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In Loving Memory

Barbara Richards

Fran was an earth angel whose extraordinary love touched all who met her. From her earliest days, it was her lifelong mission to help people wherever she saw a need. She always said, "Love is unlimited. The more you give, the more love there is to give."

As a child, Fran’s sight was so limited, doctors diagnosed her as partially blind. At seven, she was invited to a summer camp for blind children, where for the first time she was accepted as an equal, and her unique gifts were appreciated. She enthusiastically returned each summer, eventually becoming a counselor. During WWII all adults had to go to work for the war effort. Still just a teen, she was put in complete charge of running the camp. Later, she learned to write in braille, creating original books for blind children which included her own 3-dimensional illustrations.

At 18, Mom met our future dad, Stan. He was the first to value her contagious joy of living, the depth of her wisdom, and the purity of her love. He brought her to an ophthalmologist who was able to make corrective lenses to improve her sight. She was thrilled to be able to see the individual leaves on trees, birds in the sky and the stars at night. Mom told me she chose to marry him because she knew he would be the unconditionally loving and gentle father she wanted for her children. Dad was truly the love of her life. Ken and I are grateful to have had them both as our parents.

After marriage, she fulfilled her lifelong dream by becoming a licensed practical nurse, having known from the time she was seven that was her calling. She poured her abundant loving care into every patient.

After my brother survived two months in the hospital for a very serious ruptured appendix, Mom spent the next 40 years organizing highly successful blood drives for the Red Cross. In fact, she received an award for raising more pints of blood in the state of Florida than anyone in history.

Not many people know that at the age of 50 Mom suddenly developed spinal meningitis and spent three days in a coma. We were told she would not survive but she did! Later, Mom told me she had a magnificent experience of the beyond. The absolute beauty, unconditional love, wisdom and bliss she discovered there forever dispelled any fear of death. She also received confirmation that "the purpose of our lives on Earth is to love and to serve others."

And she never stopped in that mission! When Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Mom took care of him until his death 5 years later. She spent 20 years leading and participating in support groups for patients and caregivers.

After Dad died, she was a hospice volunteer for fifteen more years. She became a camp counselor to children who had lost a parent. She graciously gave respite care and the rare gift of sitting with people who otherwise would have been alone while they were dying.

Ironically, a year after Dad passed, Mom had the shock of her own diagnosis with Parkinson’s. On the very next day, she wrote a long list of all the things Parkinson’s would never stop her from doing. She signed that list “The Unsinkable Fran.” The following year, she made the difficult choice of leaving her dear friends on the East Coast and moving to California to live near me.

True to form, Mom expanded her capacity to help others by starting the world’s only Parkinson’s support group online in the virtual world via her computer. She continued to participate in this close and loving group until just a few weeks before the end of her life.

She has helped inspire ongoing research into the value of virtual reality for people with all forms of disabilities. In that virtual world, our family initiated the Creations for Parkinson’s charity. Together, we have raised $48,000 for Team Fox of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Fran may have transformed from earth angel to heavenly angel, but we know that her love continues to live on. For those of you who have been touched by her inspiring life, please consider making a donation to this cause that was so dear to Mom's heart.

From our hearts to yours,
Barbara and Ken


Five Million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease — a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder. In the United States, 60,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year alone.

There is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease. But through your support of Team Fox, you can help change this.

Team Fox is the grassroots community fundraising program at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF). MJFF accelerates high-impact science through smart risk taking and problem solving with a commitment to urgency and efficiency. I’m one of thousands of people around the globe who are turning their passions into Team Fox fundraisers to help them speed a cure for Parkinson’s. When you give today, 100 percent of Team Fox proceeds go straight to MJFF research programs.


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