I was born on the couch in Sanford, Southern Colorado; few were born in a hospital during the depression years. My mother was 19 and my father about 22, they were living in a tiny apartment built behind the gas station my father owned in Sanford. Apparently, I “was blonde and had a sweet disposition after I overcame my early colic”. I remember having a great childhood, spending much of it at my grandparent’s farm surrounded by a large-extended family. My mother talked of the struggles of living during the trying years of the depression, however, I remember always having enough to eat even if it was beans at every meal; we were poor, but everyone was poor and so I really had no idea, I felt loved and had outlets for my mind and my energy.
After a few years we moved to a larger town, La Jara, CO, and our own home which had more than one bedroom! I now had a sister, Maxine, and a brother, Donald. When I was six or seven, my mother knew she needed to have a way to support her family if anything were to happen to my father. My father drove a truck and had a few mishaps which worried my mom. She thought beauty school was a possible answer. She went to Denver for three months to take her courses and left me and my brother and sister with my grandparents on the farm. This was a wonderful summer of running around and exploring all there was to see on a large farm, I also was assigned a few chores. It was great fun running around with all my cousins who lived there, we have remained close through all the years. I was the oldest child of my grandparent’s oldest child and my “cousins” were actually my aunts and uncles. When my mom returned from beauty school in Denver, she opened a salon next to the railroad station in La Jara and next to my Dad’s business. He bought and sold seed and grain and had opened another gas station. He also purchased spare railroad car parts and then went all over CO and NM in our car reselling them, “making deals” as he called it. I used to think it was so boring, but then I started playing a game where I would close my eyes, then open them and find one thing that was beautiful in my sight. Anywhere I looked there was some beauty even in parts of dry, dusty New Mexico. (I have continued to do this throughout my life and during all my world travels.)
In 5th grade my mother moved us to Denver where she felt she could make a better go of her beauty business and to help my brother’s health. This began a long-term, long-distance relationship with my dad. His business was in southern Colorado and my mom became firmly entrenched in Denver. This was perhaps a preview for a part of my future married life. My mother opened a beauty parlor in the basement of our house; she worked and took care of the three kids. We ran up and down those stairs millions of times every day. My dad visited when he could. Our home was near one of the large mature parks in Denver, City Park. We had full reign of that park. We also played often with the neighborhood kids in the street out front. In middle school I met my best friend for life, LaVonn Legrange. We spent endless hours together, often jumping double Dutch and hopscotching. I had a great education in Denver and graduated from a beautiful high school, East High School. Throughout high school I worked in the kitchen of Denver General Hospital setting up and delivering dinner trays for patients. I walked the six blocks from our home to and from the hospital. I especially thought it was fun to deliver trays to the maternity ward and seeing the new babies. It was a little frightening though to have to unlock the door and deliver trays to the psychiatric ward . . . At home, I ran from most chores, but didn’t mind doing the ironing and that soon became my domain. I took it to the basement and turned up my radio and ironed away. I loved the radio; big bands, Glen Miller, Dick Jurgens, and Eddie Howard were my favorites. I also closely followed The Lone Ranger and War-time musicals like South Pacific. I danced and ironed!
After graduating, I attended BYU which was my parent’s first choice and my second choice. I wanted to go to Colorado University at Boulder with all my friends. My parents would only finance BYU, so off I went and LOVED it, it was way better than high school! I thought the football and basketball games were great fun. It was interesting living with messy or moody or “weird” roommates; most were great and a few became life-long buddies. My favorite classes were horseback riding and skiing, my least favorite was math. I wish I had had better study habits then so I could have gotten my assignments done quicker and have had more time for activities. There was so much to do all the time and I needed to be more organized to fit everything in. I skied a lot and loved going up to the slopes for night skiing. I majored and graduated in marketing. I went on to use the skills learned in my marketing classes throughout my working career.
Immediately after I graduated from college, I married a wonderful man, Bill Perry. It was just a few years after WWII and he was immediately drafted and assigned to Frankfurt Germany. I was not going to be left behind as he went off so we scraped together enough money and I flew over to join him once he found housing. I had no prospects for a job and didn’t really have permission from the Army to travel with him. We lived in a walk-up, upper-story apartment in the heart of Frankfurt and loved it! I found a great job as assistant to the Superintendent of American Schools in Frankfurt. We spent three and a half years there traveling around in a blue Volkswagen bug as often as we had time off and funds available. We traveled everywhere and had amazing and sometimes scary adventures in so many European countries. We visited so many wonderful and culturally significant places. We loved them all, but had a special affinity for Germany.
