She was born in July of 1916; thus she celebrated her 90th birthday just a few short months ago. She’d been raised in the South, spending years in Birmingham, Alabama and Alexandria, Virginia, before moving to Maryland and attending high school there.
When the stock market crashed in 1929 she was just 13 -- thus the Great Depression had a profound effect on the core values she developed as she grew up. Not many girls from families of limited means went to college in the 1930s, and though Fran was very smart a post-secondary education was not in her future.
She began a career in clerical work in the accounting office of a small business near Baltimore. A few years later she met Jack, a young engineer who worked at Proctor & Gamble’s Baltimore manufacturing plant. They were married and soon had a daughter and a son. Fran stayed home as a full time housewife and mom, while Jack brought home the bacon.
Over the years she and Jack passed on to their children the same values they had developed. These included financial conservatism, the belief that marriage was sacred and very important, that although married partners might disagree they never argued (much less fought), that a citizen should love America, that the right to vote should never be taken for granted, and that the opportunity to vote should never be missed.
They took their kids to church until the kids were old enough to make up their own minds about God. They understood the need for a good education, and sacrificed mightily to put their children through private schools and then four years of college.
Jack retired from Proctor & Gamble in 1975, and on Good Friday of 1976 he died of a sudden, massive heart attack. Fran never had any inclination to consider another marriage. She moved in with her daughter, and helped her raise the four grandchildren the daughter produced. This allowed Fran’s daughter to pursue her own career, rising to near the very top of civil service in the federal government in Washington, D.C.
As the years continued to pass, Fran’s physical capabilities diminished, but never her mental faculties. She remained just as sharp at 90 as she had been 40 years earlier.
On Monday, November 13, 2006, Fran died peacefully in her sleep. She had been experiencing fluid buildup in her lungs for a week or two before, but that seemed to be getting better. That morning, however, she went on to be reunited with Jack.
If you haven’t already figured it out, Fran was my mother.
I am in Maryland now with my sister (where the two of them have lived for decades) and will be here through the end of this week.
I’ll be back soon.