Frances Ann Mitchell "Granny Fran" passed away peacefully on July 3, 2013.
Frances was born in Anderson, Mo., on March 30, 1931, to Archie and Iva Vanwinkel. She stayed on the farm until her late teens, then moved to Eagle Point, Ore., where she met and married Marshall Caster. They had a daughter, Beth, and son, Mark, while Frances was a homemaker and Marshall worked in the woods. Marshall passed away early, leaving Frances a single mom. She moved to White City, Ore., to raise her children.
On July 3, 1965, she needed an air conditioner installed and asked a friend for a recommendation of someone to do the work. Harold D. Mitchell showed up at her door with tools in hand. Six weeks later, they were married in Carson City, Nev. Frances' family grew from three to eight in six short weeks. Harold had four kids to add to the mix. With time, everyone found their place.
In April 1968, Frances and Harold packed up all the kids and one dog and headed to Fairbanks. With one week's notice, the family was on the road, heading north for a carpenter job. Frances made all the kids do their homework and write in their journals each day while Harold did the driving. To entertain the horde, she read out loud "Travels with Charley" or some such book. On May 4, 1968, the Mitchells landed in Fairbanks.
After one run back to Oregon the first winter, Frances and Harold purchased property on Chena Ridge and decided Fairbanks was for them. After numerous years and two houses, they decided to move to town. Frances was a stay-at-home mom until all the kids got through high school. She went to work at the Tanana Valley Clinic on the front desk. She loved that job; mostly the people. The "Clinic" stories were told up until the last week of her life.
Frances was game to go hunting, fishing and camping, even with five kids. She canned, froze and cooked all the catch and game to make ends meet. She loved to read, knit and learned to love sports. She attended sporting events for all the kids and became a Chicago Cubs fan. She loved to watch the Chicago Cubs play the Atlanta Braves, Harold's team. For many years, Frances and Harold ran the Fairbanks Trap Club.
When Harold retired, they took to the road again. Yearly trips took her back to family in Oregon, California, Texas and Missouri. She spent many a day watching Harold shoot trap, and visiting and making new friends from all over the country. The summers and grandkids brought them back to Alaska. When the traveling got too much, Frances and Harold settled down again in Fairbanks on Alston Road in 2001. Frances became an avid crossword puzzler, reader and Harold's biggest garden fan.
In May 2010, after a couple of illnesses, Frances moved into the Fairbanks Pioneer Home. Almost every day, Harold came to take Frances to breakfast or home for a short visit that included lunch at home and a chance to watch the birds eating at the feeder that Harold built for her.
Frances was preceded in death by her parents and many of her siblings, and her stepsons, Harold, Jeff and Jon Mitchell.
Frances leaves behind her loving husband, Harold D. Mitchell; daughter, Elizabeth Caster; son, Mark Caster; step-daughter, Susan M. Ellison (John); grandsons, Jason Ozimkoski and John Mitchell (Jennifer); granddaughters, Ariel Ellison and Kelli Johanson (Jason); brother, Wally Pearson (Pam); grandsons, Monte Pearson (Cathy) and Jesse Pearson (Stephanie); Melissa Meeker (Russ); brother, Leo Pearson (Patty); grandsons, Chris Pearson (Janice); Vince Pearson (Sheila), and many great-grandkids.
The family would like to thank the Fairbanks Pioneer Home for making Frances' last years a loving home-like environment. In lieu of flowers, please make donations - money or your time - to the Fairbanks Pioneer Home, 2221 Eagan Ave., Fairbanks, AK 99701.
A celebration of life potluck will be held at 4 p.m., July 28, 2013, at 1503 Second Ave. Call Sue Ellison at 590-1152.