To our family and friends...
On January 23, 2021
we celebrated the life of
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Fran Ward's Life
Frances Ellet Ward, known to all as Fran or Grammer, passed away of natural causes on December 29th, 2020, in Portland, OR, after achieving the milestone she promised to many: 100 years of living. And what a hundred years they were! Born November 21, 1920 in Palo Alto, CA, she was the youngest of Charles Ellet and Martha Blois Ellet’s seven children and a twin to her closest sister, Elizabeth (Isbe). She was predeceased by her husband of 63 years, Curtis Ward, her oldest daughter, Joy Martin, her oldest son, Larry Ward, and her grandson Gary Ward. She is survived by her son Jonathan Ward (Colorado Springs, CO), her daughter Nancy Heine (Jalisco, Mexico), 15 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandchild. To say she left a large impact on the world would be an understatement.
Growing up, Fran was very close with her family, both immediate and extended. She played violin in orchestra, sang in multiple choirs, and was an all-star baseball player. She loved bluebirds and Shirley Temple movies. After two years of college at San Jose State, she married her first husband, Arnold Rose, with whom she had two children, Joy and Larry. After a divorce eight years later, she moved with her two children to Palo Alto, CA, and in early 1950 was working at Varian Associates as a cafeteria manager when she met the “Light of my life,” Curt Ward, when she asked him as he came through the lunch line, “Do you play bridge?” “Love the game, love the game,” he replied with a twinkle in his eye. As they both described it, “bells rang,” and thus began a partnership, life-long love, and marriage that spanned two states and 63 years. In December 1950, they were married in Palo Alto, CA, and eventually had two more children, Jon and Nancy. In 1957 they moved to Los Altos, where they were robust community members for the next 24 years.
Fran was a passionate mother (often known as “the mother everyone wished they had”), an open-hearted cat and dog lover, and a devoted community member. In addition to her full-time position raising her children, she oversaw many camping trips, was nearly always the leader of a Girl Scout troop, and helped organize large group picnics. In 1971, she was initiated into the P.E.O. Sisterhood, a philanthropic educational organization raising money for women in higher education, and remained an enthusiastic, steadfast member for the next 49 years. She was also an artist, from perfectly identifiable animal pancakes for her grandkids to her exquisitely detailed china painting of bluebirds. From making braided and hooked rugs to taking stained glass-making classes to aqua aerobics to shopping only at thrift stores to her gardening club, if you named it, Fran was game to try it. She had a zest for life.
In 1981, Los Altos bid a sad but fond farewell to the couple they called “the Sunshine Girl and the Solar Kid,” and she and Curt moved to Stayton, Oregon, for their “retirement.” Anyone who met Fran and her husband during their Stayton tenure would laugh at the word retirement as applied to the Wards – they were vital, passionate community members and volunteers, overseeing many projects including the Jordan Bridge relocation (and its refurbishment and rebuilding…and its second all-new rebuilding), the enclosure of the Stayton Community Pool, the Stayton High School cafeteria, and one of their most important projects, the Stayton Public Library. They oversaw the fundraising initiatives as well as design and build phases of these and numerous other community endeavors, and they were often asked to be the local Santa and Mrs. Claus. And in the meantime, they never stopped playing bridge – and were a wickedly good team. And they visited everything interesting in Oregon there was to see.
In 2005 they retired (again) to Sublimity, Oregon, where they lived a much quieter life, tending to their enormous garden (a constant of their homes beginning in Palo Alto – many of their grandchildren have wonderful memories of picking raspberries, only half of which were required to make it back to the house, per Grammar and Gramper’s rules) and entertaining frequent visits from their growing numbers of children/grandchildren. Favorite activities at Grammer and Gramper’s included picking out “your” napkin ring and teacup from her large collection for the duration of your visit.
After Curt’s passing in 2014, Fran moved to a retirement community in Gresham, Oregon, to be closer to her oldest two children and their families. She enthusiastically became a vital part of the social life there, calling herself a “party girl” as she moved from Wii bowling to bunko to bingo to bridge games. While she missed Curt terribly, she reminded us that she’d promised to live to 100 (“Only the good die young - I’m gonna live to be 100 years old!”) and that she wasn’t leaving yet. After a stroke in 2018, she moved to another retirement community, where she spent the remaining two years of her life endearing herself to the entire staff, who noted upon her passing that she never complained about anything ever and was the kindest, sweetest resident they’d ever had.
Fran was an eternally cheerful optimist, an open-minded and fervent Christian, a lifelong Republican, and a “collector of people.” She went through extremely challenging times at multiple points in her life but refused at any time to let her spirit be dimmed. Family and friends meant everything to her. She loved enormous family reunions and get-togethers with both the Ellet and Ward clans. She kept meticulous track of the birthdays of everyone she loved (and sang “Happy Birthday to You” with a memorable music box in the background), and she always knew both the complete history and the latest news about anyone within her family and extensive friend list. Her rhyming Christmas cards were an annual delight for decades. When you met Fran, you felt seen and cared for, even if you were a complete stranger.
While all who knew her happily wish her on her way to unlimited bridge games with Curt, she will be deeply missed and forever, lovingly remembered.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family is requesting that donations be sent to the following causes close to Fran's heart.
P.E.O. Chapter FW, Oregon
Fran was a member of the philanthropic education organization, P.E.O., for almost 50 years. The group raises money to support women in higher education.
Please send checks, made out to
P.E.O. Chapter FW,
to Dawn Frank, PO Box 79,
Mill City, OR 87360
Stayton Friends of the Library
Fran (and her husband Curt) were founding members of the Stayton Friends of the Library organization that supports the Stayton Public Library.
Donations can be made online at http://www.staytonfol.org/ (scroll to the bottom of the page), or please send checks, made out to Stayton Friends of the Library, to
PO Box 754, Stayton, OR 97383