Nancy Mabry Franks
Nancy Mabry Franks, Nurse, Musician, Storyteller, Dies at 82
In the end, we all become stories, which Nancy (McCommas) Mabry Franks wouldn’t have any other way. She lived a full life, beating the odds time and again, racking up a treasure-trove of stories to last for generations.
She died peacefully at 82-years-old surrounded by family on April 24, 2021.
Nancy spent her childhood in Rusk, Texas in a four-room house with her six siblings and an archway of roses at the entrance to the yard that her father built and planted and that she loved. She was only 15 when she married and soon became a military spouse and a mother, leaving Rusk to live in Colorado, South Carolina, Germany, and Georgia.
She became a widow at age 29, when her husband, Donald Henry Mabry, died in Vietnam (1967). Together with her young children, she lived in Rusk and Louisiana briefly before finding a safe place to land in Fayetteville, AR (1971) where she lived for more than 30 years.
Her strong-will was matched only by her own tender heart, which made her the best version of herself: a visionary, a planner, and generous host to those in need.
She spent most of her formal career as a nurse, holding several administrative certifications and geriatric nursing leadership positions in Fayetteville, AR (Washington Regional Medical Center and Rose Care Centers) and Natchitoches and Jacksonville, TX. But her personal passions always led in her life, among them music, the outdoors, and storytelling.
She could be found playing and singing hymns at her old piano, which she taught herself to play in addition to guitar and accordion. She performed country and gospel music in her 20s and 30s at regional concerts, churches, and other venues. She and her children sang as a family group in churches, nursing homes, and state parks, including holding weekly outdoor church services for campers at Devil’s Den State Park in Arkansas.
She served as Director of Children’s Ministries at Trinity Temple in Fayetteville, AR. She grew the Sunday morning program from five to 150 children. Known as “Aunt Nancy,” she expanded her children’s ministry to include week-long evening children’s services at multiple churches. She told stories through puppets, music, activities, and sermons for children.
She later married Eugene Franks (1988), who also preceded her in death. Together, they cared for their ornery cocker spaniels, traveled the southern United States in their vintage Toyota Chinook camper, and enjoyed tending to an old farmhouse they owned for several years.
She enjoyed her morning coffee (with a lot of cream) outside at sunrise. She loved dogwoods in the spring, reading not-too-racy romance novels, writing for pleasure, telling stories of her childhood, opening Christmas presents early, and -- after she learned about the internet -- Googling her grandchildren’s names and calling to tell them what she learned.
Nancy is survived by her two sons, Donald Foster Mabry (Deb), and David Forrest Mabry (Melissa); and three daughters, Rhonda Faye Kersh (Kenneth), Vickie Lynn Tapp (William), and Cheryl Ann Gould (Robert); nine grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
In addition to her husbands Donald and Eugene, she is preceded in death by parents Walter Forrest and Tennie Pearl McCommas; brothers Raymond McCommas and Lester McCommas; and sisters Margie Kuykendall, Mildred White, Doris Cummings, and Jean Chastain.
A visitation will be held at Willis Funeral Home in Batesville, AR on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. A graveside service will be held at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Rusk, TX, Cherokee County on Friday, April 30, 2021 at 2PM. The family requests face masks and social distancing during the visitation and ceremony.
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