When it was time to return to the US, someone we knew in the army set Bill up for an interview with IBM and he was hired to work in Salt Lake City, UT. Our first son Jeff was born there, July 13, 1957. We then moved to Lake Oswego near Portland; soon after we got the word we were to move to Seattle. I learned IBM stands for I’ve been moved. Lisa was born in Seattle on July 3, 1960. Then we were sent to San Francisco and we rented an apartment in Redwood City where Kim was born on May 8, 1964. Next, we were sent to Sacramento where we built a beautiful home nor far from the American River. Steve was born while we were in Sacramento on April 21, 1968. Jeff joined the swim team becoming a competitive swimmer at a great club where many Olympic swimmers trained including Mark Spitz who was a neighbor. We rode bikes along the river in the evenings, took long walks around the neighborhood, endlessly weeded the yard and had a great garden. We loved our time there.
Along the way Bill’s job changed and the moves became further apart. When we were transferred to Denver, I felt like we were headed home to the place I grew up. I was excited for the move. We rented a large Victorian-style home in an older neighborhood across from a park in downtown Denver while we explored and looked for our next settling place. We found a lovely lot near the horse riding club I belonged to while in high school. There was an irrigation canal that flowed behind our home and provided a pathway for walking, bike riding, and exploring. We built the house of my dreams there on an acre and a half among lovely horse properties.
Our final move was back to the San Francisco Bay Area, I always knew I wanted to somehow get back to the beautiful Bay Area! We purchased a home in Alamo and soon Bill and I found we had grown apart during all the moves and we decided to end our 24-year marriage. Thankfully our divorce was an amicable one!
I soon found I needed to find a job to support myself and my kids that were starting to head off to college and missions. A man in our Alamo Ward, Howard Ruff, had recently started a business and was hiring for various positions at his interesting up-and-coming financial marketing company. Mr. Ruff was somewhat controversial, but had a big following because of several books he had written. He became more popular and started a financial newsletter that quickly grew to 90,000 subscribers. I was soon a Vice President and assisted him in many areas of the company. One of my main responsibilities was to plan and manage financial seminars around the country featuring Mr. Ruff and other speakers. We traveled all around the country doing seminars, workshops and events. Then he started doing seminars on cruise ships and then land trips. We first ventured to Europe with large groups of subscribers and speakers, all of which I planned and booked and followed through with all arrangements (without the help of email or texting!) We then started doing seminars all over the world. We went to South Africa several times in the 1980’s when there were investment opportunities there. We visited the deepest gold and diamond mines in the world while on one of our trips there. Along the way we met and spoke with top government and industry leaders in different countries.
We worked a lot with a Washington DC columnist named Jack Anderson who wrote a column called, The Washington Merry-Go-Round. He accompanied us on a trip to Russia and because of his contacts, he was able to get us into a lot of places we would have never been able to go including the Russian Cosmonaut Training Center! We went on a cruise another time down the Volga and visited all the cities along the river including Leningrad and Moscow. We saw Lenin’s tomb and traveled all around the cities with Russian escorts. This was before the fall of the Soviet Union, during the early 1980’s.
Other amazing visits included lots of river boat cruises, some on private yachts. We went to Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. We were able to visit the Royal Palace in Romania! One adventure I’ll never forget was on our way to Poland after coming back from the USSR. We were on a tour bus and we had to prepare to cross the border, Russian officials said everyone had to have their passports in-hand at the border. One lady in our group said her passport was in her luggage under the bus. I told her to go sit in the bathroom and don’t move and don’t open the door. She did and the Russians boarded the bus and checked everyone but didn’t check the bathroom, so we were able to proceed into Poland!
I was able to visit Hong Kong several times, Mainland China, Cambodia and all of southern Asia, most all of Europe and many Central and South American countries. Each was an amazing adventure and some included a fair amount of drama . . . I still remember them vividly. We travelled with US government representatives to Panama and witnessed meetings regarding returning control of the canal to Panama. Panama was extremely unorganized back then; frankly, I didn’t know how they’d be able to manage the canal!
Another time, we travelled with the Conservative Caucus to Bulgaria while they were still under Soviet control. We tried to cross the border into Lithuania while they changed the train to a different gauge. A member of our group was taken off the train because he had US literature. We didn’t know how long he would be held by the Russians, but he was later released and rejoined our group the next day! My customer services skills were stretched to the limit on that one!!
After two decades doing all the travel and events for this company, I took a break from working for several years. I played a lot of tennis, which I loved and played most of my life. I also delved more deeply into health and nutrition in which I’ve always had an interest. During this time I met a natural health expert named “Amazon John” who was using the healing power of plants and herbs native to the Amazon Jungle to promote wellness and health to a large base of users.
