MILL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA — Frances Laura Blanke Kelly April 29, 1920 — January 8, 2022.

Frances Laura Blanke Kelly was born April 29, 1920 in near Pearce, Arizona. She remained in good health until the day before she died at the age of 101 in Mill Valley on January 8, a few hours after suffering a stroke. She died with her three children present, in the house where she had lived for 76 years, where her children had grown up and where her mother and husband both died.

Frances Blanke grew up in depression era poverty in southeast Arizona on a homestead near the Sulphur Springs, the third of seven children of Lucy and Arthur Blanke. She graduated from high school two weeks after her 16th birthday and left home forever. Moving to Southern California, she obtained a Montgomery Ward scholarship and finished junior college a few weeks after her 18th birthday, then attended Bethany Hospital Nursing School in Kansas City, Kansas.

After graduating from nursing school in 1941, she moved back to California and worked as a Registered Nurse in hospitals, first in San Luis Obispo, then at Ross Hospital. When World War II started she took a job as an RN in a first aid station at the MarinShip yards in Sausalito, where she met a fellow employee named Charles Edward Kelly (known to his friends as simply “Kelly”). The two were married in September 1943 and moved to Mill Valley, first to a house on Laverne, and then in 1945 to the house on Matilda Avenue where she spent the rest of her life. Frances took a break from her work as a RN when their children were young, returning to work as a visiting nurse and first employee of the Clarke Home Nursing Service in the early 1960s.

Frances was dedicated to making things better for others. She was active in professional associations, including attending an international nursing conference in Israel as a delegate. She was also active in the Tuberculosis Association, and the campaign to administer polio vaccines to children when they first became available. Frances was also a tireless volunteer, at PTA meetings, the League of Women Voters, as a Cub Scout den mother and a fixture at City Council meetings. She once challenged the principal at Tam High to walk with her to Marin City, to show him what he didn’t believe, that there was no safe or lawful way for the students who lived there to walk to school. After her husband Kelly’s retirement, the two of them traveled the world together, and Frances kept doing so for decades after his death in 1988. An Anglophile, for many years she made an annual trip to UK to study English history and walk where the events took place. Before the pandemic she was a member of the Mill Valley Villagers, she took Pilates and was the longest a member of a French conversation group that began meeting in about 1960.

In her late nineties, when her mobility declined and prevented her from traveling, Frances composed her memoirs, some in the form of poetry. She was fond of saying, “I was born with a pen in my hand.” She had documented each of her trips in a separate binder with photos and a log, and she was able to re-live them during pandemic lock downs. Frances is survived by two sisters and two brothers, Helen Seely, Jeanette Gee, Vernon Blanke and Jack Blanke. Her children are Edith Kelly Politis, Charles R. Kelly (Mary Moffat) and James Kelly, her grandchildren James Politis (Cheryl), Stephen Politis (Molly) and Dana Kelly, great grandchildren Kylie, Devon, Nick and Jace Politis. Frances will be interred with her late husband at the Mt. Tamalpais Cemetery.