Though she only became an Aggie a short while ago, Elizabeth Anne Slovak embodied Texas A&M’s core value of selfless service with family, friends and strangers alike.
It was Elizabeth’s passion for helping children with learning difficulties that pushed her to choose her undergraduate degree in communication disorders from Stephen F. Austin State University. She had just started to pursue her master’s in special education at A&M.
Her fiance, Alex Crane, said Elizabeth originally wanted to pursue nursing but found speech therapy to be a better fit.
“She just wanted to help others,” Crane said. “She didn’t really know how to help others at the beginning. I think that’s why she thought about nursing, but there [are] certain things about handling people in that way that I don’t think she could have handled. She couldn’t deal with blood. This was the next best thing. She really felt that this was something she was good at and interested in.”
Elizabeth was also working as a speech therapist, and her mother Katrina said when Elizabeth was able to help a child, it made her hard work worthwhile.
“When she very first started, she was able to help a four-year-old autistic child that had never spoken, and he’d been doing speech therapy his whole life,” Katrina said. “She was able to help him speak, and that was her favorite thing. She felt such gratification when she was able to help somebody, and she spent tons of time and energy trying to find ways to make it more interesting for them.”
When trying to engage her students, Elizabeth often employed unconventional approaches to her teaching, Katrina said, no matter how silly it might have seemed.
“It didn’t matter to her how stupid she looked doing it,” Katrina said. “The last three months, we’ve all been locked in here together working from home, and I could hear her upstairs. She had to do speech [therapy] on Zoom, and I could hear her up there, and she could not sing worth a lick. She was up there singing and stomping around, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, how can you keep that up all day?’”
Elizabeth learned those skills from taking improvisation classes, Katrina said.
“She couldn’t sing worth a darn, but she was good about making up ditties and singing to people and improving impersonations,” Katrina said. “She was funny like that. You wouldn’t think it if you knew her casually because she was really a very sweet person, but she could be extremely funny doing impersonations and doing things with improv.”
Her witty and spontaneous nature also carried over to her family life.
Crane recalled a time when he and Elizabeth took a trip to Chicago while he was working in Iowa. Elizabeth signed the pair up for a murder mystery dinner, and on the way there, she revealed she had volunteered him to play the role of detective, the main part of the event.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, you did not do that.’ But it was lots of fun,” Crane said. “She brought out the best part of me, I think.”
Katrina said her favorite memories with Elizabeth were around Christmas, when the pair would take a weekend to make as much candy as they possibly could. Elizabeth’s favorites were the caramels.
“I’m not talking a little candy, we made 50 pounds of sugar candy, 30 pounds of butter candy,” Katrina said. “It started before I was married, and it just escalated. We just kept making more and more and trying different candies.”
The pair’s love for sweets extended far beyond the holidays, though.
Katrina said she often keeps a bag of chocolate in a drawer in her nightstand, “in case of an emergency.”
When Elizabeth discovered the stash, it soon became trouble for the duo.
“After she found out about the emergency chocolate, the two of us went through $40 worth of emergency chocolate in a week, and I had to quit doing it. I’m like, ‘Elizabeth, every day can’t be an emergency,’” Katrina said.
Elizabeth wasn’t only close to her own family. Her life’s work with people who have speech and hearing difficulties crossed over into her relationship with Crane’s father, who is almost completely deaf.
“She really connected with him, trying to talk with him,” Crane said.
As dedicated as Elizabeth was to family traditions and the children she helped, she was equally as devoted to everyone she met.
“Everybody says when somebody passes away that they were nice or they were the nicest person in the world, but Elizabeth never gave up on anybody,” Katrina said. “I don’t care what happened. I’ve seen people that I would have given up on a long time ago. She never did.”
For Crane, it was her openness and curiosity that drew him to “Free spirit Elizabeth,” as he called her.
“I’ve never met anyone that was so open and willing to try new things,” Crane said. “Most of the time people are hesitant in certain situations, but she was just willing to try anything. … She was just amazing in every way, I can’t even explain it. It was a dream come true, honestly.”