Reflection on “Aunt” Sister Frances Whitman

Written on: March 29, 2017

Reflections on Sister Frances Whitman from her niece, Marian Hughes

Frances, my dear Aunt Frances.  What words can I use to describe how much you meant to me; mentor, friend, more than an aunt, sister.

Growing up she played with me as though we were the same age making me feel very valuable.  We walked to school together for a year before she graduated and moved on to college.  Since first grade was dismissed earlier, I was to walk over to the high school building and sit on the front stoop to wait for her to come out so we could walk home together. All was well until one day it got later and later, and no Frances was coming out the door.  What to do?  No choice- just sit and wait with full confidence she would show up at some point.  After what seemed an eternity, I saw her walking towards me from across the street.  She had forgotten and had walked home only to find my grandmother saying, “Where’s Marian?”

Needless to say she returned for her charge.

As we got older we went to confession together often then out for a fun dinner.  Still later, we traveled a bit taking a memorable trip to NY City taking in the opera, plays, museums, and certainly delicious meals.  All planning was before the internet, so her skills were put to work writing for reservations and tickets.

Later still we belonged to the Cathedral Club which was a singles group at Christ the King.  Frances was a secretary at an architectural firm in Atlanta.  One day she said to me, “I know someone here at the firm that I would like you to meet”.  She brought him to the next gathering and two years later Tom and I were married.  Guess her instinct proved correct.

Still later, Tom was offered a job in New Haven.  Since he had gone up earlier, Frances thoughtfully volunteered to fly with me and our two little ones.  Then a couple of years later, she was up for a visit.  We went to a local Rathskeller for dinner.  After a bit, she said,

“I have something to tell you.  I have had a special dispensation from the Pope to join the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart and become a nun”.

Though a big decision, were we surprised?  Yes and no.  She would be a perfect nun.  And indeed she was.  Jumped in with both feet and had a wonderful 50-odd years in her vocation.

After she and Pierrette moved to Yardley, my two girls and I were able to visit.  They are located in DC so every trip I would take to see them, we would make a day trip to Yardley for a visit and often lunch at one of the local Inn’s.  A good time was had by all chatting and laughing and catching up.

Circumstances don’t allow me to be there with you all, but know I am there in spirit with you to say goodbye to our dear friend, Frances.


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