Frances Rose Meilander, of Rochester, peacefully passed away Tuesday, June 17, 2014. She was 93 and is fondly remembered as a passionate activist for "right to life" causes, along with her dedication to her late husband, and their five sons.
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Her husband, a highly decorated D-Day World War II infantry soldier, preceded her in death.
She was blessed with 15 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
She lived a "remarkable" life by anyone's standards, as she was born Nov. 28, 1920, on a family farm in rural Minnesota, to Frank and Barbara Ziegler outside of Fairfax. Never attending school beyond the eighth grade, and "against all odds" for a woman of those times, she left the farm life as a teenager by convincing her parents to allow her to move to Chicago to live with a cousin! She went from a rural farm to the second largest city in North America, armed only with an "adventurous spirit," along with an amazing combination of common sense, her great faith, a strong Catholic upbringing, along with the values of hard work, with her rural Midwestern roots, she moved!
While living in Chicago, from about 1937-1951, she worked several jobs, in her late teens, doing home care for wealthy Chicagoans, and later traveled to Mexico for fun, learned to fly a single engine airplane, joined a women's bowling league, worked at Mars Candy Factory where she learned to enjoy Snickers her entire life, and then worked for Illinois Bell Telephone! And, she was barely getting started in life! Already having experienced "The Great Depression" partially from a view of small rural farm, to one of the worlds largest cities, yet, her life truly was only beginning as World War II broke out, she continued to live in Chicago and mildly stayed in touch during the war with a neighbor and sometimes hired farm hand from her youth, who would eventually become her husband. He had enlisted in the Army prior to the war breaking out and coincidentally had also migrated to Chicago, but spent most of his time overseas after the onset of World War II.
At the time of the war, she always said she pretended not to be that interested in dad, but his persistence paid off and they were married shortly after the war. Her husband, Lawrence, was a highly decorated World War II soldier, earning two bronze stars, three purple hearts, among many other medals, and was among the first to hit the beaches of D-Day, but, he also endured the wounds of that "terrible war" as she would say. And, after the war, she continued to live and work in Chicago, where the first of their two boys were born, in 1947 and 1948, until moving back to Minnesota in 1951. Where the rest of the boys were born.
Dad bought a tavern in Taopi, that they owned from 1952-1959 until they moved to Rochester in 1960. Where she worked as a switchboard operator for the Kahler Hotel, until retirement in 1982.
Truly, her family was her mission in life. Her five boys, and dad, she lived to serve and honor all of us, but, especially had a warm spot for our dad and all he endured during the war. She taught us so much about love and forgiveness, as he later suffered disabilities from that war, something mom never shied away from in her actions and her teachings to all of us!
A "reluctant matriarch" throughout her married life and beyond, she would often be called upon to be our caring mother, the "bread winner," our nurse with wonderful home remedies, spiritual leader in prayer, church every day for her, Sunday and every Holy Day for us at minimum, but never without a day of faith. She was never wealthy by traditional definitions or cared much for material things, she always taught us we had everything we need and never asked for anything. She was thrifty, creatively wealthy in her own ways as we fondly reflect on her unique and sometimes "quirky ways" of accomplishing her goals...always giving credit to God, but somehow always a woman of actions!
With limited financial resources, somehow we went to Catholic schools, were exceptionally well nourished and fed, felt loved and safe with her as our mother, despite her working career, she made time for all, and we were guided with love to take care of ourselves and others, were taught to be kind and generous, and to value life and others rights, to be thrifty and never waste, always pray, and have a heart for those less fortunate. And, that was only a start! She lived her faith and teachings! She somehow managed to be such an amazing mother. And, upon retirement became seemingly even more active! As she continued her "mission" with her grandchildren, many of whom spent time with her great cooking, gardening, time with her when not feeling well, and sometimes nursed back to health by her. Like her boys, the grandkids also learned to pray and have faith and essentially enjoyed her unique "way of being" which was consistently an advocate for Catholic values but, always actions to accompany those beliefs! She was the most courageous and fearless person we have ever known when she needed to be, with great strength until her last breath. But, she was also the most humble and modest person we would ever know. She never wanted recognition or accolades for her accomplishments, which are too numerous to list today, but remembered by all who's lives she touched.
She was an activist for Pro Life issues and believed that one should not be passive on issues of inequality or injustice. Her volunteer work with the poorest of poor in Haiti, later in slums of Tijuana, Mexico, she helped care for orphans. She later cared for AIDS patients in Denver, which are only part of her legacy. Her affiliation with the order of nuns under Mother Theresa of India was her adopted cause after retirement and her boundless energy allowed her to travel out of the country into her 80's. And, she was physically active until almost 90, as she lived independently at her home of 52 years, gardening, driving or walking to church daily, participating in perpetual adoration at Resurrection Catholic Church, but a member of the St. Francis Assisi parish until the end of her amazing life.
Frances is preceded in death by her late brother and two sisters.
She is survived by two sisters, Julia of New Ulm and Ella of St. George. She is also survived by her five sons, the oldest to youngest, John (Janice), Larry (Luisa), Frank (Jill), Tom, and Joe (Janet). She is also survived by 15 grandkids and 12 great-grandchildren.
Flowers are not encouraged as she would want donations or memorials to go to St. Francis of Assisi Church to be designated to charities by the church in her spirit of giving to those in need!
A funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, June 20, at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, with the Rev. Mark C. McNea officiating. A visitation will be held at 9 a.m. Friday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, with burial at Calvary Cemetery, and a lunch will follow at the church.
Online condolences are welcome at mackenfuneralhome.com.
Published in The Post-Bulletin on June 18, 2014