Frances Eula Thompson (nee Dressel), formerly of Hoquiam and Sequim, passed away at her home in Loveland, Ohio, on June 1, 2020, at the age of 84. She is survived by two daughters, Martha (Mike Taylor) and Whitney (Rich Crettol), six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
As the only child of Frank and Eula Dressel of Hoquiam, Washington, Frances grew up in a hard-working mill town during the Great Depression and World War II. Not only did she enjoy adventures like fishing, hunting and tramping through the woods at the family’s Arcadia property with Frank, but she also was influenced by Eula to study the musical arts of vocal and piano performance. As a pianist and member of the high school women’s vocal sextet, she was already an accomplished musician by the time she graduated from high school.
Upon graduating from Hoquiam High School in 1953 as an honors student, she was thrilled to study for two years as a piano performance major at the University of Washington in Seattle. There Frances joined the list of musical descendants of Hungarian composer and pianist Franz Liszt by studying with her beloved Washington piano professor, Berthe Poncy Jacobson. (Mrs. Jacobson had studied in her native Geneva with Liszt’s last student.)
After her marriage in 1955 to high school beau, Larry Thompson, Frances transferred to his Willamette University in Salem, Oregon for two years, and graduated with a bachelor of music degree in 1957. The young couple then relocated to the Midwest where Larry pursued a doctorate at the University of Illinois, while Frances worked as a secretary in the Zoology Department while awaiting the birth of their first child. In 1960 when Larry joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota at Duluth, the growing family settled permanently in northern Minnesota.
During 48 years of marriage, Frances supported Larry’s scientific career by managing their home life and raising their children. Frances even learned Portuguese and oversaw a transplanted household in the late 1960s when an opportunity for Larry to teach in Brazil moved the family to South America for a year.
At home in Duluth, Frances ran her own piano studio out of her living room, with students arriving after school for lessons on her treasured Steinway grand piano. (While listening to a student warm up on the piano, she sometimes ducked into the kitchen to check the roast in the oven.) She switched gears in the late 1970s to become the first woman to receive a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Minnesota at Duluth, and then embarked on a business career with Krenzen Cadillac in Duluth. When duty called in the mid-1980s, she quit her job to care for her elderly mother and handle family business in Hoquiam. Frances later retired for several years to a second home in Sequim, Washington, where she enjoyed the dry climate, sunshine and friendly neighbors. She also liked to travel occasionally and talked about her favorite trips to the Red Rock area in Arizona and the art museums in Paris.
Frances spent her entire life as an artist — primarily as a classical pianist — but also as an accomplished and self-taught dressmaker and expert pie baker. Believing in doing things herself by hand, she tackled every project from restoring antiques to creating custom window treatments to refinishing woodwork, always with an artistic flair and perfection as her standard.
Finding herself divorced late in life, Frances built a new home in Loveland, Ohio to escape harsh Minnesota winters and to be close to family. With three musically talented grandchildren following in her footsteps, she delighted in accompanying at their recitals and music contests, and in attending their many concerts in the Cincinnati area. Her acoustically-designed living room, equipped with her piano, was turned into a professional recording studio where her grandchildren made audition recordings so often that the neighbors affectionately called it “Frances’ Place.” Despite worsening arthritis, Frances continued to play her beloved piano for her own enjoyment to the very end, leaving Brahms and Beethoven scores in the music stand.
Most recently at the Loveland Presbyterian Church and the Sequim Community Church, Frances found a church home in the communities where she lived. She especially liked to lead and participate in small group Bible studies and also answered the call to sponsor a Haitian child (she considered her an adopted grandchild) for many years through Compassion International.
Frances is lovingly remembered by her family as the mother and grandmother with bright green eyes who played beautiful music on the piano, sewed everything from costumes to aprons, and baked the world’s best lemon meringue pie to share with those she loved.
Frances will be laid to rest with her parents at Sunset Memorial Park in Hoquiam, Washington on Sept. 17, 2021.
Arrangements are by Coleman Mortuary in Hoquiam.