TERRELL, Texas — Few would dispute that Frances Tankersley has lived life to its fullest.
Today she hits a rare milestone by marking her 100th birthday – 100 years of life, lived mostly here Terrell.
“God has blessed me, in a lot of ways. I think He’s taken care of me. I never expected to live this long,” Frances said earlier this week.
Born in Raines County in 1921, Frances moved out to West Texas with her family when she was young – first to Snyder and then to Sweetwater, where she graduated from high school.
During the World War II years, she met James Dennis Tankersley at a social gathering in Lubbock, where Frances was attending Texas Tech, studying English and home economics. Dennis was training as a pilot at Lubbock Army Airfield. They would fall in love and marry in 1944 at a military base in Fort Worth. Afterward, Dennis was assigned to the Philippines. When he returned from the war, the couple would move to Terrell, Dennis' hometown.
A mother to two sons, Jim and Greg, her life would take a tragic turn when James died from a heart attack in 1967. He was just 48 years old.
Thrust into the role of breadwinner, Frances put her studies at Texas Tech to good use and went to work for the Terrell school district. She taught home economics and later obtained her certifications in special education. For several years, she would supervise the entire special education program in Terrell.
She especially enjoyed her relationships with the other teachers and with her students, she said. “I still have such good memories of when I was in high school.”
She began her career at the Terrell schools just as desegregation was changing the face of public education across the South. For Frances, it meant the beginning of many new friendships.
“The black children came in, and I have a lot of young friends whom I enjoyed and still enjoy,” she said.
Frances enjoys people, period. She enjoys engaging and just being in the presence of others.
She fondly recalled the ladies golf league in Terrell and their outings at the local country club. An avid golfer, she gave up the game only five years ago.
Another passion was traveling. She recalled taking trips organized by American National Bank. She’s been to Europe twice and recalled chaperoning the Tigerettes on a trip to Hawaii.
One place she’s never been but would still love to see is London because of its great castles and cathedrals, Frances said.
In her later years, Frances’s affection for others would manifest while volunteering for Meals on Wheels and driving people with medical problems to Dallas for treatment.
She weathered her own health scare a few years back and was hospitalized at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas with a serious heart issue. It was a bleak situation, as friends and family came to lend moral support and pray for her.
Frances rebounded and then rode out the first six months of the pandemic in a care center.
She’s home now, and “I feel great. I really do,” said Frances.
Today she enjoys conversations with friends and family, and the simple things. “I enjoy just getting out. I am amazed at how all the trees have grown,” said Frances. She marvels at the autumn color. “Have you seen the red trees?”
She still loves life, and she loves people. And she still lives life by this code:
“Do no harm. Do good and stay in love with God.”