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A Tribute to the (almost) Unstoppable Frankie Simonds

By Robyn

Frankie at our Annual Meeting and Lunch, last May

“Do I look like I need a microphone?!” That was  Frankie Simonds taking  center stage at our Annual Meeting and Lunch last May. She was being honored as one of our Founding Mothers, but she was much more than that. She was the brains and benefactor behind our International Neighbors 65th Anniversary celebration. She believed a new, trendy restaurant, especially one owned by two strong women, was just the ticket to  launch our first big meeting after the pandemic. Frankie, aged 91, drove down to the restaurant, secured the spot, and charmed the management with stories about International Neighbors’ long history in Ann Arbor. She was truly a wonderful ambassador.

Robyn, Frankie and Mojgan

Frankie served as President twice, once as a younger woman in the 1970s, then again in 2001, when we needed her again, after she retired from a successful career in university administration. She continued as the editor in chief and the driving force behind our guidebook “Living in Ann Arbor” for several printed editions.The book was given to every new member and  filled with practical advice, everything from banking to winter driving to social customs. Countless members credit the book with helping them settle in Ann Arbor, bringing it back to their home countries as a treasured souvenir. Today we post updated topics from LIAA in our online Newsletter.

She loved the Angell Tea Group, rejoining it at the age of 90. Her energy and enthusiasm were contagious. Who could forget her pulling the handwritten menu board off the wall at Ayse’s Cafe so we could more easily read it.

Angell Tea Group visiting Ann Staiger, December 2022

Frankie and her husband Scott traveled extensively around the world. One intriguing trip was to visit the workshops of “Living Treasures” in Japan, those very few traditional craftsmen recognized nationally as being the very best. She was a great patron of the arts, and would invite a lucky few to join her at concerts and ballets. Peter Sparling was a friend of hers. And she was open minded. Once we went to a French ballet performance in Detroit where they turned “Swan Lake” into techno-pop. Frankie found it refreshing.

Frankie was a great reader, usually with a pile of books she would recommend. I saw her just before the Tea Party, laid up in bed recovering from surgery and requiring more books, real books not electronic ones. She expected to be on her feet soon, and she was always very convincing. So when she died last month it was a complete shock to  many of us. She was a force of nature, part of the fabric of International Neighbors for over 50 years, and we will miss her.

Frankie and Marilyn, IN Founding Mothers

A memorial service for Frankie will be held Monday, May 20th 1:00 p.m. at St. Clare’s Episcopal Church, 2309 Packard St., Ann Arbor

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