In honor of our 30th year, we thought it only appropriate to revisit a profile of one of our very favorite people on this earth who is also one of our very first writers of 30 years. The original profile was written in 2006 and much of it is reprinted in this space.
We sat down with Franny the K a couple of weeks ago to catch up with her and to say a belated Happy 83rd Birthday and Merry Christmas all at the same time and asked if she minded of we ran her profile again. After some cajoling she agreed. The following is credited to OTC contributing writer Peggy Arvidson:
Franny Kilpatrick loves her family. On a recent Saturday afternoon over shrimp and avocado salad and coffee in the brick-walled, sunny dining room of Landini Brothers, this vivacious, genteel and multi-talented woman shared secrets of balancing career, philanthropy and family.
Long-time readers of the Old Town Crier will recognize Franny as my predecessor writing the Personality Profile column sporadically throughout the past thirty years. “Writing for the Crier was really satisfying in so many ways-but mostly, I was touched by the opportunity to hear and share so many life stories,” quotes Franny.
From Alabama through Rhodes College in Memphis Tennessee where she achieved an English degree to the University of Minnesota where she completed her Master degree in Journalism, Franny’s been collecting life stories.
She insists her focus since meeting and marrying husband, Jim, has been on raising kids – they are the proud parents of two grown children, and grandparents to “three perfect grandchildren,” Matthew; Megan and Joseph, “they are the greatest thing in my life!”
When they moved from Illinois back to Memphis, she taught part-time in the Journalism Department of Memphis State, and thinks she may have made a career in the world of academia. During their time in Memphis, Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated and Jim’s reporting on the tragedy as a stringer for Time, CBS, Reuters, and other media outlets led to a job in New York.
Although her first priority was raising a family, Franny found time for other pursuits, including teaching in her church’s nursery school (where she found she had a natural affinity for the much younger set). She had a travel piece on Hershey Pennsylvania published in Better Homes and Gardens.
In the early 70’s she was a contestant on the original Jeopardy! “I finally decided I should put my money where my mouth was and take the test to be on the show. “ This was during the early days of the now iconic game show. “Back then everyone left with the money they’d won and a set of encyclopedias. I came in second, but at least the man who beat me went on to become a five-time champion.”
Franny remembered nearly verbatim the topic and answer for Final Jeopardy. The topic was “Flora and Fauna”. Thinking she knew little about either, she bet little. Had she bet more, she may well have continued on, as she was the only contestant to correctly guess the question to the following (paraphrased) answer. “The school children of Massachusetts presented a chair in honor of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made in this kind of wood.” A literature buff, Franny knew that the line in The Village Blacksmith, written by Longfellow, began “Under the Chestnut Tree…”
She also continued her connection to her religious faith. She is a member of the congregation of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, where she’s involved in various philanthropic endeavors. “As we get older, those relationships at church really make all the difference. I think it’s important that those folks like me, religious but not religious right let others know that their faith is important, so that we can dispel the stereotype of all churchgoers being religious right.”
It’s important for her to give back to the community in many ways, she was a volunteer reading tutor for area high school schoolchildren because she knows that people who learn to read by second grade have a higher chance of succeeding in life than those who struggle with reading. “Everyone who possibly can – should volunteer.”
After settling in Alexandria, which she calls “the best place in the world to live.” Franny continued writing both for the Connection Papers and for the Old Town Crier. Rumor has it that shortly after they began publication of the Crier, Franny called and said, “You’ve got a great idea, but boy do you need some help!”
Over the years at the Crier, she says, “it was the process of doing the interviews that I really liked. Everybody has a story if you dig deep enough.” – Peggie Arvidson
While we try to get together with Franny several times during the course of the year, sometimes the time just flies by too quickly. When we broached the subject of the profile she gave us a bit of a “refresher” course in what has been going on in her life since December of 2006.
She tells us, “I am a charter member of Mount Vernon at Home, because I want to stay in my home and be active in my community. This village concept offers friends, activities and support when I need it to live this way.
I did some volunteer tutoring years ago, and decided, at 83, I could still help out, so I am going to do that again. I recommend it. Being around children is invigorating and it does help busy teachers. (Contact the Alexandria Tutoring Consortium for details).
During the 90s, my husband, Jim, and I produced five editions of “The Winning Edge, The Student-Athlete’s Guide to College Sports”. It was interesting work and explained to parents, students and guidance counselors, a simple to understand outline of the NCAA rules, what to look for on campus and the athletics department and how to stress athletic ability to help gain admission.
Nine years ago, I became a widow after a very happy marriage, two great children, three fine grandchildren, and two super in-law children. That would have been enough, but later I found a second love in my life. Not only is Stan a good and funny man, but we are lucky that we have not fallen prey to what some windowed people do.
[Pause here for a WARNING: Loneliness is a terrible thing, especially if you have had a good marriage and miss that. BUT run if someone, man or woman, courts you and then asks for money – or has this great business opportunity if only he or she could get umpteen dollars to invest. People have lost everything falling for this scam. And, ladies, if you get the idea a man is looking for a cook, housekeeper and nurse, get the heck out, unless this is what you miss.]
I agree with something that wonderful woman, the late Vola Lawson, said to me. She had done many important things for Alexandria, but her proudest accomplishment, she said, was her famiIy. How blessed to be able to say, me,too.
That said, my life has been richer for all the people I’ve worked with, known, listened to, written about, because of the Crier. Happy Anniversary…..”
Thank you Francis, we look forward to many more sessions with you in the New Year.