If it was Sunday evening, it was potluck night at the Ball-Trevor household.
While Raymond and Mike were in the kitchen, their three kids were anxiously looking out the window for their neighbor Fran Wolfe, crossing fingers that she was walking up the sidewalk with a Tupperware full of her homemade applesauce.
“Oh, that applesauce was so good,” their daughter Willow recalled.
But it was the conversations about life, the reflections on the most recent book she was reading, and the way she loved their children that Ray and Mike remember most about the neighbor who became part of their family.
Fran passed way at the age of 77 earlier this year, and to memorialize her legacy, the couple established the Frances S. Wolfe Memorial Scholarship at the Quad Cities Community Foundation. Fran’s three adult children are also planning to make gifts to the fund, which will award its first scholarship to a graduate of Davenport Central High School in 2021.
“She’d probably be ticked that we did this,” Raymond said with a chuckle. “She didn’t like recognition.”
And yet, “she would be so honored and humbled by this gesture,” Fran’s son Brendan Wolfe said from his home in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he works for the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation. “My mom loved learning — she loved the trappings of education. Learning meant so much to her.”
A life-long resident of the Quad Cities, Fran was born in Moline in 1942, the eighth child of Willis Edward and Marie Coletta Jardon Cupp. She attended St. Mary’s Academy in Nauvoo, Illinois, a boarding school that she later said was one of “the best experiences of my life.” She graduated as the salutatorian.
Fran was the beneficiary of a scholarship a half-century ago. “Her father was a pretty conservative dude — he wasn’t going to pay for my mother to go to college, so she went and won a scholarship to Marycrest College,” Brendan said. “She showed him.”
She went on to teach English in Walcott and African American literature at Davenport Central High School before quitting to raise her children. Years later, she worked at Moline Public Hospital and Modern Woodmen of America.
Seventeen years ago, shortly before she retired, she met Raymond. They first connected over literature. “We shared a love for the same book, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving,” Raymond said.
She watched as Raymond’s relationship with Mike grew, from courtship to marriage to the parents of three children. “Are you sure you want to adopt three kids at the same time?” Mike recalled her asking the couple. They were sure, and from that moment on she never missed a basketball game the kids were playing in, a concert they were singing in, or a Sunday potluck.
“She lived a simple life,” Mike said, “and liked to be in her comfort zone. She had never been out of the U.S. or Canada,” that is, until the couple invited her on a tour of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. “We were taking my grandmother and niece on a trip, and we found plane tickets. We called her up, told her she had one hour to decide, and hung up the phone.”
“We rented a guest house for the five of us in southern Germany, and had plans for a day trip to Salzburg,” Raymond said. “She didn’t want to go, opting instead to sit on the balcony and look out at the vast world in front of her. I had never seen someone moved to tears from the beauty of the world, until that moment.
The scholarship is the Ball-Trevor’s way of celebrating Fran’s life, and the legacy she left behind. For Brendan and his two sisters, Bridget and Sara, it is also “beautiful proof of the kind of people Raymond and Mike are. We’re all really thrilled to be part of it.”
“I’m really, really proud of my mom. I’m really proud she’s going to be honored in this way,” Brendan said. “She deserves it, for sure.”
From Ray Ball-Trevor:
Starting off as neighbors 17 years ago, we had no idea the priceless times we would spend together. Fran’s kids live out of town and are not always able to make it home for holidays, so she was a welcome regular to our holiday tables. Our Christmases were scenes out of a Norman Rockwell painting with Fran reading Christmas stories to us from her New Yorker holiday storybook.
Easter won’t be the same with out Fran’s (life-changing) scalloped pineapple casserole on the table. You could always linger at the table knowing Fran would be the last one eating, enjoying each bite.
From Raven Ball-Trevor:
Miss Fran was like a great friend to us. She was always here for me and my family. If we needed help (like a spare key to our house if we forgot it), or just wanted to talk, we could walk to her house to visit. I love how she came to all of my band and choir concerts. Whenever we went to her house, she would always have a snack out. She had us over for dinner a lot. When we were little, she didn’t want us going in her basement, so she told us a story of how a bear lived in the basement.