In memory: Frances 'Fran' Myers Schmetzer

On Sunday evening (Mar. 2) when sitting down to pen this column, I was greatly saddened by news of the passing of Frances Myers Schmetzer, a very good friend of mine and everyone else who knew her.

"Fran," as she was known around town, was our newspaper's longtime Glenville area correspondent, winning a 1st Place in the West Virginia Press Association's Better Newspaper's Writing Contest - at least once - for her newsy column.

But, Fran did more than just write about Glenville, its history, events and promise, because in her spare time, she hatched good ideas for the town, the college and became a dedicated volunteer. Truly, in retirement, she showed that doing her fair share to make that better vision for the city, college and county made a difference.

If there is any person who lived out their "dream in life," it was Fran. For that, she was most fortunate and most blessed.

Her life was like what transpired in "The Wizard of Oz" movie, of which most of us have seen on numerous occasions since our youths. We're captivated by the specific plights, adventures and wants of all of the characters whom little Dorothy (Judy Garland) meets in that fantasy world, into where she was thrust by a Kansas tornado. The Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and, last but not the least, the "Tin Man" accompanied Dorothy on her dance down that beautiful "Yellow Brick Road." Dorothy is taken by the Tin Man's yearning for "a heart" in order to love and to fit into society.

After their, at times, terrifying journey to Oz, and when meeting the Wizard, they find out that the supposedly great man, in reality, is an imposter - not a wizard at all who can give them their cherished desires - a brain for Scarecrow, courage for the Cowardly Lion, and a heart for the Tin Man and home to Kansas for little Dorothy. Would she ever be able "to go home again" to her loving family in Kansas?

At the end of this fantasy, the wisdom of the Wizard showed itself to each one of the hopefuls. Notably, to the Tin Man who was looking for a heart, the Wizard stressed that in his country these people - with big hearts - are called, "Good Deed Doers," and are given testimonials for all that they do for others in need. Paraphrasing him, he said, "Love is measured not by how much you (the good deed doer) can show, but how much other people love you." Hence, your friends give you a testimonial dinner to demonstrate the love that they have for you for your "Good Deed Doing."

Back to Fran: In our May 3, 2012 newspaper edition, we editors reported that the Marthas & Marys, a local ecumenical organization of energetic women on a mission to improve the county where the needs are the greatest, did award their "Good Deed Doer", or "Helping Hands," commendation and plaque to Fran for her love and devotion to this community and its people.

After many decades of doing good church ministries all over the country and a final stint at Readers Digest as an index librarian (although she did proofreading too), Fran decided to retire here in Glenville, where she had, in part, grown up as a young girl. Later, as a young lady in college, she lived with her Aunt Ivy Myers, a college professor, in our very newspaper's home at 108 N. Court Street. Nevertheless, as a retiree, she, no doubt, could have picked any one of a dozen communities across the United States to take her talents to, but she chose Glenville, where her roots and heart were. In fact, she wanted to give back to the community that had meant so much to her in her youth and golden college years. Hence, her retirement became a journey of joy by way of her civic, college and church works here.

For five years, she served on the Glenville State College's Board of Governors, helping to move the school forward. In living in her home right across High Street from the Heflin Administration Building, nothing much at the college escaped her attention. In fact, she took advantage of almost every musical, cultural and sports event that she could there.

In addition, she was the organizer and promoter of GSC's summer Elderhostel programs here, bringing in dozens of seniors from all over America who were eager to learn different subjects at the college. In her mid-80s, she had to give that labor of love up, but I know that most of those seniors were very appreciative of her devoted efforts to make their stays here comfortable, productive and sociable, as well as educational.

She didn't forget us Glenville newspaper readers, either. Using her writing talent, she typed out her "memories" of a Glenville of long ago. Significantly, every week she cranked out that historic and self-help column, without missing a beat.

In reading her column, "Musings of an Old-Timer," this editor, as well as many other of you newcomers to the county, learned of her fondest memories of the city and county as they changed, grew and matured. (Additionally, she used her proofreading talents to set us editors straight on our use of grammar on several occasions. After our good-natured arguments on minor points, she'd win, and we'd both laugh.)

Additionally, her volunteer work also greatly benefited the Folk Festival Committee - the town's gala June event of which she loved. About two months ago when her sister died, I phoned her to cheer her up, but she was taking the loss rather well.
She said that there were plenty of activities at her assisted living center where she could interact with others and have fun, including square dancing. She said that she was looking forward to this summer's square dancing at the Folk Festival and being a volunteer at other activities, as well. Fatefully, I understand that she square danced the evening before she passed on. What a way to go; not many people are so blessed!

She also was a good friend of Jack Conrad, of the Conrad Hotel's ownership family, keeping him company until his death. Moreover, she served as mediator between Jack and I after we'd once had a minor disagreement. I sat down at their table at a fund-raiser, thereby initiating a comment from Jack. Quick to act, Fran injected, "Oh, I see that you gentlemen have had a fuss over something. I'll mediate it." And, she did; all was then happy and Jack and I remained friends until his passing.

She, too, was devoted to the First Presbyterian Church, Historical Society and any other local group needing her assistance. At Folk Festival time and in a very excited mood and well involved in her subject, she - using her gyrating hands to good advantage - could tell some pretty scary ghost stories at the Historical Society's Thurs.-Fri. evening programs. Seeing her acting performance, the youngsters would edge back into their seats ... in fright.

Some people take life as it comes along, while others make theirs happen the way they want. Fran was always one of the latter. For example, early 20th century author Thomas Wolfe affirmed, "You can't come home again." Fran disproved that old wives' tale by coming home again to Glenville to retire - a retirement that lasted for many fulfilling and blissful years.
But, making that old saying invalid again, she got to go "home again" for a second time - to her first home and to be close to her large, loving family near her father's farm south of the Richmond, VA area. There, in these past nearly two years, she happily continued her retirement.

As she's taking her step into heavenly bliss now, our editorial condoences and prayers go out to her children, grandchildren and other relatives. We're just very happy that The Marthas & Marys showed her this community's "love" and "thanks" in their testimonial in her honor before she left our town.

In her everyday life, always humble, thoughtful and sociable, Fran made the time to converse with me and my late dog, "Buddy," as we walked to work. She liked dogs and would talk to him, as I did. Her kindnesses to not only me, but also our Democrat/Pathfinder staff was most appreciated and will not be soon forgotten.

Good bye, kind lady! You've done it once more for a final time: you've "gone home again!"

Conclusion

Taking the cue from Fran, be good to others, kind folks!

Finally, this week is "Newspaper in Education Week," so any area schools needing our newspapers for discussions in their civics, English, history or social studies classes, just let us know. We'll arrange for you to get them. Read the news; be informed.

Postscript, No. 1

Just heard that the Bank of Gassaway has been bought out by Premier Banks, of Huntington. The buyout, though, is still in the making, so nothing official has come out in the regional news.