Remembering East New Market’s Frances Anderson

MD-frances 2x in later years-090715

Special to Dorchester Banner
Frances Anderson in her later years “dressed to the nines” for working in her garden.

EAST NEW MARKET — It was a quiet, reverent moment in St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in East New Market which, from when it was de-consecrated in the mid-2000s, was a second home for Frances Anderson. Her funeral was small, half relatives/half friends. Frances, or “Se-Se” as she was affectionately known, was buried from the church she loved. Her earthly body lay in a beautiful casket at the front of the church. Her presence was sensed, almost seen, sitting upright on a hard, polished wooden pew on the left-hand side of the historic church.

Frances was complex. She was strong, generous, ethical, and hard-working. She was a devout Christian and her dedication to St. Stephen’s lasted until dementia caused her to forget.

Who was she? For East New Market Mayor Caroline Cline, “she was a lady. Frances had a lot of the qualities that we all wish we had … Loyalty, kindness, generosity.” She was definite in her opinions but easy to get along with, says Chuck Hurley. For him there were “loving moments and moments you didn’t particularly want to hear, but all said lovingly. It was unique.”

Officiating at her service David Tolley said that “Se-Se’s” life on earth is over but while she was here she was constantly giving of herself so others might benefit. She took pride in what she did.” An Episcopalian, she taught Sunday school at the Methodist Church because, said Mr. Tolley, “She wanted to give herself to educate others in the word of God. People’s lives were enriched knowing her.”

East New Market resident Chuck Hurley knew Frances well, and explains “She meant a lot to a lot of people. You knew how she felt. You knew where you stood with her. She loved people and while she kept some distance she was very accepting.”

Following a brief marriage to and subsequent divorce from Walter Anderson, Frances remained close to her mother-in-law, Mrs. Edgar Twilley. The women were so close in fact that Frances moved to East New market in 1946 to live in an upstairs apartment in the Twilley house. Even after the divorce Frances referred to Mrs. Twilley as “Mother.” Chuck Hurley explains that in the close relationship between Frances, her friends, relatives and her mother-in-law, “there was never a bitter moment between anyone. She stood her ground and I liked that. And, she never let adverse circumstances control her life.”

Kirk Hurley notes in the internet site “The Collins Factor” that after Mrs. Twilley’s death in 1966, Frances inherited the house across the street from the Twilley house, known as the “Tilghman Andrews” house.
During the late 1940s Frances worked at a music store. In 1956 she joined Bata Shoe Co. in Cambridge. When the store closed in 1978 she worked in Salisbury Mall shoe stores until her retirement.

Frances was devoted to everything in which she participated. Mr. Tolley says, “She cared about every customer. She was especially concerned about how the displays looked in the front windows and always wanted to put her best foot forward.”

After she retired she worked seasonally in a Cambridge dress shop. Mr. Hurley described her fashion sense. “Everything she wore matched to a ‘T’. She was perfectly dressed.” He adds that “Ms. Frances was very much a perfectionist in all that she did, dress or whatever. She knew what she liked; and she loved what she liked.”

Frank Bittner remembers Frances as always being dressed “to the nines.” He says, “During a time when most women of the 1950s in her neighborhood dressed for doing house chores or help on family farms, Frances was smartly dressed for doing business. Everyone noticed and admired her outfits.” Slim and stylish, even her cigarette holders matched her outfits. She smoked highly filtered Carlton cigarettes in highly filtered holders. “She could almost claim she really didn’t smoke at all,” says Mr. Bittner.

“I cut her grass and delivered the paper to her and worked for her off and on seasonally at the Bata Shoe store,” says Mr. Hurley. Even though he left East New Market from 1958 to 1998 he kept in touch with Frances. He explains she was secretary for the Historic District Commission for a number of years and notes that after her tenure “nobody took minutes in the detailed fashion she did.”

Frances cared for St. Stephen’s even when no one but she attended. She made sure it was immaculate. For Chuck Hurley, “If she loved something it was unconditional. Period.” On Sundays, long after St. Stephens no longer held services, Frances reverently lit the candles, neatened the vestry, opened the books to the appropriate page, and ensured the lights were on.

Nephew Herbert Marshall has vivid memories of his aunt. He lived in Hebron but visited his grandparents near Beach Haven each summer. On Saturdays, he says, “I’d call my aunt who worked in Cambridge to find out if I could spend the night with her if I came in town to go to the movies. She agreed but we had to attend church on Sundays of course.”

“My aunt and my mom asked me out of nowhere if I would like to move in with aunt Frances. I agreed. “As a kid I would cut her grass. She never allowed me to cut the grass on Sunday because that was the Lord’s Day. But,” he chuckles, “it was alright to go in the store and take inventory.” She told him “I don’t care how long you stay out (on the weekend) you’d better be at church on Sunday morning and I always was.”

“She was pretty strict but she taught me how to handle money. From the day I graduated from high school I paid rent and car insurance. She was tough on me but she was good to me.”

When Frances’ sister Adilyn was ill, Herb says, “My aunt tried to protect everybody when my mom was in the hospital. She put a hospital bed in her back room and we all took care of her. All through my life, even as a child, when things got bad at home my aunt would come and take everybody away, my mom and all the kids” including Herb’s four sisters.

Mayor Cline lived across the street from Frances. They served together on the East New Market Heritage Foundation and the Historic District Commission. “I miss her. There’s been no one quite like her since,” says Ms. Cline. “Sometimes I would call her in the morning and say ‘Frances, are you busy this morning?’ and she would say, ‘well, let me check my calendar.’ Of course she knew she wasn’t and she’d call back and say ‘well, no I’m free, what did you have in mind?’ And I would say, ‘let’s drive up to Jimmy’s Grill and eat.’” Ms. Cline loved Frances’ spiced pecans. “I would say ‘Frances I want the recipe for this.’ She said, ‘I can’t. I’ve never shared this with anyone.’ Finally she said ‘someday I’ll give it to you.’ That day never dawned.”

When dementia struck in 2006 she entered a nursing home where she remained until her recent death. “I stopped and saw her last April,” says her nephew. “She had gotten frail and didn’t remember me. She smiled but couldn’t talk anymore.”

Friends or relatives stricken with dementia slowly fade away. Nursing home visits are few as visitors turn into strangers. Chuck Hurley notes, “She became so forgotten that basically not many people visited her except for family and then they came sparingly.” People, he says, “get busy and forget about what’s really important.”

Kirk Hurley’s tribute to her memory: “Mother to many, mother of none … She gave all her ear but also her words. There was wisdom, and grace, beauty and music … so much music and understanding and faith…”

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.