In Memoriam

December 20, 2021

Elizabeth Jane (Manley) Delacruz, 69, of Champaign, died the morning of Dec 9, 2021. She was known to her family and close friends by her nickname, Betsy.

The core of her being was her love for her daughters. Her daughters returned this love by caring for her in her final days at home in hospice care. She passed in comfort and peace surrounded by her daughters, her close family members, and her best friend.

She grew up in Rantoul, IL where she graduated from Rantoul Township High School Class of 1970. She has resided in Champaign for the last several decades.

Betsy received a BFA and MA in Art Education from the University of Illinois and received her licensure as an art teacher from University of Florida. She taught K-12 art across several schools in Illinois and Florida. She was passionate about the vital role creativity and artistic expression play in life and her mission as an art educator was affirming to students that creativity and the ability to make art exists in everyone. She also took joy in supporting students and opening her classroom as a space to come talk or just hangout if they needed. She joked that her only request was that they bring a piece of trash from the school grounds as an entrance fee.

After completing her doctoral degree at Florida State University, she was hired by the University of Illinois Art & Design Department and spent 24 years as a Professor of Art Education teaching students in the US and from around the world how to become art teachers. She mentored many students through the doctoral program and cared deeply about supporting young researchers, writers, and teachers. During her time at the University, she served as the Chair of Art Education, editor of Visual Arts Research, a leading scholarly journal in art education, and was active in publishing research. Her scholarly interests included art traditions of culturally diverse societies, new digital and multimedia art forms in contemporary culture, the convergence of technology and education, and how art education practices advance social justice and civil society. She was a nationally recognized professor receiving multiple national awards including NAEA Higher Education Art Educator of the Year. After retirement she continued mentoring and teaching students in online graduate programs for the University of Florida and Eastern Illinois University. To her, art education was a vessel for engagement: with art, with people, and with the world.

Her loved ones, friends, colleagues, and anyone who met her will never forget her playful and vibrant nature that she brought to everything she did. She enjoyed spending hours on Saturday mornings tending to her large side garden and chatting with passersby who would stop and admire it. She ran an antique store in Rantoul called the Crystal Ship in her young adulthood and has always been an avid thrifter. She had a full and adventurous spirit, always looking for new projects to take on and creatively make her own. She loved fixing stuff up (she joked her tool of choice was duct tape) and restoring and painting old furniture. Her faith and the McKinley Presbyterian Church community were also very important parts of her life. She was caring and generous and always sought out opportunities to help and give back to those around her. It was not uncommon for her to open her house to people needing a place to stay. She will always be remembered for her open and willing spirit, courage to be exactly who she was, and immense strength through the challenges she faced.

She is survived by her daughters Emily and Grace, her sister Margaret Greenway, brother-in-law Roger, and her brother Lynn Manley.

She was preceded in death by her parents Warren and Lois Manley and her brother John Manley.

A Memorial Service will be January 29th, 11 a.m., at McKinley Memorial Presbyterian Church, 809 S 5th St., Champaign IL 61820. A virtual option will be available through Facebook Live: A reception will follow, pending Covid restrictions.

In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory may be made to McKinley Memorial Presbyterian Church:

Condolences and messages for the family may be sent to the following address: Delacruz Family, in care of McKinley Presbyterian Church, 809 S 5th St., Champaign IL 61820

portrait of Elizabeth Delacruz
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