Arthur Kramer ’64

Arthur (Art) J. Kramer lived a rich life full of people that he loved, adventures that he embraced, and kindness that he shared. He was an amazing storyteller, athlete, woodworker and family man. Perhaps his greatest impact was that he was an incredible educator and mentor. He could easily connect with anyone, and had an unwavering belief in the potential of every person he met.

Art passed away peacefully on Friday, February 3, 2023 at the age of 80. With his wife and three daughters by his side, and his son on video, he shared that he was ready to say goodbye. He died how he lived: with intention, with humor, and in the company of those he loved. Art was born on March 16, 1942 to Jacob and Johanna Kramer in Kalamazoo, MI. He was raised in a predominantly Dutch community, surrounded by a large extended family. As a small boy he would help plant starter seedlings in large wooden trays to help his grandfather in the family greenhouses. From a young age, he gravitated toward group sports and fun interaction, and was never one to turn down a dare or healthy competition.

As a high-school senior, Art was named “Portage Prep Man in Motion.” During his high-school career, he was a varsity star in football, basketball and baseball, was on the honor roll, and served as class president, class treasurer and president of the student council. He continued playing on the varsity level while studying Biology and Physical Education at Hope College.

It was also during college that he met and married his first wife Carole, and they started their family. Art was a natural Dad, and loved his role and the responsibilities and joys of raising two young children. Art received his Masters of Education degree from Penn State and began teaching high school earth science and coaching sports at a large high school in Montgomery Co, MD. He made a career out of having fun by being around youth in teaching, coaching and mentorship roles. During these teaching years, Art led a handful of summer cross-country adventure oriented trips with some of his students. Outdoor activities included, backpacking, caving, rafting, climbing and camping. Those students remained closely connected to Art throughout the past 45 years, and still regard those trips as experiences that changed the course of their lives.

He brought a similar enthusiasm and charisma to his roles as Activities Director at Project Rehab, a residential program for high schoolers battling addiction in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and as the director of Camp Merrie-Woode, a girls’ summer camp in Cashiers, North Carolina. Art shared both of these roles with his second wife Carolyn, whom he married in 1979. They soon welcomed two more children to their loving family. It was clear that being a father and husband were the jobs he cherished most he was very involved in the lives of his four children, and there was nothing that took priority over spending time with his family. Art and Carolyn moved to Maryland in 1990, and he soon began working as a coordinator at the Center for Talented Youth (CTY), a summer enrichment program for academically gifted students run by Johns Hopkins University.

Art officially retired from Johns Hopkins University at age 62, but it wasn’t long before he was asked to return to CTY to be a site director at the Stanford University site in Palo Alto, CA where he worked for another 7 summers. Here he connected with more educators and students, all of whom admired his leadership and camaraderie. With a genuine curiosity and kindness, Art was remarkably skilled at creating relationships with people of any age. With youth especially, he wanted to get to know them individually, wanted to help inspire them to find their sparks, and make them laugh. His natural talent for connecting with students inspired other educators and served as a model for how to set high expectations and offer unending support, often with humor, and always with love. These same skills he brought to his role of co-leading church youth groups with Carolyn in the 1990s. He created engaging and unique activities to build community, and allow for spiritual growth and development.

His mentorship and fatherly role in these groups also nurtured lasting friendships. When not working with youth, Art enjoyed a number of outdoor activities and hobbies. He coached his own children in sports, and he continued hiking, camping, canoeing, and spelunking for as long as he could. He loved gardening, caring for animals especially his dog Buster and he spent endless hours selflessly picking up trash along the side roads of his community. Many family members and friends were accustomed to receiving handmade gifts from his workshop pens, name puzzles, wood signs, ornaments, wooden toys, etc. Art’s humor brought out the best in others, and his personality was magnetic. With his immediate and extended family, colleagues, and friends, he was always amazingly present. He was involved in so many significant life events, and all of the day-to-day ones too. We never questioned his love, and he taught us all how to find adventure and joy in every moment.

The last few years of his life were a little quieter (though he did hike to Machu Picchu in Peru at age 70!). Art and Carolyn moved from Maryland to Estes Park, Colorado in 2016 to be closer to their children and grandchildren. They continued their love of international travel with trips to Iceland, the Galapagos, and most recently, Greece. In addition to devoting time with the Estes Valley Land Trust and ringing bells in the handbell choir at church, he spent much of his time making gifts in his workshop, and visiting with his sister, children and grandchildren. He never tired of driving with Carolyn on road trips through beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park. Art’s time on earth is a lesson in a life well lived. Art is survived by his sister Fran Koets ’57, wife Carolyn Kramer, son Jim Kramer, daughters Cathy Kramer, Kelli Petrick and Christi Kelston, son-in-law Joe Petrick, daughter-in-law Annie Kelston, 3 granddaughters, niece Mary Schira, nephew Dave Koets, his former wife Carole DeYoung, and many cousins.

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