Frances Clark NAIL
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NAIL, Frances Clark

Frances Clark Nail left this world December 18, 2013, after standing her ground with humor and strength against lung cancer. Born January 29, 1924, in Memphis, Texas, Frances was the youngest child of Catherine (Kate) Key Ayers Clark and Frederick Vivien Clark. She was predeceased by her parents and siblings, Freddy, who died in childhood, John, Lois Clark Carter, and Bobbye Clark Beavers. They called her Tootsie. Her father was a pharmacist and owned a drugstore on the town square, for a while. Frances knew the Great Depression, dust storms, mad dogs and bootleggers in Memphis, and the happiness of a noisy family of huggers and kissers, and daring childhood adventures. She grew up to become a yeller dawg Democrat, a newspaper addict, an artist and a writer.

The family moved to Lubbock, where Frances met Paul Conrad Nail the summer they were both seventeen. Frances studied journalism and art at Texas Tech, and would have earned a degree if she could have passed French 101. She worked at Lubbock Army Airfield during World War II. After the war Paul finished his engineering degree, and they married and moved to Houston in 1948.

Frances and Paul had two daughters. Frances led the Brownie troops, drove the carpools, sewed the costumes and kept things interesting. She formed many fast friendships and threw a decades-long string of legendary neighborhood Christmas Eve parties. She also served as president of the TSPE ladies' auxiliary, holding many a tea party-complete with a silver tea service-for engineers' wives. Through it all, Frances continued to develop as an artist. She studied with the major Houston artists of the '60s and earned a degree from the Houston Museum of Fine Art, now the Glassell School of Art. She was active in arts organizations and her work appeared in many juried shows and gallery exhibitions. During the Houston years the family had a beach house on the west end of Galveston Island. There were countless walks on the beach, shark's teeth, pots of gumbo, and winter weekends holed up listening to Leonard Cohen and reading, reading, reading.

In 1979 Frances and Paul moved to the Lakeway house that Paul designed, with a grand view of Lake Travis from a world-class front porch. Paul died young in 1985. Always the teller of family tales, at age 70 Frances became a writer. She published four books of autobiographical and personal essays and was often invited to read at book clubs and library events. Many fans came to know her Texas twang from readings and interviews on John Aielli's Eklektikos program on KUT-FM. A highlight of the era was the production of a play based on her work. Austin's late diva Karen Kuykendall portrayed Frances in the one-woman play "I'm Not the Woman I Was," bringing all the poignancy and humor that Frances had achieved in the writing. In 2006 Frances moved to the Posada del Rey condo in downtown Austin that she and Paul had purchased in 1981. She loved it there and relished being "where the action is."

Frances is survived by daughters Leslie Nail and Katy Nail, Katy's husband, Jim Swift, Katy's daughter, Carrie Rodriguez (her only grandchild, adored and duly cherished), and Carrie's partner, Luke Jacobs. Nieces and nephews, some already departed, were much loved and appreciated. She treasured her many friends and the great times they shared. She taught us how to sit quietly and absorb the beauty of the moment, or maybe the whole afternoon-a Mahalia Jackson Christmas hymn, crows cawing in the distance, or the view from the window of the study where you should probably be working on something. And she always knew what was funny. So grateful for all the wisdom and fun, we will miss her.

We'd like to thank the caregivers who helped us more than we can say: Beulah Harris, Mary Bailey, Karen Majeski, and other Right at Home staff, as well as Hospice of the Hills, with a special thank you to Kathleen. And much appreciation to Dr. David Pohl. A memorial service is being planned, date to be announced. Arrangements by Solace ECO Friendly Funeral Services, Austin TX. In lieu of flowers, please donate to AGE of Central Texas or the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Austin American-Statesman from Dec. 28 to Dec. 30, 2013.
No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Memories & Condolences
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20 entries
December 22, 2020
Frances Nail was my Brownie Scout leader with my mother! I loved her! Her daughter Katy and I became life-long friends, and we still are! I have moved all around the United States, and finally settled in Austin! Much to my happiness, I reconnected with Katy and I was so pleased to see Francis again before she died!

