Frances Lee Willis Anglesey passed from this life surround by her loved ones Thursday, June 13, 2016, at four o’clock in the afternoon. She was born to Telford and Gertrude Willis one bright October day in 1929—the fourth of seven children. They all lived on an isle nestled in the protective sound between the mainland and a narrow strip of Outer Banks framing the coastline of North Carolina.
Though only 2.2 square miles, Harkers Island is home to no less than eight separate Christian denominations, among which a group of faithful adherents to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dwell. Frances grew up in the atmosphere of a devoted and active family. She served in the Young Women’s Mutual Association program and was known for her musical talent and natural leadership.
She graduated from Carteret County High School in 1947 as part of the first graduating class to matriculate from the twelfth grade (not merely eleven). That same year, a group of LDS Missionaries organized “The Girls’ Chorus” as a proselyting tool for the area. Along with Frances, eight other young women became the face and voice of this LDS Choir singing at religious and civic functions throughout the Eastern North Carolina area. Patterning themselves after the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir, they performed a weekly radio show at WGTM, WMBL, and WHIT entitled, “Music and The Spoken Word.”
In 1949, her beloved father passed away, leaving her mother and four girls living at home to provide for themselves. Frances went to work as a bank teller to help support their family. Two years later, amid the financial struggles, Frances was called to serve as a full-time missionary in the Central Atlantic States Mission. Not knowing how her family would make ends meet, nor how she would pay for such an endeavor, she accepted the call on faith and became the first full time missionary to serve from the Harkers Island Ward. During her mission, she met Elder Ben Anglesey whom she would later marry… fifteen years later.
After honorably returning from her mission, Frances moved with other members of the Willis family and their young families to Salt Lake City, Utah, to make a go-of-it out west. Frances worked in the Credit Department at Ohrbach’s Department store to support her youngest sister, Carol, with her studies at BYU.
At age 34, Frances was surprised to receive a phone call from an old missionary acquaintance, Elder Ben Anglesey. Although she had always been considered “a catch”, Frances was never interested in any of the boys back home. In spite of living in Spokane, Washington at the time, Ben would make the nearly 1,500 mile journey several times a year to “court” her. After two years, they were married in the Salt Lake City Temple, and Frances would forever after refer to him as her “Prince.”
The following years involved considerable travel as Ben’s work required the family to relocate throughout their marriage: Washington, Indiana, North Carolina, California, Oregon, Colorado, and eventually to Utah in 1991. Wherever they lived, Frances “bloomed where she was planted,” serving faithfully in the Primary, Music, and Relief Society organizations of The Church.
Throughout her life, Frances loved music, poetry, art and literature. As a young woman, she sang with a clear, beautiful Soprano voice. Her first heart surgery, however, caused complications which cost her the ability to sing as she so loved to do. Still, she had a beautiful, soothing speaking voice and was often asked to read speaking parts in classes, programs, and pageants throughout her life.
Frances owned her culinary gifts and believed—as many Southern women do—that food is the best kind of love. Rarely a week went by that she didn’t bake some comfort food for a needy neighbor; and she spent many long hours on the phone, organizing meals and services for countless neighbors in need.
Children from far and near loved her. In addition to caring for her own children, she often day-sat children whose parents worked. And nothing gave her more pride and joy than caring for her own grandchildren, singing to them as she rocked them to sleep during their infancy and youth.
The world has lost a true angel in the passing of this great lady. She is now with all of her siblings as well as her parents; and is survived by her husband, three daughters, son-in-law, and three grandchildren. She will be dearly missed.