Ruth F. "Fran" Fordham

Ruth F. "Fran" Fordham (nee Frey) of West Bend passed into eternal life with her daughters at her side on Friday, April 3, 2009, at Cedar Lake Health and Rehabilitation Center in West Bend where she had lived since 1992.

Fran was born on Jan. 1, 1922, in Waukesha to Fred and Edna (nee Monroe ) Frey. She grew up on a farm, riding horses, climbing trees and generally being a tomboy.

She was married Jan. 1, 1942, to the late Wilbur E. Fordham. She and Wilbur raised five children in Waukesha and after the youngest were finally in school, Fran worked for Waukesha Public Schools for 14 years as a secretary in the social work department. Both she and her husband were very active in church life at First Methodist Church in Waukesha - Wilbur in the choir and Fran in numerous volunteer capacities. They also enjoyed square dancing for many years. One of the fondest family legacies is the memory of Wilbur and Fran playing duets by ear, with Wilbur on the organ and Fran on the piano. Often the children would join in with various homemade percussive instruments.

Fran was most widely known for her unique gift of playing the piano for others. While her dream as a young woman was to attend music school, this unfulfilled dream was replaced by her dedication and commitment to her family life. However, Fran remained passionate about music until the end of her life, obtaining an almost "celebrity status" in her community at Cedar Campus. She often played for chapel and the Cedar Community Choristers concerts, at the Top of the Ridge restaurant, as well as for elderly residents in the Health Care Center. She loved attending the Milwaukee symphony and playing in the bell choir.

During her 17 years at Cedar Community, Fran was very active in volunteer work, book review, bridge club, Red Hat Society and more. Her friends and acquaintances will remember her as a gentle soul, always willing to lend support when needed. If someone was ill or hurting, Fran was there to deliver a casserole, pay a visit and pray for them. Her faith in God was steadfast and formed the foundation of her life. She gave so much and never expected anything in return. Fran was always elegantly dressed and truly a "lady" in thought, word and deed. She also left a legacy through her gifts of beautiful handmade quilts and numerous craft creations.

Fran traveled widely, was an avid reader and lifelong learner. Perpetually engaged in life, she parasailed at age 78, fell deeply in love again at the tender age of 80, and learned to play the harp at 84. She will be forever cherished by her family as a loving, forgiving and patient wife, mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, and great-grandmother.

Fran is survived by three sons, Gerry (Karen) of Waukesha, Glenn of Waukesha, Terry of Lannon; two daughters, Beverly (Steve) Butcher of Montello, Cheryl Fordham (Dr. Joseph G.) Neuwirth of Gainesville, Ga.; four grandchildren, Sean Churchill of Milwaukee, Sarah Bosch of Montello, Isabella Fordham Neuwirth of Gainesville, Ga., Becca Ruder of Duluth, Minn.; two step-grandchildren, Zachary Butcher of Green Bay and Caitlin Butcher of Milwaukee; six great-grandchildren, André, Nicholas, Daniel, Natiyana, Cooper and Sadie; and one step-great-grandson, Brayden; other relatives and many friends.

Fran was the matriarch of her family, preceded in death by her husband, Wilbur, and siblings, Rudolph, Raymond, Howard, Jean and Barbara.

A memorial service will be held Wednesday, April 8, at 2 p.m. at Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church , 323 S. 5th Ave., West Bend, with the Rev. Janis Best officiating. Visitation will be Tuesday, April 7, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Schmidt Funeral Home, 629 Cedar St., West Bend, as well as from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the church on April 8 preceding the service. Gifts in memory of Fran may be made to Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church or Cedar Community.

The family wishes to thank the exceptional nursing staff at Aurora Health Center, Hartford and the Crossings on Paradise wing at the Cedar Lake Health and Rehabilitation Center for their compassionate care and support. We especially thank those who touched our motherís heart over the years.

Online condolences and guest book are available at www.schmidtfuneralhome.com.