Jane Horner
December 22, 2020
How lovely to see this inspiring and hilarious story teller. She was my dear friend from yoga and later became my mom’s compDre. Hoping they are swapping stories of family Christmas from times past. Love to Katy, Leslie snd Carrie.
Susie Fowler
April 25, 2014
Frances Nail was truly a treasure!! I just thought she wrote wonderfully and was most comforting to me at a time of my life when I really needed her frank and homey way of writing Texas stories. Imagine if she had started earlier in her life doing this! She had such a wry and funny view of things.

I came across in my file yesterday a picture of the Frances Nail rose that John Aielli spoke about on KUT. I loved hearing her on the radio with John and he certainly appreciated her sparky wit and outlook on many things!!

I worked for Dr. Finch some years ago as his nurse and she was a wonderful patient….I used to love to see her come in….she was so dear!! My husband (Joey Cruz) was her “medicine man” (her pharmacist) out in Lakeway and he was so fond of her as well. She even mentioned him in her book “The Way of It”. We will really miss her great and wonderful Texas spirit, but she will live on in those she loved so much!!

We will be out of town and unable to attend the Saturday gathering, but wanted to add our love and admiration for a wonderful life well lived!!

Nita Jean & Joey Cruz
Juanita Jean
April 25, 2014
Francis the pioneer, impish, creative and kind soul. Your legacy lives on in your dear family, Katy, Leslie and Carey. You are remembered dearly by all whom you touched with your gift of playfulness and spunk. Hope you are enjoying a good book and frozen yoghurt in the sky.
Carol J. Stensrud
April 24, 2014
I only knew Frances for just a short time, but from the moment we met it seemed that we knew each other for ages. We talked about our favorite authors and the many books we read and enjoyed. She claimed that I read more books than she but I told her she had at least 30 years headstart on me. She increased my joy in books by introducing me to Larry McMurtry, Fannie Flagg and others. Her love of poetry encouraged me to expand my mind and being around her artwork and Katy's made me see the world in brilliant colors. I will forever be grateful for beautiful soul I helped to have taken care of. Katy, Leslie and Carrie, thank you for sharing your mother and grandmother. Always in my heart.
Mary Bailey
April 19, 2014
I first met Frances at the home of the Late/Great Karen Kuykendall, our mutual Sustah. Through the years of laughing with Frances and listening to her read her stories on John Aielli's morning KUT program, I joined Frances and Karen to develop I Am Not the Woman I Was, a play based on Frances's books and starring Karen as Frances. I will always see Frances sitting on the front row surrounded by her beautiful daughters, her face beaming up at the stage for all 15 performances. Her star still shines in our hearts and minds.
Robyn Turner
April 16, 2014
I had the great fortune of knowing Francis since I was 6 years old! Her daughter, Katy Lu, and I went to school together from 1st grade to 9th grade, when we both moved from Meyerland at age 14! Francis was my Brownie leader, and I always thought she was the most elegant, beautiful mom of all of my friends! A couple of years ago, her daughter Katy and I reconnected in Austin, and I was so happy that I was able to see Francis one more time! She autographed a couple of her books for me with lots of love!
Jane Horner
February 12, 2014
Frances Nail was a grand lady. The time I spent around Frances was far too brief, yet her preeminent influence in my life remains as strong today as it did decades ago. She is the prime catalyst for so many of the things I still endeavor to accomplish, especially in writing and my work for animal welfare. I'll always remember her laughter, her genuine compassion and her zest for life. She was one of the most loving, graceful and wonderful people I have ever known. My heart goes out to her family, especially Leslie and Katy.
R. Leyva
February 10, 2014
Loved her poached eggs that she cooked morning, noon or night for hungry teenage boyfriends who sometimes overstayed their welcome. She was a star that fell from the sky and now twinkles in our hearts.
