Margaret Frances Ward (“Frannie”) was born in Woodson County, on May 1, 1931, to Rosa Belle (Pendlay) Knowles and Alva Earl (“Bill”) Knowles. She was an expert fisherwoman and an avid Royals fan.
Frannie met Keith Ward at the county fair in the summer of 1947. She really wanted to ride the Ferris wheel but lacked money for a ticket. Keith, who Frannie described as having a smile that went from ear to ear, asked her to ride the Ferris wheel with him. She accepted. He then asked if he could take her home. She refused. When he asked why not, she said “Tell me a thousand reasons why you should!” They married the next year at New York Valley Church, when Frannie was only 17. Her parents had to sign the marriage certificate.
Keith and Frannie had three children: Sherilyn Jean Clarke, Yates Center, Larry Dale Ward, Wichita and Rosan Marie Williams, Yates Center. Frannie studied for and received her GED from Yates Center High School in 1973, the same year Dale graduated from high school. It was a joyous accomplishment for Frannie.
Keith and Frannie operated and later owned the Yates Center Elevator. On the side, Frannie fixed hair and worked in a nursing home where she took care of several mentally disabled adults. She loved working at the nursing home and continued to do so until it closed. A strong Christian, her favorite Bible verse was Hebrews 13:2: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.” Frannie always believed that disabled adults were angels on earth, and she believed that everyone she met was important. Perhaps that attitude was what drew people, even strangers, to her. Many times such meetings ended with Frannie asking “Would you like for me to pray for you?”
After Keith lost the elevator, Frannie opened Frannie’s Git and Go, a small restaurant on the southeast corner of the square in Yates Center, where she served as many as 150 people a day for only a dollar a meal, plus another dollar for pie. The owner of the local sewing factory asked her to start delivering meals to his workers because they were eating food from the vending machines for lunch and it was slowing production in the afternoon. He asked Frannie to provide his workers with a lunch equivalent in price to a can of pop and bag of chips, but more nutritious. And so it began … soon others wanted in on it and she was delivering meals all over town. Eventually Frannie also started delivering meals to shut-ins, widows and widowers, primarily because she was concerned for their well-being. She gained notoriety for her unique approach to restaurant management and was featured in several national magazines. She was interviewed for the Washington Post and Woman’s Day, and appeared on NBC, ABC and CBS. She was invited to appear on the Ellen DeGeneres show, but declined. She was also very excited to be featured in Larry Hatteberg’s book “Kansas People.”
Frannie was close to her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. She was a member of the First Baptist Church, First Nazarene Church and later the Yates Center United Methodist Church.
Frannie was preceded in death by her parents, her siblings, and her husband, Keith Eugene Ward. She was also preceded in death by her second husband, Pete Milner. Frannie is survived by her three children; her daughter-in-law, Teddi Lynn Ward; her grandchildren Tony Emert, Lisa (Ward) Botkin and husband Troy, and Kacey (Clarke) Preston; seven great-grandsons; and one great-great-grandson.
Private family funeral services will take place today at Campbell Funeral Home in Yates Center.
Graveside services will follow at 2:30 p.m. today at Yates Center Graceland Cemetery. The public is invited to attend the graveside service. Masks and social distancing will be required. Please respect the space of the family and others attending.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Yates Center United Methodist Church or Gideons International and may be sent in care of Campbell Funeral Home, PO Box 188, Yates Center, KS 66783.