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WSU Storytelling Karen J. Ashton Award

2023 Recipient Raelene Critchlow

Award recipient Raelene CritchlowRaelene was born in beautiful Star Valley (Afton),Wyoming to Elmer and Wanda Warren Sommers on October 29, 1933. As a young girl, she moved to Ogden, Utah, where she graduated from Ogden High School. Over seventy years later, she still has fond memories of serving as student body secretary at OHS, and the wonderful lifelong friendships she made there. While attending Weber State College, she met and married Douglas G. Brian, also of Ogden, in February 1953. They are the parents of five children.

Raelene’s greatest life’s work is raising her five children, many years as a single mother after Doug’s accidental death in 1977. Seventeen years later she married William Critchlow. Bill passed away in August 2020.

Many years of service were given to her church as she served in Primary, Sunday School, as Gospel Doctrine teacher, ward and stake Relief Society President and on the General Primary Board under Michaelene Grassli. As part of that assignment, she enjoyed teaching Boy Scout Training for 3 years at Camp Philmont. She was called to serve as a young women leader at the age of 80! She and Bill served a LDS mission in St. George, Utah as directors of the St. George Visitor’s Center and historic sites.

Her community service includes serving on the Institutional Review Board of the McKay Dee Hospital. She served many years on the Elizabeth Stewart Children’s Museum executive board. But serving on the steering committee that planned and started the Weber State University Storytelling Festival 26 years ago has been the highlight of her service to this community.

Raelene has loved travelling the country and the world. One of her most treasured adventures was visiting the Piedmont region of northern Italy and seeing the very place where her ancestors lived for many generations before immigrating to Utah. She has always felt a close connection to her ancestors and is active in DUP to this day.

Raelene loves the arts in every form – theater, museums, concerts, plays, recitals, and dance. It’s safe to say she gets as much enjoyment from a great-grandchild’s dance performance as she did attending the Shakespeare Festival for many years. She enjoys watching college football where she cheers for everybody!

As a result of her life’s work raising her family, her life’s joy comes from being the grandmother of 20 wonderful grandchildren and 50 outstanding great-grandchildren. In combination to those she inherited in Bill’s family, she adores 44 grandchildren and 80 great-grandchildren. Each one of them have a special relationship with their Grandma Rae.

Previous Winners

1996 Phyllis Dixon Shaw
1997 Anneliese Konkol
1998 Steven R. Mecham
1999 Bill Higley
2000 Dean W. Hurst
2001 William J. Critchlow III
2002 Milan E. Mecham
2003 Lynne Greenwood
2004 Lynne Goodwin
2005 Karen B. Lofgreen
2006 No award this year.*
2007 Margaret I. Rostkowski
2008 Virginia Rassmussen

2009 Jean Andra Miller
2010 Bob Wood
2011 Phyllis Savage
2012 F. Ann Millner
2013 Norman L. Skanchy
2014 Ann L. Ellis
2015 Kathy Gambles
2016 Beverly G. Heslop and Linda H. DeYoung
2017 Rosemary Conover and Rachel Hedman
2019 Jack L. Rasmussen
2020 Judith P. Mitchell
2021 Claudia Fuhriman Eliason
2022 Monica Sue Flint

2023 Raelene Critchlow

* Storytelling Festival moved from Fall of 2005 to Spring of 2007.