On February 28, this community lost a woman who made enormous contributions to the quality of life of so many in Champaign-Urbana. Originally from Chicago’s West Side, Frances came to Champaign-Urbana and graduated in nursing from Mercy Hospital School of Nursing and the U of I.
Like her husband Stanley, who was one of the early members of the U of I faculty union (now called the Campus Faculty Association), Frances believed in the dignity of work and workers and in the struggle to attain and maintain that dignity. She was a major figure in the 1970 strike of nurses who were working in the former Burnham City Hospital, the last public hospital in this community.
But Frances made many contributions to the community aside from nursing hospital patients and fighting for the well-being of those who nursed them. She was a co-founder of A Woman’s Place and the Prairie Aids Foundation, and served for many years on the board of the Greater Community Aids Project. For ten years, she was the Executive Director of the Frances Nelson Health Center, which provides health care exclusively to low or no income people. She was an active member of the Champaign County Health Care Consumers. She also taught, and was a counselor, at Urbana Adult Education.
When provoked by social injustice or political ineptitude, her reactions sometimes had a very long reach. Repelled by the choices the two parties offered in the 2002 gubernatorial election, Frances threw her hat in the race as a write-in candidate.
When not working in her profession or on her social activism, Frances was an artist, sailor, bowler, and Mah Jongg player. She and Stanley loved classical music, and in recent years I would most often see and chat briefly with them at Krannert concerts.
This community won’t be the same without this woman who was interested in so many things and who made so many contributions to its well-being. But her accomplishments live on for the betterment of our lives.