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Littleton loses a treasure in Fran Heald


November 05, 2009
LITTLETON—Just nine days short of her 101st birthday, a powerful and well-loved link to Littleton's history has died.

Frances Marion Heald died peacefully on Oct. 26 at the Lafayette Center in Franconia.

Born in Littleton on Nov. 4, 1908, Heald was the second daughter of Judge Harry Lewis and Mary (Mooney) Heald, a nurse. She was born and grew up in the family home at the corner of Grove Street and Highland Avenue.

Fran, as she was known to family and friends, was a member of Littleton High School's graduating class of 1926, and with a judge for a father and a nurse for a mother, she grew up with a strong sense of community and the desire to help others.

Following her graduation from high school, she went on to study public health and social work, graduating Magna Cum Laude from Tufts University in 1930. She also received graduate degrees from Simmons College School of Social Work, and the Harvard School of Public Health.

In 1947, following 16 years of practicing social work in Boston, Heald became a social work supervisor and director of the Medical Social Training project in the Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health.

By the time of her retirement, Fran was serving as the director of the Day Care Licensing Program in Massachusetts, and serving as President of the Massachusetts Conference on Social Welfare.

She was listed for many years in 'Who's Who of American Women,' and was the recipient of a citation for distinguished service from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Following her retirement in 1971, Fran returned to Littleton to live, and joined forces with her older sister Mary, and their father, in founding and organizing the Littleton Area Historical Society.

Later, Fran and Mary were instrumental in establishing the Museum Room at the Littleton Public Library, and Fran was co-chair of the Town History Committee during the nation's bicentennial in 1776.

Fran was very active in the community and served for many years on the Littleton Budget Committee. She also was deeply involved with the Littleton Hospital Auxiliary, All Saints Episcopal Church, The Littleton Community House, where the main meeting room is dedicated to her family (Judge Heald was instrumental in establishing the Community House for the town). She also served as treasurer of the Library Trustees, and was active with the Colonial and Garden Clubs.

In 1978, Fran and her sister Mary shared the honor of being chosen as Littleton's Citizens of the Year, the first time that the honor had been bestowed on more than one person.

Between 1980 and 1984, Fran worked with Courier Editor Jack Colby, Mary Heald (before her death in 1982), and Reginald Colby in compiling and updating the history of Littleton, which was published in 1984, to coincide with Littleton's bicentennial.

Among her favorite memories were those of travelling extensively in Europe with her sister, following her retirement.

She was also fond of recalling summers spent at Eagle Point on Lake Memphremagog in Vermont.

Fran never married, but enjoyed a large family life through her siblings and cousins, of which she leaves many.

Fran's niece, Littleton resident Mary Menzies, remembered her aunt as, "A unique, very warm, and very loving person."

Fran's nephew, Dan Nute, also of Littleton said that his aunt, "Was a woman who had a real love for life and got everything out of it that she could. She was a great woman, and we had a lot of great times together."

It was her spirit that Karen Kazerian, of Pollyanna of Littleton, fondly recalled.

"She had such a youthful spirit for such a seasoned person," Kazerian recalled. "She was always lively in the moment."

Kazerian remembered that one of the most interesting moments that she had shared with Fran was in 2007, when Fran visited a group of fifth-graders and their parents at the Mildred Lakeway School in Littleton.

"I was charmed by her visit," Kazerian said. "It was absolutely fascinating to watch the interest she showed the students, and that the students showed her."

"She was absolutely aware that everything that was happening right then, was the history of the future. That was a very special moment in time."

On the occasion of her 100th birthday last October, she attributed her long life to, "Keeping busy, having a purpose, and being involved in community life."

On many occasions, this writer was tasked with writing feature articles dealing with aspects of Littleton history, and Fran was always a ready and reliable source.

She had clear recall of the evening of Nov. 11, 1918, when news of the Armistice ending World War I came to Littleton.

"Father drove us in the carriage to the front of the Opera House, where a large crowd had gathered to celebrate the end of the war," she recounted on one occasion during the writing of an article of the history of Veteran's Day. "There was a huge crowd of people gathered there, and people were singing patriotic songs, and some people burned an effigy of the Kaiser."

Another time, this writer was preparing a story about the 75th anniversary of the 1927 flood, which had done so much damage to the North Country.

In her first year of college, she had taken the train to come home for the weekend, Friday Nov. 4, 1927.

"We had heard that there had been a lot of rain but no one expected anything like this," she said. "I think people were more amazed by the flood than frightened. We had never seen anything like it."

When she reached Woodsville where she would transfer from the Boston-Montreal train to the one that would bring her to Littleton, "There was no train to Littleton," she recalled.

She spent the night in Woodsville and was unable to get home until late the next day.

It seemed that whenever there was any research to be done for any aspect of Littleton history, Fran was the one to ask.

This writer shared many enjoyable conversations with Fran over a cup of coffee, or two, or three.

Proud to have counted her as a good friend, she will be sorely missed.

Note: A memorial service for Fran Heald is scheduled for Nov. 11 at 11am at the All Saints Episcopal Church, 35 School Street, Littleton. For more information call 603-444-3414.(ITALICS)

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