Official Obituary of

Frances Eleanor (Blakney) Sullivan

January 10, 1932 ~ May 13, 2023 (age 91) 91 Years Old
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Frances Sullivan Obituary

Frances Eleanor Blakney was born at home on January 10th,1932, the middle of three daughters to Frank Blakney and Irene Kelly.  A self-professed tomboy, Franny grew up exploring the boulders and the woods behind her house in South Peabody, Massachusetts with her sisters, Jean and Carol. Flat Belly Rock was her favorite place.

After graduating from Peabody High school in 1949, Fran got a cleaning job at the Peabody leather tannery.  The work conditions there were tough, and Fran found more rewarding work as a cleaner at Peabody Hospital where she enjoyed interacting with the patients.  This job helped her save $60 to pay for nurses training in Beverly.  With her training friends, Fran frequented a honky-tonk bar in Boston called Hillbilly Ranch where they would dance with sailors to music by Tex Ritter and Lefty Frizzell.  Fran’s first job as an RN was in the maternity ward at Boston Lying-In Hospital (now Brigham and Womens). 

Fran and a fellow nurse longed for adventure, so they hopped in their ‘53 Chevy and drove across the country.  They were enchanted by driving through the land of cowboy music, but also Fran had her sights on a handsome fellow she had met at a cocktail party in Boston.  Frank Sullivan was a Coast Guard cadet in California and was happy Fran had come West.  Franny and Frank shared a love for the outdoors and the arts.  In 1955 they had a simple wedding ceremony in Eureka. 

After Ellen was born, Fran and Frank were eager to be closer to family back east.  Frank found a science teaching position and they made Wayland, Ma their home for a brief time before settling in West Peabody where Matthew and Julie were born.  They later moved to Hamilton, Ma to raise the family.

The years to come were filled with adventures camping, hiking and swimming with family throughout the Northeast.  There were trips through Canada and the British Isles, a camping road trip cross country with the whole family squeezed into a station wagon and a semester sabbatical in Kaneohe, Hawaii.  Fran always brought back the traditions and recipes of these cultures and recreated them at home. She was an amazing cook and always embraced a challenging recipe. Frank and Fran enjoyed many evenings out with live music and dancing. My, how Fran loved to dance!

Fran was an artist. She enriched her family’s life with trips to the theater and creative projects with the kids.  She wrote plays and stories, drew, painted, mostly in watercolor, played recorder with a women’s group, and sang in the church choir.  Fran longed to live on a farm, so Frank built a chicken coop with a few hens in their suburban backyard in Hamilton.

In 1977 Fran got her Masters in Psychology at what is now Salem State University and became a psychiatric nurse at Stoneham Memorial Hospital and then later Melrose Wakefield Hospital.

During her studies in Salem, she became involved in the Outward Bound Program which renewed her love of nature through overnight bicycle trips, canoe trips, winter camping and cross-country skiing. She explored classes in photography and ceramics, making replicas of historic houses from clay.

Fran and Frank loved exploring new lands and set out on an adventure with every opportunity.  Eventually they co-authored travel guides for New England and then for Ireland.  In 1985, as empty nesters, Fran and Frank lived out a dream by opening the Wild Rose of York in the beautiful coastal town in Maine.  They delighted guests from all over the world with homemade breakfasts and charming conversation for 12 years.  They were loving life!  As well as innkeeping, Fran continued to work in Massachusetts for Visiting Nurses of Gloucester. 

In 1997, they moved back to Massachusetts and settled in Newburyport.  Franny continued writing stories and essays with many writing groups and continued her watercolor painting.

After Frank's death in 2000, Fran began to volunteer for coffee hour at the First Religious Society, Unitarian Universalist Church. She also ushered at the Firehouse Center for the Arts, participated in writing and theater festivals, substitute-taught school and played weekly games with her peers: Scrabble and Cribbage were her favorites. Thursdays were saved for “Sisters Day” when the three sisters would ‘do lunch and antiquing’.  Fran continued her passion for travel with trips to Mexico, Cuba and then Switzerland with Road Scholar.  Never one to shy from sharing her opinion, she was a frequent contributor to the Newburyport Daily News “As I See It” section. 

Fran was nicknamed “Minnie” by her four grandchildren, and she treasured every second she spent with them.  She never missed their music concerts, plays and ceremonies and supported all their endeavors.  Her happiest moments were when she was surrounded by family at holidays and gatherings, playing games, singing, goofing around and enjoying their shared love of cooking and eating food!

To know Franny was to feel her warm smile and experience her ebullient sense of humor.  A funny and willing companion, she made friends everywhere she went.  She was rarely without a folded crossword puzzle in her purse. She could out-whistle anyone and played a mean game of bocce ball.  She will be so missed by anyone lucky enough to experience her joyful presence.

Fran is predeceased by her husband and adventure companion, Frank Leslie Sullivan.  She was the loving mother of Ellen Sullivan Taylor and son in law Sam Scholz of Amesbury, of Julie Philibert and son in law Josh of Foxborough and of her late son, Matthew Sullivan.  Devoted grandmother (Minnie) to Nathan, Emily, Jonah and Wiley, Fran is also survived by many beloved nieces and nephews including Leslie Kolakowski of Topsfield, and grandnieces and grandnephews with whom she stayed in touch with her yearly Christmas cards.

Fran’s family is very grateful to all the staff for the loving care she received during her last few years from the caregivers at Elizabeth Calsey House in Amesbury, Atria at Merrimack Place of Newburyport, Bridges of Westwood and The Doolittle Home in Foxboro.

Donations can be made to NAMI, the National Alliance for Mental Illness, at in memory of Frances E. Sullivan, R.N., who worked in the field of mental health and believed it is as important as physical health.  Fran envisioned a future where conversations about mental health would be more common and free of stigma.

A Celebration of Frances Sullivan’s Life will be held at The First Religious Society, Unitarian Universalist Church, 26 Pleasant St, Newburyport, MA. July 1, 2023, an 11:00 am service filled with music in the sanctuary followed by a light lunch reception in lower meeting house. 

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Celebration of Life
July 1, 2023

11:00 AM

Online Memory & Photo Sharing Event
Online Event

In Loving Memory Of

Frances Sullivan

January 10, 1932-May 13, 2023

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have shared

Family and friends are coming together online to create a special keepsake. Every memory left on the online obituary will be automatically included in the book.   

Online Memory & Photo Sharing Event
Online Event


In Loving Memory Of

Frances Sullivan

January 10, 1932-May 13, 2023

Look inside to read what others have shared

Family and friends are coming together online to create a special keepsake. Every memory left on the online obituary will be automatically included in the book.   


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