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17 April 2011
Many people think of Jeanette MacDonald standing in the ruins of 1906 San Francisco , singing her heart out when they hear the song "San Francisco" (open your golden gates...). For decades I have heard that song and thought of Judy Garland belting it out during her Carnegie hall concert. After today, I will think of Fran Mitchell, and how appropriate it was that we should all sing that song at the end of her memorial service.
It was a grand send-off for Char's mother. Fran died a month ago, after a brief stay in an assisted living facility near Char and her kids. Prior to that she had lived in San Francisco for 96 years.
The memorial had been postponed until Char's daughter finished taking her class to Costa Rica and it could be scheduled for a time convenient for her son and his family to fly out from the east coast. Grandma wasn't going anywhere; they could wait until the time was right.
The rest of us just made time to attend because...well...we never miss a Blackford funeral.
On Char's request, Walt wore his W.C. Fields tie, which he had worn for her father's funeral years before. Fran would have loved it.
It was a simple service, with comments and music provided by family members. I was so impressed with Char and her sister Flo, both of whom started the proceedings by getting up and speaking. Ain't no way I could have done that without falling apart.
Son Tim was the MC and did a great job of mostly sticking to the list Char had provided for him...and improvising when things had to be switched up a bit.
Char's oldest daughter Tavie wrote on Facebook yesterday, "Finished writing something to say at Grandma's service tomorrow, now I just have to figure out how to get through it without crying." She did a beautiful job.
The thing I loved about the service, as others in the gathering got up to share memories, was hearing what a fun-loving family this was, and how Fran had been the heart of it. I had known that, of course, having known Fran for more than 40 years, but it was nice to hear wave after wave of warm, funny memories. There were tales of picnics and crab hunts and camping trips and Halloween parties and so many other social gatherings that included all branches of the family.
It was a wonderful tribute to a woman who was the last of her generation in the Mitchell/Cameron clan.
When it was over, we stood around outside the funeral home chatting...
...and then drove to granddaughter Dana's house for a reception. It was a wonderful spread which included enough clam dip that everyone could hover, if they wanted.
I got a chance to visit with several people, including talking with great granddaughter Jamie about how she'd enjoyed her trip to Costa Rica and what was probably my very first conversation ever with one of Char's kids' spouses, who often is not able to make the Pinata gatherings.
The house was full of people and food and laughter and more stories about Fran and the family. It was exactly the kind of party she would have thrown if she could have planned it for herself, I suspect. And her family did her proud.
Good show, guys!
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