Ruth Franzen, 98, Worked as Teacher, School Head

Ruth Franzen, a longtime summer resident of Chappaquiddick, died in Cambridge on May 8. She would have been 98 the following day.

The daughter of Charles Platt Rablen, an efficiency expert with AT&T, and Lavinia Burnett Rablen, Mrs. Franzen was graduated from Barnard College in New York in 1929 and went on to teach mathematics. She eventually became head of the Upper School at the Spence School in New York city, a position she held for nearly twenty years.

After childhood summers spent sailing and fishing on Long Island, she married Arthur Franzen, whose preference was for mountain lakes - but after six years of freshwater vacations, she persuaded him to give saltwater a try. They rented the Big Cottage at the Bathing Beach in 1940 (in the days of compulsory black woollen bathing suits) and were so taken by Chappaquiddick that they bicycled up every sandy track on the island looking for a suitable house to buy.

Eventually they found just the place on Smith's Point: a 19th-century summer house that had been boarded up for years. It had a beautiful view down to Edgartown, although a large corrugated iron boat shed (soon to be destroyed by the hurricane of 1944) interfered with the view to the south. Mrs. Franzen had to handle the details of the purchase, because the previous owner, Miss A. Frank C. Smith, disapproved of all men and would have nothing to do with them.

Fixing up the house took every summer for years. The Franzen daughters, Ellen and Elizabeth, assumed that all families spent their vacations tearing down porches, reshingling, scraping and painting boats, with only the occasional break for sailing and swimming. Eventually life settled down enough for the Franzens to be able to devote more time to entertaining their many friends from on and off the Island.

Arthur Franzen died in 1969, but Mrs. Franzen continued to summer on Chappaquiddick for another 30 years. Along with the constant demands of maintaining the house (visitors often would find her up a ladder with paintbrush or hammer in hand), she was active in the Chappaquiddick Association and the Dukes County Historical Society (now the Martha's Vineyard Historical Society). She kept working as a volunteer at the Edgartown Council on Aging, as well as Saint Luke's hospital in New York, even when she was considerably older than many of the people she helped.

Mrs. Franzen is survived by her daughters, three grandchildren, Michael Kaplan, Samuel B. Potter and Hope Potter Chavez, and three great-grandchildren, Felix Kaplan, Rebekah Potter and Alex Potter.

Her ashes will be interred at her husband's grave in the Chappaquiddick cemetery on Oct. 15.