Frances M. Prest, Francestown’s oldest resident, and Boston Post Cane holder for thirteen years, died after a brief illness, on Sunday morning, March 3, 2019, at the home of her daughter, Carol Prest Barr, in Francestown. She was 108 years old.
Born Frances Newell, in Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1910, she was the second oldest of eight children. After the tragic death of her younger sister, the family moved to Boston. Fran was only six years old at the time.
Excelling as a student, she was promoted from the fifth grade to the seventh. She had gone through all of the books and testing for her grade level. Having learned the Palmer method of hand writing in school, she was well known for her beautiful and heartfelt letters. For many years, she would write to someone every day.
After graduating from high school with honors and studying business in Boston, she began a career doing proof reading at Riverside Press, in Cambridge, and then at, Houghton Mifflin Publishing Company, in Boston. She worked on numerous manuscripts, written by famous authors, such as Lloyd C. Douglas, Rachel Carson, and Ben Ames Williams, to name a few.
In 1947, she married C. Ashley Prest. He was a talented artist, and together with his brother, Cecil A. Prest, who was also an artist, and lived in Winchester, Mass., they owned and operated two art studios, on Boylston and Beacon Street, in Boston. Cecil’s wife, Emma Lennon Prest was a prominent professor of Color and Design, at the Massachusetts College of Art.
In 1956, they moved to a 19th century Victorian home, on Main Street, in Francestown, to be near her husband’s younger brother, Curtis Prest and his family.
Her husband died in 1981 from leukemia. Fran remained in her home for many years, but was later invited to live with her daughter Carol, and son- in-law, Lawrie Barr, who also lived on Main Street.
For the next twenty- five years, she lived with them. One morning, Carol watched her mother walk into the four season room, and stand at the window, which was one of her morning routines. “She stood there for awhile, looking out one of the large glass sliders and her eyes took in the complete view of the gardens, fields and stonewalls that surround the back yard. Carol’s childhood friend, who had been visiting said, “Your mother sees beauty everywhere and in everyone.”
Fran loved and always wore pearls, and with absolutely no apologies to Amy Vanderbilt, who said that a lady should never wear pearls before four, each morning she would place her pearls around her neck, greet the day with a smile, and a heart filled with gratitude.
On her 85th birthday, Carol and Lawrie brought her to New York City to celebrate. They stayed at a hotel in New Jersey, just across the river from the city. It was a whirlwind three day trip that included, tea at the Palm Court, in the Plaza Hotel, where they all met actress Cecily Tyson, who was seated next to Carol, and after that, dinner at Sardi’s, followed by a great broadway show, “Crazy for You!” Next, a fabulous lunch at a French restaurant in Trump Towers, and finally, dinner at the Rainbow Room. Fran walked all over the city and loved every minute of it!
In 2006, the evening before Labor Day, at a special vespers service in the Old Meeting House, Fran received the Boston Post Cane award, at the age of 95. Carol wrote an article about her mother that was read by Fran’s niece. In the article, she said that her mother had a heart and soul that was filled with kindness and love for everyone, and that her mother was more interested in other people, and what she could do to help someone else, then she was in herself. A bouquet of long stemmed pink roses were also given to her that evening. The next day, she rode in selectman Bill McAuley’s Saab convertible, in the Labor Day parade. The theme for the parade that year was, “A Day in a Life,” and Bill had calculated, that up until that day, Fran had lived 34, 988 days. He created signs for both sides of his car, sharing this information. Carol purchased a lovely tiara for her mother to wear and she was dressed in a special black and silver top with a lovely silver scarf wrapped around her neck and a black skirt. To finish the outfit, Fran wore a fabulous pair of long silver earrings that Carol’s childhood friend had given Fran as a Christmas gift. As they drove up Main Street in the parade, Fran waved to everyone. Many people commented that she looked like a queen and had a perfect royal wave. It was a special day to remember.
At the age of 108, she was still singing, reciting poetry, and spelling words, and even doing leg and arm exercises. Each day, she would come out of her bedroom singing, “Oh what a beautiful morning.” How amazing and positive!!!
Carol commented, “we could all learn a lesson about being soft and gentle, and truly being kind to one another, because for many years, a very special lady has shown us the way.”
Fran had been a member of the Community Church of Francestown and a long time member of the Women’s Guild.
She is survived by her daughter, Carol Prest Barr, and a number of nieces, nephews, and cousins. She will be greatly missed!
A memorial service to honor and celebrate the life of Frances Prest, will be held on, Saturday, May 18, at 2p.m., at the Old Meeting House, in Francestown. This will be an uplifting service with beautiful music, women’s chorus, and special touches! Following the service, a reception will be held at the Town Hall.
Donations in Fran’s memory may be made to the Francestown Improvement & Historical Society, P.O. Box 147, Francestown, N.H. 03043
To send flowers to Frances' family, please visit our floral section.