Fran lived her life for others. Whether it be her husband, her children, her grandchildren, friends or community members her words "I'm so proud of you" was a source of encouragement that kindled a light in those she touched.
Frances Mae Vigus Smith was born on Christmas Eve 1934 in Belleville, Ontario to parents Richard and Jean (Vigus) Smith. She joined older brother Lennie (1930) and later welcomed younger brother Ian (1941). In the late 30's the Smith family relocated to London where, Fran attended Lady Beck and later Sir Adam Beck. The Smith's being a musical family, Fran became an accomplished piano and saxophone player, and sang alto in the church choir. It was also during these years that she began her long "career" of teaching Sunday School. She was also an active member of the Canadian Girls in Training (CGIT) including a leader at CGIT Camp Kitchigami.
After grade 10, Fran and family moved to Ingersoll. It was here, at Ingersoll District Collegiate Institute, that Fran was introduced to John Gordon Petrie. In fact, the two were also neighbours, and apparently, could see each other's bedroom windows! Fran and John soon began seeing each other and, as they say, the rest is history. In 1953, Fran enrolled in London Teachers College. At the same time, John was attending the University of Western Ontario and they carpooled to school daily. Fran began teaching Grade 2 at Victory Memorial Public School in Ingersoll, then on Saturday October 30, 1954 (Halloween night) they were married. Debby's arrival (1955) made short shift of Fran's teaching career. Within 18 months John had graduated UWO, and on his fourth day of teaching at WDHS, Sue was born (1956). With the addition of Dick (1961), Wendy (1964) and a basset hound named Jock, the family was complete.
Fran kept busy with her young family but still found time to teach Sunday School, attend UCW and get a Seniors program at the church up and running, where Dick and Wendy were constant entertainment for the seniors! Life long friendships were made with local families, especially the family of Grace and Tom Wardlaw.
Summers always meant spending time at the family cottage. At the age of 16, Fran and her father cleared the land to make room for the original cabin on Bogie's Beach north of Goderich. "The Bigge Wattee" was a true family affair, as all of Fran's aunts, uncles and cousins from Detroit and Windsor were always welcome. Although time at Lake Huron was nice, Fran's true summer vacation came at Golden Lake, a fishing resort near Killaloe. Every year on the 2nd Saturday in August (the day after John finished summer school), the Petries would head out. Here she did not have to cook or clean and therefore had an opportunity to sit back and truly relax with her family.
In 1968, John left his position as head of the science department in Waterford and moved his family to Chesley, where he became the vice principal at Chesley District High School. Fran helped her children through the transition and then did what she did best, got out and helped others. Over the next 50 years, Fran helped countless people and organizations. She volunteered her time with the Blood Donor Clinic, Cancer Society (both 35 yrs.), high school curling, local figure skating club, was a board member of Bruce-Grey Children Services, a 4-H leader and a palliative care volunteer.
Because Fran's faith held an important place in her life, after arriving in Chesley she quickly found a second home at St. John's United Church. Here she was their representative to Presbytery for over 20 years attending many conferences. She was a member of Queen's Bush Rural Ministry, Chesley Ministerial, and played a pivotal role in the yearly vacation bible school. When not helping with the youth, she was visiting seniors. There was always work to do, and Fran was always there to help!
In time Fran's children moved away from home, one further than other. Despite the distance, in retirement Fran and John took almost annual trips to New Zealand. The other three children started their families. This provided another outlet for all of her love. Not only did Fran play with her grandchildren...and, in time, great-grandchildren...but she wanted to be a part of everything they did - from horses, to hockey, to dance, to karate, she would always be there with the biggest smile. They knew she always believed in them, from the smallest moments to the life changing ones. She was an integral part of all of their lives and none will ever look at tiny plastic swords and not think of Granny lunches.
She also had a passion for reading. No day was complete without reading the Owen Sound Sun Times cover to cover or picking up an edition of the Chesley Enterprise. Fran always tried to educate herself further through reading and always enjoyed picking up a Hello, People, McLean's or Reader's Digest. She also enjoyed sharing her love of reading with others. She constantly read to her grandchildren and great-children throughout their youth.
In her free time Fran enjoyed experimenting with a variety of crafts. She also loved her soaps, especially Coronation St., watching curling and keeping up with the news. When it came to food, chocolate was a staple in her diet, with "everything else just a filler". On more than one occasion, Fran had to go out and re-buy chocolate for Easter, Halloween and Christmas gifts as she had sampled the first purchase! She loved sending cards that always included her beautiful handwriting. Fran loved bright colours, particularly reds and oranges and enjoyed sporting a new hat, purse or pair of gloves. She had a collection of Hummel figurines as well as collections of fossils and beach glass from the cottage.
"I am so proud of you…" was more than just a phrase to Fran, it was her legacy. By seeing the best in each person she influenced people's lives for the better. Giving to others was its own reward. She will be dearly missed.
Sadly, Fran was diagnosed with leukemia just prior to Christmas. She remained upbeat and positive throughout her brief illness and passed away, surrounded by her loving family, at Grey Bruce Health Services, Owen Sound on Friday, January 18, 2019 in her 85th year.
Beloved wife of John. Loving mother of Debora Hickling of London, Susan (John) Schlorff of Bruce Township, Richard (Gail) of Kitchener and Wendy (Kelvin) Bentley of Napier, New Zealand. She will live on in the hearts and minds of her grandchildren Amy (Corey), Lindsay (Dave), Sara, Kevin (Ashlee), Cameron, Matthew and great-grandchildren Hannah, Payten, Tristen, Carter and Leigha. Fran will be fondly remembered by her brother Lennie (Helen) Smith of Detroit and sister-in-law Cheryle Smith of Woodstock. She was predeceased by her brother Ian Smith and her parents Richard and Jean (Vigus) Smith.
Visitation will be held at St. John's United Church, Chesley (123 2nd Ave. S.E.) on Friday from 2 - 4 and 7 - 9 p.m. where a funeral service celebrating Fran's life will be held on Saturday, January 26, 2019 at 1 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to the Chesley Medical Clinic (cheques payable to Municipality of Arran-Elderslie), Chesley Hospital Foundation or St. John's United Church would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy.Send to friend