Written by Veronica Woodward
Fran Curley turns 100 years old February 4th.
Family and friends will hold a catered event in Chichester, Pennsylvania, the following weekend to celebrate the birth and 100 years of the life of FrancesCurley. There will be over 175 people in attendance at this major milestone event.
Born Frances Elizabeth Meier in 1918 in Brooklyn NY, Frances is the oldest of 3 children. Her mother died when she was 18, so Frances helped to raise her younger siblings: Eddie and Marion, both now deceased.
Fran spent her summers as a young girl on her grandparent’s farm in Ulster Heights, NY. She would ride the hay wagons, drink water from the well and ride in her grandfather’s rumble-seat car. Shelearned independence at a very young age. As a young teen she was accepted into the prestigious art program at Washington Irving High School in NY and would travel all over NYC on subways and buses, alone.
In 1938 she married James Curley, also from Brooklyn. She tells a story that Jim asked her best friend to a movie, however, it was the depression era after all and her friend said no, wanting to save him the money. Fran, however, said yes and the rest is a love affair that lasted 66 years. Together they had 11 children (6 girls and 5 boys), 35 grandchildren and 52 great grandchildren and 9 great, great-grandchildren; most of whom are here today along with many friends and relatives to wish her a joyous 100th birthday.
Frances has lived in many states. Her husband, Jim, worked for the Federal Government (CAA and FAA) as a communications expert and an air traffic controller. His job required that the family move quite a bit, sometimes into remote areas. Every time Fran was expecting another child, it seemed that Jim got a promotion requiring a change of location. They left Brooklyn and moved to Clearfield PA where the first child was born. By the time #2 came they were in Fort Plain, NY then onto to Norfolk VA, then to Newburgh for a very short time. Then they moved to Walden, NY where they resided for 7 years. From NY to Coventry RI, then to Glen Burnie, MD, and finally to PA where they settled in Bethel Township after 3 more moves. Fran has been in the same home for 48 years. short bridal dresses with long sleeves
Besides being the mother of 11 children, Frances is an accomplished seamstress and made many of the family’s clothing. She has sewn many prom gowns, bridesmaid dresses and wedding gowns. Fran wasalso a Milliner (maker of ladies hats) and created beautiful hats for herself and her daughters for church, weddings and fancies back in the 50’s.
Fran was no ordinary ‘stay at home mom’. While raising her children Fran also managed many enterprises: in the 1940’s she was an entrepreneur of her own Children's clothing shop in Walden NY. In the 1950’s she sold toys in house parties. In the early 60’s she was the neighborhood Avon Lady and in the late 60’s she and Jim had their own successful catering business. Fran also worked at Strawbridge and Clothier, in the sweater department, many Christmas seasons. This ensured everyone got beautiful warm sweaters for the Holiday. Christmas at the Curley household was like no other. Prettily wrapped gifts would fill the living room along with lots of laughter and song.
Never one to slow down, Fran also worked at Garnet Valley High School for a decade in the 70’s as a ‘lunch lady’. She made many friends there as well. Fran has been an active member of her communityas a Girl Scout Leader and a Boy Scout Den Mother. She also went to clown school and performed at hospitals and nursing homes for over 10 yrs. Fran has always been active in her church and was a Eucharistic Minister and a grief counselor for many years at St John Fisher, Catholic Church.
Fran and her husband of 66 years, Jim, spent their retirement traveling and camping across the USA with a square dance troupe called the ‘Roving Squares’. They performed at nursing homes, malls, and went where-ever there was fun and a safe place to socialize. In the off-season Fran and Jim would dance with ‘Pi-R-Squares’ at least 3 nights a week making many life-long friends. Dancing may well account for her good health, long life and why she stays so sharp. Fran is still active with her local Red Hat Group and participates in outings and luncheons. She loves a good beer and will gladly share a dark ale with friends and family.
Raising a large family on a budget with a single breadwinner, Fran is no pushover. One story heard through the years was when the car, full of small children, broke down on a road in Philadelphia. There she was, stuck in traffic, kids crying in the back seat and the driver of the car behind her blowing his horn. After a few minutes of listening to the honking she got out of the car, walked back to the irate driver and said “hey mister..how about I honkyour horn and you fix my car!”
That’s my mom…she is a “take no prisoners” kind of girl and that’s why we love her. Her children will tell you that she is the strongest woman they have ever known. She is not just the matriarch of her large family, but the backbone as well.
To sum up her life’s philosophy: Fran Curley is someone who believes that family is everything; that life is what you make it; that you are responsible for your own actions; that we should take care of each other and give to those less fortunate; and that age is only a number. Fran believes that if we take care of the little things, God will take care of the big things.
Happy 100th birthday to a very special lady. We are all so happy that we get to share this joyous occasion with you.