Frances V. Resendes, a true “Island Girl,” died Jan. 3 at her beloved Herring Creek Road home in the manner with which she lived — peacefully and gracefully. She was 97.
Born on June 4, 1919 in the family home on North Summer street in Edgartown, she was the oldest child of Olive and Frank Prada. Descended from a long line of fishermen, much of her childhood was spent on the water. Family picnics to Cape Pogue on her father’s catboat, summers on Pasque Island with her aunt and uncle, and swimming off any beach or dock filled her childhood.
In 1937, Fran graduated from the “new” Edgartown High School in a class that totaled 13 students. She had a choice of careers: nursing or teaching. Her inherent kindness and dedication to helping people led her to choose a career in nursing, and she began her training at The Saint Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing in New Bedford. This proved to be a fortuitous decision. While at school, she met and fell in love with Albert T. Resendes, who became her husband on Sept. 6, 1941 at St. Elizabeth’s Church on Main street.
Fran and Al made their home in New Bedford and welcomed four children. In the spring of 1957, it was time to find a larger home for the family of six. After a bit of house hunting, Fran fell in love with an antique Cape Cod cottage, not far from the water, in Fairhaven. The house had not been occupied for quite a while and needed much work. Undaunted by the challenge, she dove into making the house a home for her family. An addition here, a renovated kitchen there, she loved making the home a place where family and friends would frequently gather for food, friendship and perhaps a cocktail. Fran’s door was always open and she had a way of making everyone feel welcome and special. While life in Fairhaven provided great happiness and many friends, the Vineyard never left her heart. Family summer vacations were at the family cottage, Holdemall, behind the house in which she was born. Winter weekends and holidays were spent in the main house with her mother.
In 1973, after 33 years of life off-Island, Fran and Al decided to start a new chapter and built a home in Edgartown on a piece of land that had been given to her by her grandfather, Edward T. Vincent. With her love of a good challenge, Fran accepted a position as operating room supervisor at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Her dedication, skill and compassion enabled her to provide outstanding patient care. In the early days, there were no cell phones, so she always had to be available by phone should the hospital call for an emergency. She never missed a call and was proud of the more difficult cases that the staff handled.
It was time to retire from nursing in 1984 and begin another chapter. Fran joined her brother Edward and friend Robert Hathaway as a commercial quahaugger. For several summers, early mornings were spent on the flats of Katama Bay hand-digging her limit of quahaugs. Her second brother, Richard, soon retired and joined the group. They were well-known fixtures on the Edgartown waterfront and made many friends.
Retirement provided Fran a chance to spend time doing the things she truly loved: sewing, knitting, needlepointing, caring for grandchildren, and travel. Visits to Hong Kong, China, Macau, France, Italy and Switzerland were some of her retirement adventures, along with trips to Falmouth to visit her sister Catherine. Her last few years were spent enjoying the birds and wildlife in her back yard, visits from friends, and rides to see the Vineyard sights.
Some of her greatest joy was found at the Federated Church, where she was a loyal attendee and past church deacon. As a member of the Unity Club, her sewing skills helped stock the needlework table for the biannual church fairs. Fran was a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Sea Coast Defence Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Auxiliary, and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Board of Trustees, and took great pride in working with the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Tree of Lights Committee.
She is survived by her children, Richard Resendes of Ruskin, Fla. and Jo-Ann Resendes and Irene Resendes of Edgartown; grandchildren John Resendes of Antioch, Tenn., Michael Resendes of Wareham, Emma Vancour of Edgartown, and Martha Shiels of Clovis, Calif.; and two great-grandsons, Aaron Resendes and Tanner Shiels. She is also survived by her sister Catherine Griffin of Edgartown. She was predeceased by her husband Al in 1983 and her daughter Mary Vancour in 2015.
A celebration of her life will be held on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 11 a.m. at the Federated Church in Edgartown. Donations in Fran’s memory can be made to Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, P.O. Box 1748, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, or Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, P.O. Box 1477, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.