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Fran Fussell - Relieving Stress from Flying Low

Fran’s full first name is Francoise, and when used she is often asked if she is French.  The response is yes, and no, si’l vous plait (a quick check on your French vocabulary).  Fran was born in Paris, France.  If the location had been Paris, Tennessee, her parents could have attended the annual Catfish Festival.  Instead her father was an American serviceman stationed in France.  Fran was born in an American hospital in Paris, which is still there!  The family returned to the states in 1951 and, after her father retired from the Army, settled in Beaufort, South Carolina.  Fran shortened her name, so South Carolina natives could pronounce it.

Fran matriculated at the University of South Carolina where she met her future husband Larry.  Fran majored in guess what (Larry and French)?  After graduation she continued her education earning a master’s Degree from Louisiana State University returning to SC in 1970 to marry Larry.  Larry was an Air Force ROTC graduate in the Vietnam era.  After pilot training at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi he flew KC-135 refueling aircraft in support of the Vietnam war.  Post military, Larry was hired as a pilot with Atlanta based Southern Airways as he and Fran migrated to Mableton, GA.  Larry had been running before he and the Air Force parted, and Fran at age thirty begin her running sojourn with short walks/runs.  The family self-migrated to Douglas County and Fran progressed to running 5k races finishing from the back of the pack to “under thirty minutes” finish times closer to the front.

Fran participated in many area races and soon began the time-honored tradition of donating t-shirts to Goodwill as they over accumulate to become the main staple of one’s wardrobe.  One of her favorite races is the Johnson Ferry Baptist Church sponsored Polar Bear 5K, which Fran has run since inception thirty years ago.  Other favorites that Fran has participated in since inception include the Frog Hop 5K and the Jack-O-Lantern Four Miler (now 5K) near Athens.          

Larry in 2004 suffered a heart attack and five years later a stroke.  The family moved to Walhalla, South Carolina.  Fran retired to become a full-time care giver.  Bob recalls Fran commiserating her role with the heart rendering observation that “he would have done the same for me.”  Being the mother of four sons and seven grandchildren, she had hoped that her family would follow in her race shoes.  She has persuaded most of her sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren over the years to participate in races with her.  A keepsake is a photo of Fran and her four sons at the end of a Peachtree Road race, which is framed and prominently displayed in her home. 

Now that Fran has become a full-time care giver, she considers her runs even more important for her physical and mental well-being.  Although involved in civic and charitable activities in Walhalla, the current open border between Georgia and South Carolina facilitates occasional race pilgrimages to North Georgia and the Athens area providing a welcome stress release from her confining role as a care giver.  Fran confides that having recently turned seventy it is “a lot easier to win first in her age group”. She hopes” to continue running up to the end!”

Bob checking out from the back of the pack. Look for the profile of John Johnson, and profile of Winder’s Erica Shepley.