Amazon John had been a treasure hunter in Peru and the Amazon area for many years; finding valuable items which funded future explorations and financed his health initiatives. He worked with local herbalists to develop and produce supplements for US consumers under the company name, Amazon Herb Co. After ordering products from him for several years we finally talked over the phone and found he wanted to offer trips for his top producers and that I had planned trips like this over the years. A great friendship and work relationship began!
I ran tours for Amazon John’s natural medicine company all over Peru and the Amazon along with organizing events and conventions in many cities in the US for them. At first he told me it was too dangerous for me to go on his trips, but I told him I could take care of myself!
Our first group involved just a small amount of people and the conditions were very primitive. From there we figured out how to grow the trip attendance and find more comfortable accommodations, but it was still very primitive. Over many years, I organized many incentive tours for his company. Most of our programs were seven days, including several days on the river and in the rain forest. One of the hardest parts of the trip, other than the primitive accommodations, was the altitude change from sea level to the top of the Andes in a single day, an 11,000 foot elevation change! Always a trip favorite was visiting the Sacred Valley of the Incas, an unforgettable experience! We also visited tiny, remote villages populated by indigenous peoples on meandering turns of the Amazon. We cruised the Amazon in long canoes for 7-10 hours to visit the Shipibo tribe. They welcomed us with dances, fire and artisan crafts on our arrival. We reciprocated with gifts of clothing and shoes for them which we brought from home.
Amazon John later met and married Olivia Newton-John and I got to spend quite a bit of time with them on several trips. She, like her husband, is a generous and lovely person. The two of them called me the other night to express their well wishes for me, it meant a lot!
Some years ago, Amazon Herb Company was bought by another company and my days of floating down the Amazon came to an end . . . I missed the travel business soon after and decided to find out about and then join the SF Tour Guild. I couldn’t wait to get started! Hundreds of SF and Bay Area tours later, I find myself here telling you my travel life story. I can’t express how much I’ve loved working at the SF cruise ship pier and for the tour companies and the wonderful pleasure I’ve had meeting so many new and faithful friends. It’s meant the world to me to end my career showing off the city I love best and doing it with people I love and respect!
Before ending my bio, I must circle back to my family life:
First my parents, mine were the greatest! They always did everything they could for us and somehow supported us during difficult financial times. I never felt the difficulty they suffered through, they protected us from that! They sent all three of us to college, Don on a mission, paid for braces, music lessons, summer camp (my favorite thing, two weeks every summer with LaVonn at Geneva Glen riding horses, hiking, swimming and doing crafts), all kinds of other lessons even baton twirling and dance and so much more.
My mother, Oneida, was a courageous woman, she never let obstacles stop her from doing what was important and necessary. She was always a very good business woman and started numerous successful businesses from scratch. Life was often tough for her with health and money problems, but she always kept a very positive attitude and always came through on top because of her determination. She posted positive sayings and reminders and read things that gave her energy. She was a wonderful example of a strong, hard-working, determined woman.
My dad, Floyd, was also the greatest! I couldn’t have asked for a better dad! He never got mad at us or raised his voice. He always wanted us to have what we needed and worked very hard to take care of the family. He also had his own businesses and never worked for anyone else. It was often a real struggle for him, but he never gave up. He was known for being very honest and helping a lot of people who really needed it. He never talked much about all he did for people which included selling a lot of gas during the depression to family and friends on credit which was never paid back. He always supported us in what we wanted to do and he advised us to stay out of debt and live within our means, this I have taught to my kids with good success as well. If we ever needed anything, he was there to help us out. What a great dad he was!
I am also so proud of my four children; each has made a wonderful life for themselves and their families. They have married wonderful spouses in the temple and have great kids themselves. Three have served missions; Jeff in Peru, Lisa on the Navajo Indian Reservation, and Steve in Barcelona, Spain. All four have used their educations and talents well for careers and service in church callings. I love them and couldn’t be more proud of them; I am blessed in so many ways to have them in my life and to have had many wonderful gatherings and trips with them. Perhaps gathering in Monterey with all of them is among my most treasured memories.
As you can see, I have lived an amazing life full of adventures, drama, love, life and faith. I have appreciated good health and an abundance of energy to have moved along this great journey of life. I never dreamed I would be as richly blessed as I have. Thank you to all who have joined in as I’ve lived the last 88 years. I am happy!
Much love and happy trails as I move along,
P.S. Shortly after dictating this, Fran passed away peacefully on Saturday, May 9th, at her daughter’s home in Alamo after her battle with abdominal cancer. A few days before passing, she was heard to say, “Why can’t I just go gracefully and quickly?” This sums her up beautifully, graceful and a bit impatient when all didn’t go according to schedule!
If you would like to donate in Fran's memory, she requested donations to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Center - https://www.onjcancercentre.org/
She is loved and will be missed by her four children, fourteen grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Picture below taken on February 8, 2020, just three months before passing.
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