At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Community in Schools Kalamazoo
Centrica Care Navigators (formerly Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan)
Migrant Ministry at St. Thomas More Parish
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Frances Ross Flynn (Fran) will be remembered for her quiet strength, her advocacy, and peaceful force. Fran was a listener and a supporter and had a strong sense of purpose. Fran’s devotion to her family was unending, and she was filled with deep joy as she watched her family grow to include the grandchildren she adored.
Fran was the tenth child of John and Bridget (McCormick) Ross, born on January 29, 1930, in Cass City, located in the thumb of Michigan. Raised on the family farm outside of Cass City, she was joined in her family by her siblings, Mary, Alexander, Elizabeth, Bernard, Florence, Helen, Kathleen, June, Edward, and Frederick. Fran’s parents were farmers, and their main crop was sugar beets. Fran loved sharing memories of picking flowers from her mother’s flower garden and gathering eggs from the hen house each morning. Fran was named Tuscola County Bean Queen in her teen years and admonished her children and grandchildren any time they proudly, but teasingly, brought up the subject. Her grandchildren would like everyone to know that Fran even wore a sequined gown for the event. Fran attended a one room schoolhouse during her elementary years, and after graduating from high school, she attended and graduated from Eastern Michigan University. Fran worked in Flint after graduating where she was an adoption services case worker and as an active member of the Catholic church, she met John Flynn, who was a graduate student at the University of Michigan. Fran knew her own education was not complete and along with her college roommate, Mary Kay Flanigan, she moved to Chicago where she earned a Masters of Social Work from Loyola University. Mary Kay and Fran were lifelong friends. Their visits through the years were never long enough and their conversations were reflective and far-reaching.
Fran returned to Michigan after graduate school and Fran and John soon married. Their relationship was strong and beautiful, and they had a striking calmness and an unspoken understanding between them that was truly unique. Together they were blessed with the births of two children, Paul and Bridget. Favorite family memories include attending folk concerts, participating in social justice events, and camping in the Colorado Rockies, New Mexico, and Wyoming. There were also trips to visit relatives in California, Quebec, and places in-between.
Much can be said about Fran’s unmatched baking abilities. Each Christmas and Thanksgiving, her house and screened-in porch (her Michigan refrigerator) were filled to the brim with desserts. Fran believed in the power of good food to bring people together, and she delighted in having others in her kitchen and around her dinner table. Many folks, including her son-in-law during his first visit to Fran and John’s house, remember leaving Fran’s home completely stuffed after a much-needed home cooked meal. When her health no longer allowed her to bake, Fran made sure she still had treats for those who came by. Her grandchildren could always count on a bowl full of chocolates or the freezer filled to the brim with ice cream whenever they stopped by for a visit.
In 1986-1987, Fran and John spent a year living in Madrid, Spain, where John taught at the university and Fran shared her new Spanish cooking skills with everyone they invited to their home. During their retirement years, they returned to Europe to visit Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Scotland, and Ireland. In 2004, they rented a house in Ireland for the summer with John’s brother and invited family to visit them. Over a period of just six weeks, 35 family members spent time exploring together and enjoying each other’s company.
In addition to her love of her family, Fran also was very proud of her social work career. She was a devoted advocate for children. She worked as a social worker at a number of organizations throughout her career, including Child and Family Services in Flint, Saginaw, Rochester, New York, and Marquette, as well as the National Jewish Hospital in Denver, Residential Opportunities Inc. in Kalamazoo, and the Kalamazoo Public Schools, where she worked for over 20 years as a school social worker in the elementary schools.
Fran was deeply committed to equity and social justice. While living in Denver in the late 1960’s, she and John participated in protests against the Vietnam War, and they also organized a boycott in support of better working conditions for migrant workers. Upon arriving in Kalamazoo in 1970, Fran and John became members of the Metro Kalamazoo Branch of the NAACP and served as plaintiffs in the desegregation lawsuit against the Kalamazoo Board of Education. Fran also served as treasurer for the group. They participated in several protests at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. Fran was an active member of the Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War group and you could often find her and John in front of the Michigan Avenue federal building on Sunday mornings protesting the Iraq war. In addition, she was a member of the Kalamazoo County Democratic Party, through which she supported countless candidates. She also served on the boards of the 60th District Service Office and the Kalamazoo Child Abuse and Neglect Council. Fran was also active in the migrant ministry at St. Thomas More Catholic Church.
Fran was not one to fall behind on the news. An avid reader of the Kalamazoo Gazette and New York Times, in her later years, Fran was just a phone call away when we wanted to hear the latest update on the most recent current event or political platform of a candidate she had been following. Still, Fran’s friends and family remember her remarkable absence of worry, often meeting folks in the center of chaos, offering a gentle yet true reminder that “tomorrow is a new day”. Many found her non-judgmental nature disarming, a refreshing example of a way to interact with the world when political and social tensions reach a new peak.
Fran loved her children and grandchildren. Within them, she instilled a drive to do what is right and to live in service of the greater good. Fran was never known as having the loudest voice or the most to say, as her words were both intentional and deeply affirming. As Fran aged, her family delighted in her quick and disarming wit. Even in hospice, Fran’s quips would send the room into laughter. Fran loved watching her family grow, including when she met her future granddaughter-in-law and Fran blasted Pink Floyd and Roger Waters on the speakers and then went on to watch a brand new show Fran had just discovered: Planet Earth.
Fran spent her last five years living at Heritage Community in Kalamazoo. As she moved from independent living to assisted living, she needed more care from the capable staff at Heritage. But, it also meant she was able to spend more time chatting with her caregivers, learning about their lives and plans. Her last 18 months were unexpectedly isolated because of pandemic restrictions, but her conversations with her caregivers helped pull her through.
Fran’s legacy will live on in her family and friends. Her favorite recipes are now the new staple favorites in the households of her children and grandchildren, some recipes even getting new renditions thanks to the descendants who clearly inherited the majority of her cooking and baking skills. Her quick wit carries on in both the memories and practice of her family and dear friends. Her advocacy has taken root in her family’s personal and professional endeavors. But most of all, we’ll strive to live with Fran’s optimism and keen ability to live within the moment. Her deep faith in both the individual and in the beauty of our world will be a guiding force, and on the days we forget, we’ll plan to whip up a batch of her pasta sauce and count on the fact that tomorrow is a new day.
FLYNN, Frances “Fran” Ross Flynn, of Kalamazoo, age 91, died peacefully on November 9, 2021, at Rose Arbor Hospice. Fran was preceded in death by her husband John in 2008, and by 10 siblings: Mary, Alexander, Elizabeth, Bernard, Florence, Helen, Kathleen, June, Edward, and Frederick. Surviving are 2 children: Paul (Cindy) Flynn and Bridget (Darren) Timmeney; 4 grandchildren: Andrew (Clare) Flynn, Abbey Flynn, Graeme Timmeney and Mara Timmeney; sister-in-law, Loretta Ross and many nieces and nephews. Cremation has taken place. Because of the continuing COVID situation, the family is still deciding on how best to celebrate Fran’s life, once it is safe to come together in a larger group. If you would like to be contacted about a future gathering celebrating Fran’s life, please sign the guestbook (linked at the top of this page) and leave your email address. Visit Fran’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos and sign her guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Communities in Schools of Kalamazoo, Centrica Care Navigators (formerly Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan) or the Migrant Ministry at St. Thomas More Parish. Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.