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‘A real spitfire’: Husband Remembers West Des Moines Educator Who Died of COVID-19


WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — One month after finding out she had been exposed to the coronavirus, Jennifer Crawford was dead.

Jennifer was a special education associate at Indian Hills Junior High. Her husband, Jeff Crawford, believes she was exposed to the virus at school. Jennifer died on Oct. 3 at the age of 53. Her husband is now sharing her story as a reminder of how serious and deadly COVID-19 can be. 

Jeff met Jennifer at work more than a decade ago. They got married in 2010 and she helped raise his four children in West Des Moines. Jeff remembers his wife as “a real spitfire.” 

“She would walk into a room and the whole place would light up. She always smiled. Just a sweetheart,” said Jeff. “She was a great mom.” 

Jeff said one of his children needed special education, and that’s what led Jennifer to becoming a special education associate. 

“Our special needs child was going to high school and [Jennifer] became familiar with the special ed teacher and asked if she could be a resource … Got a job there and loved it,” said Jeff. “She was very loving, very kind, always wanted to help. She got a lot out of it. She really enjoyed doing it.” 

Jeff said they were both apprehensive about her working at school during the pandemic. Outside of school, he said Jennifer took many precautions to avoid exposure to the virus. She would do things like leave mail and clothes outside, avoid eating at restaurants and have her groceries delivered.

“I felt she was over the top, but now I realize there is no over the top,” said Jeff. 

He said the school called Jennifer a couple days after her potential exposure. 

“Slowly she started to feel the effects of the disease kick in. They admitted her and that was the end. I never got to communicate with her. She was on a ventilator and sedated,” said Jeff. “It was hard to watch her slowly die.” 

West Des Moines Community Schools announced Jennifer’s death on Oct. 5. In a statement, district spokeswoman Laine Mendenhall-Buck said that Jennifer was out of the state when her symptoms began and she had not been at the school for several weeks. “We do not know exactly how she contracted the virus,” Mendenhall-Buck said.

After Jennifer’s death, Jeff wants others to remain cautious of the virus. 

“It’s the person walking down the street, it’s your next-door neighbor, it’s anybody. The [coronavirus] numbers I think are getting worse, not better. We have a real situation on our hands,” said Jeff. 



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