“All that and then this.” Frances Eileen Wosmek of Magnolia, Massachusetts went on to “explore the other side of the clear blue sky,” in the quiet and still hours of August 6, 2014. Her children and friends were near. She was 96 and had been fun, kind and clever right up until that very day.
Frances was a natural talent - an artist and writer of full and varied skills all her of life. It was her heartbeat – drawing, painting and sculpting babies, children and animals, writing in verse and illustrating children’s books, reading philosophy (Sri Aurobindo – daily for 40 years) and quantum physics (Niels Bohr - intensely.) Her art and thinking encompassed environmentalism, feminism, population explosion, politics and poetry – as well as humorous verse, toys and greeting cards. There wasn’t a riddle she couldn’t discern, a water temperature too cold for swimming, an art technique she did not master. She got up early and got right to work, finding her condo in Magnolia with the view of sun and ships coming up over the horizon, her most productive. She said, “There it just flowed, and I could often not get it down fast enough.” To counter her solitary creative work she swam and walked long distances several times a day. West, Magnolia and Wingaersheek Beaches were her favorites, beach dogs her companions, a black one-piece her summer uniform, something in blue from LL Bean, her winter.
Frances Wosmek is the author of over a dozen published books, including, In the Space of a Wink, A Brown Bird Singing, and Acknowledge the Wonder. Sky High, Neighbors, and A Bowl Full of Sun (Rockport) are collectors’ items. Manuscripts being reviewed for publication now include: Peter and the Wooley Bear (about Rockport,) A Mayor for Great Misery (Island,) and Under the Evil Hand (Salem witch trials.) She was recruited from Cleveland and American Greetings by Rustcraft in Boston to be their first greeting card artist; freelanced from her Beverly Farms studio for Kiddie Products and Gerbers; taught writing online for the Institute of Childrens’ Literature in Connecticut, and at Cambridge Adult Education on Brattle Street.
She was an early star with the Fair Play Club of the Duluth Herald, went to Sebeka High School and attended Menzinger’s Art School (now the Detroit Institute of the Arts) where she worked with Carlos Lopez. She studied drawing and sculpture with George Demetrius in Gloucester and was a writer in-residence at Hedgebrook on Whidbey Island, Washington. She won an Edgar Allen Poe Award for fiction, as well as literally hundreds of other awards for design, poetry and illustration.
She was pleased and thrilled to be honored by the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, with a Frances Wosmek Day in 2013. CAM worked with Frances closely and archived all her manuscripts, awards, sketches, wood blocks, books, photographs and paintings into the museum collections. The life and career of Frances Wosmek can also be followed on her website: www.franceswosmek.com.
An Ebay collection highlights her work as it becomes available. In 1948 Frances Wosmek married Paul Stuart Brailsford, an English Master Mariner, manufacturer’s representative of environmental products to the fishing industry, and peace activist. They moved to Beverly Farms from Reading, and in 1960 they were named, “The All American Family from Massachusetts, representing the state in a conference sponsored by the Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia and the University of Pennsylvania. Paul and Frances were divorced 23 years later but had recently reconciled and were good friends. Paul lived in Ipswich, also died at the age of 96. Their son Brian is now a Marine Surveyor in Maine, and daughter Robin is an artist in California.
Born on a homestead, in the first wood frame house in Popple, Minnesota, Frances was delivered in a blizzard by a country doctor who got there by horse drawn sleigh. Her childhood was one of bronchitis, California oranges and china dolls, imagination and outdoor exercise. Her cultured Irish mother wrote poetry and played the harp, her father was a true pioneer of the north woods. There were three children: Clara, a homemaker, died last year at the age of 98. Sam, “the talented one,” at 94, carries on the Minnesota family traditions – from music and art to championship shooting. After graduation from Wadena Teacher’s Collage, Frances got a Model A (which she painted a cheery maroon) so that she could drive to work in a remote one room schoolhouse. She drove for another 75 years and never had an accident. Her driver’s license was renewed when she was 92. She had absolutely no sense of direction, but what she saw and learned on her adventures by sea and air to Peru, Egypt, Japan and Ireland, as well as across the US and throughout Europe resonated with her until the very end.
She was also completely technically inept – but she was early to word processors, the Internet, Facebook – anything to increase her abilities to work. She never did get used to digital cameras. Her first phone was a party line – two long and one short, her favorite number, “44.” Her “eyesight and hearing were perfect.”
Fran’s creativity, energy, quips and sense of wonder will be missed by her family and friends. As well as those mentioned above, we would like to remember Waltraut Pundt Brown, Maureen Oathes, Peggy Cahill, the Rekow nephews, Martha Conant Brailsford, neighbors in Magnolia, Rocky Neck, Beverly Farms and Juniper Point, and the wonderful, kind caretakers at Seacoast in Gloucester. For her work and life in her own words please see her website www.franceswosmek.com.