Remembering Leta Karen Crawford-Miksza, a virologist with an adventurous spirit

Leta Karen Crawford-Miksza, PhD, Nov. 1, 1946-Dec. 19, 2019

Leta Karen Crawford-Miksza died on Dec. 19, 2019 at her home in Berkeley, CA. She was 73 years old.

Leta was born Nov.1, 1946, in Dayton, Ohio, to Charles S. Crawford and Beatrice M. Gray Crawford. In 1957, when she was 10 years old, the family moved to Tucson, Arizona where Leta participated in Girl Scouts, choir and the Anytown youth leadership program. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Arizona and a Master’s Degree in Public Health from UC Berkeley.

She married Lawrence Paul Miksza and together they had two wonderful sons before their divorce — Andy was born in 1980 and Davey was born in 1982.

Leta worked at a number of state and federal departments in the microbiology and virology fields. She returned to UC Berkeley to study virology and wrote her doctoral dissertation on “The Evolution of the AIDS-Associated Adenovirus.” She was awarded her PhD in 1996 at the age of 50 with two high school boys at home. Her extensive research, particularly relating to how viruses mutate, was published in numerous professional journals and she was often asked to provide presentations at conferences all over the country as well as in France, Japan and Mexico. Her research projects included:

There were many more whose names her family and friends couldn’t pronounce and yet were always impressed by. In the early 2000s, Leta’s expertise was requested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to set up a virology laboratory in Atlanta, Georgia.

In more recent times she could be found tromping about in farm fields looking for E. coli or tracing the DNA of bats for rabies research. 

Leta had joined a folk dance troupe in Tucson while at the University of Arizona in her 20s and maintained a love for music, cultural dance and costume design through most of her life. Her knowledge of the German language also helped her secure a translating job in Germany and she did not miss the opportunity to travel and see a great deal of Europe. 

Upon her return to Tucson, she packed up her bright orange Opel Cadet and headed to Berkeley with only that which would fit inside it. She continued her folk dancing and joined a chorus in Berkeley. She had a thirst for knowledge and a heart for adventure, willing to jump in the car and drive and welcome any experiences that came her way. Her love of travel was shared with her two sisters who made a point to adventure and explore together every year. They made more than 20 trips together throughout the US and Costa Rica. 

One of her greatest adventures was raising two rambunctious boys in Berkeley as a single mother, helping them navigate school, boy scouts and the world of music through into their adult years. Singing is a Crawford family legacy and Leta instilled the love of singing in her boys as they participated in choirs and musical theater. She taught them how to cook incredibly tasty international cuisine, how to grow almost anything in Berkeley’s clay soil, and how to do Fridays right with Friday night pizza nights. One of the best things she passed along to her sons was her sense of adventure as they drove all over the west coast — from Mexico to Canada — hiking, camping, and exploring along the way. 

To her delight, the boys married and had children of their own, providing her with four grandchildren who always brought a smile to her face.  

Leta was preceded in death by her parents, brother Frederick C. Crawford, sister Susan M. Crawford and sister Marilee A. Crawford. She is survived by her sister Carolyn (Candy) Crawford Glancey, husband Tom; her two sons Andy Miksza, wife Amber, and Davey Miksza, wife CC; and four delightful grandchildren, Alpin, Alice, Clara and Julia. 

A celebration of Leta’s life will be held Saturday, Jan. 25 at 1 p.m. at the DoubleTree Berkeley Marina, 200 Marina Blvd, Berkeley 94710. Cards can be mailed to Candy Glancey at 11564 Azucena, San Diego, CA 92124. For more information, you can contact CC Miksza at ccmiksza@gmail.com