Tom died in 2000, and Fran moved to Springfield to be near her daughter, Dawn, who is a schoolteacher at Susan Wilcox elementary school. She bought a small house on Illinois Street, and did a lot of work to make it cozy. Fran would often ask me to come over to work on things that she couldn’t do. I enjoyed helping her, but never wanted pay, so she would always have a couple cold beers in the fridge to pay me with. We would sit at her kitchen table, and talk about how she loved it when the kids were little, and all the neighborhood kids would hang out at her and Tom’s house. Then she would always tear up, and tell me how lonely she was with her husband gone, and the kids grown up and on their own now. I would tear up with her, because here was this wonderful 72-year-old lady, with the mind and stature of a 40-year-old, with so much to offer, but so lonely.
In the winter, she would leave a sled in her trunk. And if she rode by Pasfield Park, and the kids were sledding, she would park her car and climb up the hills, and have a ball sledding down the hills with the kids.
Last December at our office Christmas party, Fran would wear her daughter out dancing. We all laughed and said “That’s our Fran.” Then, to everyone’s amazement, Fran suddenly died of a heart attack on Jan. 31, 2010. We talk about Fran all the time. And this year’s Christmas party, or any year’s for that matter, will never be the same.