Frances M Cornell

May 2, 1921 ~ October 31, 2019 (age 98)


CORNELL, Frances M

A longtime Spokane resident, my mother, Frances M. Cornell, 98, died peacefully October 31, 2019 in hospice care at the Mann Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, with me, her daughter Deborah at her side. One of five children born to George and Dora Minkoff, Frances was born in 1921 in Burnstad, North Dakota. When still a young girl, her family moved to Oregon to farm their land in the small town of Clatskanie, where she attended both elementary and high school, graduating in 1940. She attended Oregon State College in Corvallis, OR for 2 ½ years studying Home Ec which started the development of her lifelong skills as both seamstress and gardener.

In 1942 Frances joined the WAAC and was then inducted in the Women’s Army Corps in August 1943. After her training, she served overseas as a general clerk and automotive equipment operator in New Guinea from 1944 to October 1945. Upon her Honorable Discharge at Camp Beale, CA her decorations and citations were Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, WAAC Service Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, and American Campaign Medal. Her rank at discharge was T/5.

Frances married her husband, Julian Harvey Cornell, in 1947. They were married for 56 years until Harvey died suddenly in 2003. They spent the first 20 years of their married life and raised their daughter Deborah in Portland, OR where Frances worked for Pacific Mutual Life Ins Co as a mortgage loan escrow clerk. When Harvey was transferred to Spokane in 1965 by way of his job with SBA (now FEMA), she continued her career at Old National Bank. After her retirement in 1970, she pursued her passion for sewing, teaching classes at various Spokane fabric stores, and taking classes in tole painting and then teaching tole classes herself. For a brief time she opened a business, selling art supplies and small handcrafted art pieces. The business didn’t prosper so Frances took her talents home and happily continued sewing, painting, and gardening. She never met a pattern she couldn’t sew, nor a flower she couldn’t grow. Roses were her specialty.  She was delighted when her grandchildren, Colin and Khaia, were born in the 1980s, and she applied her talents toward their young interests, bringing to life every single costume they dreamt up for Halloween and school plays. She was a voracious reader, mostly romance novels — a contrast to the ‘tough cookie’ face she presented to the world — and kept organized binders of the tens of thousands of titles she read so as not to repeat one. As Khaia remembers: ‘No one would describe her as effusive but I never questioned her love for us. Weekends with her were spent outside in the garden deadheading petunias and catching bugs and of course watching Wheel of Fortune and waiting for the Lotto numbers so we could win big! When we left her house, she always stood on the porch and waved continuously until our car turned the corner.” Frances was independent, stubborn, often funny, always a helpmate. She wanted her family to know that we were the love of her life. She let us know in countless ways.

Frances was preceded in death by her parents George and Dora; her husband Harvey; her sister Mary and her brother Mike. She is survived by her daughter Debbie Brogan and son-in-law Mike Brogan; her grandchildren Colin Brogan and Khaia Brogan; her sisters Anne Hytinen and Doris Groskopf and her sister-in-law JoAnn Cornell. She also leaves behind many dear nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews, and her steadfast neighbors, Peggy and Tony. She will be loved, remembered, and missed by us all.

At Mom’s request, funeral services will not be held. I would like to thank the medical and nursing staff at Mann Grandstaff VA Medical Center CLC/Hospice from the bottom of my heart for the loving and respectful care they gave to my mother every day for the last five months of her life. I will be forever grateful to each of them for being at my side as well throughout her final journey. 

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