Frances (Wisniewski) Blake, 95, peacefully entered into eternal rest on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, at Windham Memorial Hospital, surrounded by her beloved family, after a courageous battle against congestive heart failure.
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Born Frances Josephine Wisniewski on Oct. 25, 1917, in Reading, Pa., Fran utilized her lovely voice by working as an operator, and then supervisor, for Bell Telephone, as a young adult. But, Pennsylvania couldn't hold her forever. New York City beckoned, and she traveled there in the mid-40's to follow her life-long dream and to find her destiny. There she met, fell in love with, and married Benjamin Charles Blake, a commercial art director (who predeceased her in 1986, at the age of 76). The couple lived with their son and daughter in various cities and towns within New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut during their 40-year marriage. Over the years, Fran held various jobs including department head of EKG and EEG in two Westchester County (N.Y.) hospitals. She was also the office manager for a New York painting company, as well as for renowned Dr. Henry Heimlich's practice in New Rochelle, N.Y. Fran always loved a good party – especially any family celebration – and wanted to be in the center of all the activity so that she didn't miss a thing. She did a lot of entertaining as a suburbanite in the 50's – with a cocktail in one hand, and a cigarette (in a long, elegant cigarette holder) in the other. Over the years, her cocktail-of-choice became a "dirty" dry vodka martini with extra olives (which she continued to have daily up until her death – and weekly with her daughter during their "Mom & Martini" nights). She also kept her mind active by working continuously on challenging crossword puzzles and word games. Since living in Willimantic, her favorite restaurants were the Willimantic Brewing Company and Nita's Restaurant (where they named a breakfast sandwich after her – the "Franwich"). At the age of 75, Fran "discovered her voice" and took lessons at Singers Forum in New York City, under the tutelage of famed voice teacher, Andy Anselmo. She was talented enough to produce and star in three one-woman N.Y.C. cabaret shows (to standing-room-only audiences) – holding the last one at the age of 85. She amazed her family and friends. In spite of stage fright, she also had supporting roles in several musicals and plays (from Shakespeare to Sondheim) in a way-off-Broadway private theater in the 1980's and 1990's. She was a true marvel and was loved and admired by all who had the privilege of meeting and knowing her. "Granny Franny" (as she was affectionately called after the birth of her great-grandchildren) always looked ahead to her next adventure and never looked back with any regret. She embraced all people and endeavored to teach us all to be non-judgmental. She was also a very spiritual person who participated in a weekly conference call with her son and several Scripture scholars who study The Holy Books.
Fran is survived by her "two angels" – son, Robert Blake, of Guilford, N.Y., and daughter, Betty Comolli (and her husband, Bruce), of Tolland. She also leaves behind two adored granddaughters, Christine Skelley (and partner, Mike Mace) of Glastonbury, and Kathy Kaplan (and husband, Greg) of New Fairfield and N.Y.C.; two cherished great-grandchildren, Cassidy and Cameron Stiepock; and two step-grandchildren, Justin Comolli and Leigha Comolli Then (and husband, Chris); as well as a nephew, nieces, and cousins (and their families) in Pennsylvania. Fran is also predeceased by her brother, Albert Warner, and sister, Elsie Piontek.
In lieu of a traditional funeral service, the family is planning a celebration of Fran's remarkable life at a party to be held in the spring.
Published in Journal Inquirer from Feb. 16 to Feb. 20, 2013