Frances Lorraine Abel, born Aug. 27, 1940, died in her sleep after her favorite holiday and meal, Thanksgiving 2019. She was in the home she loved so much, surrounded by her family. Cause of death was cancer, which she lived with for two years amid much love and support from her many friends.
She was a beloved mother, gracious spouse, compassionate community member, gardener extraordinaire and a damn wonderful person.
Fran is survived by her husband, Ed Anderson; son, Brad Hankins; daughter-in-law, Chan Ye; niece, Nina Barley; and dog, Sir Benton “damn he’s cute” Cowboy.
Frances Abel was born at home to Wilma and George Abel in Southern California. She had an older sister, Georgia. The family lived for some time in Ojai, Calif., which deeply rooted Fran in gardens, farming, community and environment. Eventually, the family settled in Meadow Vista, Calif., where her parents built first a cottage and then a house with mud bricks from the site. Fran told a story of how her father, dissatisfied after spending several weeks on the fireplace, chimney and mantle, tore it all down and redid it. Critical observation and attention to detail were the lesson. The desire to do it right, even if it meant doing it over, was the moral. The result left Fran with a great sense of design and aesthetics she would apply to her own life, houses and gardens.
Fran attended high school in Auburn, Calif., where she was on the ski and swim teams. She was one of the few women who went on to college, where she received a degree in business from the University of California, Sacramento.
After college, Fran married her high school sweetheart and relocated to Seattle, Wash., where they had a son, Brad Hankins. The traditional role of women being housewives, not having careers, and being the Mrs. to their husband didn’t settle well for Fran. Eventually she divorced, took back her maiden name and re-assumed her identity as Fran Abel.
A career at the Federal Trade Commission ensued, providing her the financial stability as a single mother to purchase a house and raise her son.
Fran found herself challenged with stereotypes as a single mother. People told her she couldn’t do things; schools suggested she needed to be married to be a good mom; men told her she couldn’t take her son on outdoor adventures. Yet she did it all. She was a fantastic mother.
After her son moved off to school, Fran changed direction again. With a huge smile masking uncertainty, she moved to Langley, Wash., and purchased a building in which she opened a retail garden and design center. During her 35 years of landscape design on Whidbey Island, she helped create hundreds of unique landscapes that will continue to mature, providing joy to animals and humans for decades to come.
Most people will remember Fran as a political activist who sought to improve our lives through social reform. Civic participation was always about what could be done — saving historical buildings, creating parks, improving impoverished areas (SEED), running for Island County Commissioner, serving on the Washington Forest Practices Board and being on the Langley City Council. One local project of note was her effort with two good friends to save a large parcel of land from development, an effort that eventually led to the creation of Saratoga Woods and the Whidbey Island Garden Tour.
With unrelenting determination and never-ending optimism, Fran’s commitment for the community, her friends and her family never wavered.
An informal memorial service will be held between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on New Year’s Day at 870 Grace Lane, Langley WA, 98260. Come and walk with Fran in her home and garden one last time. And don’t forget to plant a tree!