Ann Kron was a force in Lansing, MI, especially during the socially turbulent 1960s and 1970s, when blockbusting and redlining were rampant.
Kron, who died April 3, 2017 at age 84, was a tireless champion of racial integration, Kron held meetings in her west-side living room, organized cook-outs and pressured real estate agents to stop practices promoting segregation. She became so influential that anyone who wanted to run for school board, city council or other office needed to seek her approval.
“Anyone who wanted to run for office had to go talk to her," said Bill Castanier, who worked on many political campaigns during the 1970s. "That's what people would tell you right away – 'You have to talk to Ann.'"
Kron helped found the West Side Neighborhood Association and lay the template for politically engaged neighborhood groups citywide, associates said. She became a king maker without ever holding elective office.
"She was a real leader in the community," said Ken Glickman, a family friend who does talent recruiting and management and writes about music and theater. "She was a very dynamic believer in integrated local communities. She spent a lot of time on social activities and all these different ways of getting people together so they could get to know each other better and they could integrate a neighborhood together."
A Detroit native, Kron attended college at the racially integrated Antioch College and moved to Ann Arbor, where she met her husband, Walter, according to an obituary published in the State Journal. The Krons moved to Lansing in 1964 and were married for 57 years.
The West Side Neighborhood Association grew out of meetings in her living room at 418 West St.
Ann Kron was president of the WSNA for seven years, She and her neighbors fought to make the city's schools and neighborhoods more diverse and took on various other civic campaigns.
Castanier, who is now president of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing, described Kron as funny, friendly and "extremely welcoming."
"She went right after (real estate companies)," he said. "A lot of them were directing blacks to a single neighborhood, She made them sign an oath that they wouldn’t 'blockbust.' When she wanted to be direct, there was no humor in it."
Her work appears to have had a lasting impact. A 2014 story in the State Journal noted that Lansing was the second-most integrated community among Michigan metro areas where at least 20 percent of residents are of color.
"It's hard now to believe how ingrained the fear was," Kron told the newspaper, referring to the late 1960s and early 1970s. "That fear starts to diminish when black and white people get to know each other."
Castanier said her spirit lives on at the West Side Neighborhood Association, which remains strong today.
"I think Lansing would be a different city without her," he said.
Kron and her mother, Betty, operated a consignment shop in Lansing for years.
Kron's daughter, Lisa Kron, is a Tony Award-winning playwright who now lives in New York. One of her plays, "Well," is a memoir that recounts her mother's community activism.
Ann Kron also is survived by her son, David, and sister, Kathy, along with a wide circle of beloved and devoted friends, family and informally adopted children and grandchildren. Her husband, Walter Kron ‘51, died in 2015.
A funeral for Kron was at Estes-Leadley Funeral Homes in Lansing. Memorial contributions may be made to Meals on Wheels or Action of Greater Lansing, the family said.
(from Lansing State Journal)