AMHERST - Aura Elizabeth Kern Kruger, 91, died peacefully on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. Always the optimist, always appreciative, and always willing to face without fear whatever life brought her way, she will be remembered as a unique treasure, a beloved friend, a mentor, a role model, and an inspirational woman with a profound capacity to love. Aura was born Jul. 26, 1922, to Samuel and Bertha Kern in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her parents met as drama majors at Emerson College and instilled in her a passion for theater, dance, music, and especially for the works of William Shakespeare. Raised in Newton, she attended Newton High School before following in her parents' footsteps to Emerson College.
At nineteen, she married her college sweetheart, Leon Kruger. Aura and Leon had four children, Constance, Philip, Charles, and Jo. Aura split her time between raising their family, working in her husband's pediatrics office, and managing her father's restaurant business. In 1967, they moved to Mound Bayou, an all-Black town in rural Mississippi, where Leon was the director of a medical clinic and Aura began a long and successful teaching career, eventually serving in the inner cities of Miami, Fla. and Los Angeles, California. Aura was passionate about politics, frequently participating in marches for civil and gay rights, and was a member of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and the National Organization for Women (NOW).
While working full time, she earned a master's degree in education at the University of Miami. By the time she retired twenty years later, she had developed an international reputation for teaching Shakespeare at some of the most underprivileged schools in the country. This work was dramatized in the movie Hard Lessons.
In addition, Aura captured her life story in her memoir, Forever Autumn. When she retired, Aura moved to San Francisco, Calif. to join daughter Jo Ivester. For the next twenty-five years, Aura lived with the Ivester family and helped Jo and her husband, Jon, raise their four children, Elizabeth, Benjamin, Emily, and Samuel. The Ivester/Kruger household moved to Austin, Texas, in 1993. In Austin, Aura quickly became an integral part of her community, continuing to teach through the University of Texas Informal Classes program. Her circle of friends included two different book clubs, her bridge partners, the "Bums' Table" at Randall's, and the Shakespeare reading-out-loud group that she founded.
In August 2013, Aura moved to the Arbors, an assisted living facility in Amherst, where she lived near her daughter Connie and her daughter-in-law Susan Tracy, as well as Connie's daughter, Sarah Thompson, and Philip's daughter, Amelia Tomlinson. In addition to those mentioned above, Aura will be missed by her great-grandchildren, Sean Ashburn, Liam Ashburn, and Jordyn Thompson-Dolan, and her beloved nieces and nephews: Stephen Kramer, David Kramer, Jonathan Kramer, Katherine Erwin, Susan Gilbert, Christina Franz and Paul Kramer. She was predeceased by her former husband and by her sister, Karyl Kramer. Memorial celebrations will be held in both Austin and Amherst. The Austin program will take place at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013 at Ballet-Austin, 501 W. 3rd Street, Austin, Texas.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to either the Democratic National Committee or to Ballet-Austin. To sign a Guest Book, express condolences, share memories and read other obituaries, go to www.gazettenet. com/obituaries.