Mary Frances Jackson Follett, a resident of Tucson, Arizona and Coloma, died on May 5, while living at The Forum care facility in that city.
Mary Fran was born in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin on October 9, 1917, the daughter of Charles Jackson and Vern Porter Jackson. Her father passed away when she was two years old and she was raised in a single parent household, along with her older brother, by a strong, competent mother who managed to keep the home together. Mary Fran's schooling was mostly in Oconomowoc, but her mother's family and her father's only brother lived in West Plains, Missouri. The Jackson family journeyed to Missouri every year and Mary Fran occasionally attended school in West Plains.
Upon high school graduation Mary Fran moved to Madison to attend the University of Wisconsin. She joined the Sigma Kappa Sorority where she soon met sorority sisters Anabel and Ada Mae Follett from Coloma. They introduced her to their brother Kenyon, also a university student but who spent much of his time at Morey's airport obtaining his pilot's license. Mary Fran had no fear of flying and in the late 1930s the two of them, along with Ken's Irish Setter, spent some of their free time going here and there by plane.
Mary Fran graduated with a degree in Home Economics in 1939 and, still a university student, Kenyon had purchased a Ford tractor dealership in Coloma. Kenyon and Mary Fran married in 1940 and, although moving to Coloma, Kenyon began teaching flying in several locations in southern Wisconsin. He then accepted a flight instructor position in Lakeland, Florida, and Mary Fran and daughter Barbara accompanied him there, keeping but leaving their Coloma house behind. Soon afterwards, Kenyon enlisted in the Navy as a flight instructor and the family was stationed at several naval bases through the duration of World War II, returning to Coloma as the war was ending. Daughter Barbara was born before Kenyon's enlistment, while daughter Ann was born near to the end of his time in the Navy.
Upon returning to Coloma after his naval service, Kenyon sold the Ford tractor business and purchased a Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Buick dealership in Coloma which he held until his retirement and the Chevrolet Dealership in Adams until selling to the Wolmet Family. He also had an active role in the Peoples Bank of Coloma, which his grandfather, Vilas Follett, had founded early in the 20th century and his father Darwin Follett headed for many years. With the death of his father in 1959, Kenyon took on the position of leading the banks until The People's Bank and its branches were sold in the late 1970s to Marshall & Ilsley Bank of Milwaukee.
Mary Fran had been a behind the scenes support for all of Kenyon's business activities, but their holidays were primarily road trips or flying their private plane on day trips and several lengthy trips. They took their Cessna 140 to Guatemala with the Middleton, Wisconsin, based Cessna Caravan flying group around 1954, later flew to Canada with a group of Flying Farmers, flew to visit relatives in Florida, and attended many fly-in breakfasts in around Wisconsin. Driving, they nearly always went west, early on with a small trailer built in Friendship, Wisconsin, then with their pick-up camper or small RV, including a trip across Canada to Vancouver and Seattle, and driving to Alaska several times.
While her husband spent much of his free time at the Coloma airport, flying for the joy of it or teaching many local people to fly, Mary Fran actively participated in her daughters' activities and pursued her own interests in sports. She roller skated and ice skated from childhood until her mid-60s and golfed until her late 80s. She was an organizer of a Coloma 4-H club, active in a bowling league at Sunset Point at Pleasant Lake, a member of the local branch of the General Federation of Women's Clubs and belonged to a local group they had named "Stitch and Chatter". After the family bought a cottage at Pleasant Lake in the early 1950s she swam most days and ran the motor boat for her water skiing family. Mary Fran was instrumental in mid-1950s in starting a lake boat patrol and initiating water ski hours at the lake. She was a strong supporter of Pleasant Lake and remained so throughout her life.
Mary Fran and Kenyon moved to Tucson, Arizona, in 1977 when Kenyon retired and sold his business interests in Coloma. At first their stay was seasonal but over the years they spent more time in Arizona and less in Wisconsin. Mary Fran loved her home in Coloma but she thrived in the Arizona desert. She loved the desert vegetation and planted a variety of cacti around their Arizona home. She was fascinated by Southwestern jewelry and assembled a collection of that and other forms of typically Arizonan art. She did more and more knitting and made baby blankets for each new baby in the family, as well as knitting sweaters, stoles, and blankets for many of the adults. She and Kenyon had become loyal fans of the University of Arizona basketball team and attended all of the home games for many years.
Mary Fran was the last of her generation in the family, being pre-deceased by her mother, father, aunts, brother, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, her husband of nearly 70 years, and sadly, one of her nieces. She is survived by her daughter Barbara Schweger and Barbara's family, all of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: granddaughter Culley Schweger Bell (Steven Bell) and their children Salix Bell, Linnea Bell, and Violet Bell and granddaughter Maija Prakash (Neeraj Prakash) and their children Indra Prakash and Nayan Prakash. Mary Fran is survived by her daughter Ann Liebert (Mike Liebert) and their family: her grandson Shield Bonnichson (Aiyana Bonnichson) and their daughters Zoe Albright and Chloe Wicklund, all of Tucson, Arizona. Her other grandson Sven Bonnichsen (Gretchin Lair) lives in Portland, Oregon. Ann's second husband's family, living in Canton, Connecticut, were considered family: Mike's children Bill Liebert, Paul Liebert and Starr Cookman (Darrell Cookman) and their children Rowan Cookman and Ella Cookman. Mary Fran also felt very close to her Jackson, Congdon, and Baker nieces and nephews and their children. Her social life revolved around the extended family.
Mary Fran maintained excellent health well into her 90s and then both her memory and physical health began to fail. She received excellent care at The Forum, in Tucson, Arizona, and we thank its staff, Hospice, and her long time personal doctor, Dr. Steven Wool. We also would like to thank the relatives who traveled long distances this last year to visit Mary Fran even though her mind was failing.
Mary Fran took special pride in putting together elaborate relish trays for all social gatherings and spent months in advance making a great variety of cookies for December Christmas cookie trays. She had two particularly strong passions in Coloma, the library and maintaining quality and accessibility for all at Pleasant Lake, just to the southwest of Coloma. Should anyone wish to send a memorial in Mary Fran Follett's name we would suggest a donation to the Coloma Public Library (155 Front Street, Coloma WI, 54930) or to the Pleasant Lake Management District ( PLMD, P.O. Box 230, Coloma WI 54930) to help fund their activities in maintaining water quality and the health of its fish and aquatic plants.
Cremation and a time for thought and meditation took place in Tucson, Arizona, in May. Inurnment and a short graveside service will be held at the Coloma Cemetery at 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 1, with the help and the direction of Leikness Funeral Home of Wautoma. Prayers will be offered by Mary Fran's great nephew David Rowe of McFarland.