sprawling genealogy project on which Howard collaborated with family members, notably Meral’s sisters, Aylin, Nilgün, and Müge. Few people live such a full life.
Howard is survived by his wife Meral Crane, children Dushka Crane and Nicholas Crane, granddaughters Miranda Ross, Katherine Ross, and Averil Pearson-Crane, and siblings Nathalia Sudnik and Tom Crane. Donations in Howard’s name are welcome to: the Southern Poverty Law Center, and efforts related to expanding voting rights and protecting our environment.
Written in collaboration with family and friends