Dwight Brown
February 10, 2014
To the family of Francis Nail:
My mother Katie Bash and your mother studied art together in the late 60's and 70's. I have some of Francis' silk screens with beautiful shells. I met Francis, a lovely lady, at the beach in the early 70's. Please accept my condolences. I wanted to let her know that Katie had passed away on the 8th of Feb.
Sincerely Beverly Schneider, Spring, Tx.
January 25, 2014
Frances had such great talents and she will be greatly missed by lots of people. Even though I didn't spend much time with Frances I am thankful for the few times I did get to visit with her. Through her daughter Katy and the books Frances wrote I felt like I knew her real well. Frances leaves behind lots of good memories for her family and those of us that were lucky enough to know her.
Dyan Nemec
January 8, 2014
When Mrs. Nail learned I was a fan of her writing, she invited me to her home (Lakeway). It was such a nice visit - for me more than for her, surely. We had tea; she showed me her home, spoke of her life, about writing, and spoke so proudly of her grand-daughter. She was so easy to be with. I've thought of her often since that day…how generous she was to entertain me, a stranger. She signed my books! I remain a fan.
Lynn Douthit
December 29, 2013
Francis, your wise, gracious and spunky nature remains with us all. Love Carol Hope you having a lucious frozen yoghurt in the sky!
December 29, 2013
I will miss hearing her read her wonderful stories on Eklektikos. She was a masterful storyteller.
Claudia Reese
December 29, 2013
Frances, I have to say I'm looking forward to Heaven now that you're up there. There'll be plenty of time to tell un-edited stories, laugh ourselves silly & kiss anybody we please. As idyllic as I'm sure it must be, there're bound to be some real characters rattling around up there (not the least of whom are Tam Cartwright, Ann Richards, Bud Shrake & Didhebitecha: my childhood mutt). I implore you to pluck a feather quill from your wings & keep track of the goings on! You know what big ears I have... They're just waiting to hear your take on all the Celestial Shenanigans. Hellfire! I miss you down here already... (On Earth, not Hades... just taking a little expletive liberty!) You have always been one of my absolute favorite human beings. You have the rare gift of making us all feel special, seen, heard & ridiculously lucky to be Texan. Till we meet again my treasured friend...
Emily Tracy-Haas
December 29, 2013
We are all saddened that the sparkling light that was Francis has gone out. Her humor remained throughout her long and creative life. Not only producing such beautiful daughters and grand daughters but paintings and words of wisdom that delighted us all!
Katherine Virgil's
December 29, 2013
We were honored to meet Frances and love her writings! Were also touched deeply by her love of life and her sweet family! She will be missed by many, but her legacy of love lives on beautifully through her girls, Leslie, Katy & Carrie! We love you all!!
Shirley & Larry Jacobs
December 29, 2013
Oh Frances, We will miss you. The world is a little less brighter without you to make us laugh and instill in all a quiet sense of wonder. That written, I feel certain that you are telling tales to angels, and they are each and all listening and laughing with you.
Leticia Rodriguez
December 28, 2013
I love Frances and all you Nail Women know that. She was my friend for the past 20 years. We first met in a yoga class in Lakeway and bonded when she realized I was training for my pilot's license. She was my mother's best friend, once they met, and I have such gratitude for the life they shared as strong women, great mothers, gifted writers. All were enriched who knew Frances, a true Texas treasure.
susie fowler
December 28, 2013
Frances and I bonded because I am a Memphis girl - later when she discovered I was a Memphis TENNESSEE and not a Memphis TEXAS girl - it was too late. So wise, so witty, so "with it" - I adored her! Frances, Mrs. Johnson, Liz Carpenter and I shared a host of rollicking evenings overlooking the city from Mrs. J's balcony. Treasures all, I hope they are stirring up things in heaven!
Shirley James
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