Fannette Luhrs

image of Fannette Luhrs

Fannette Luhrs

Fannette Luhrs died peacefully from natural causes at age 98 on 3/8/20 at the Hearthstone Retirement Center in Seattle WA. Named Fannie after a family ancestor at the time of her 11/6/21 birth in Springfield OH, she became Fannette after a visiting French aunt called her “petite Fannette” and the name stuck.

Fannette and Harry, ca 1944

While at college in New York City Fannette met and married Harry Luhrs. The black and white photo with Fannette holding flowers is thought to have been taken in New York City around 1944 at or near the time of her marriage.
Fannette followed Harry to Penn State where he completed grad school and later to CA, IL, and finally Lexington MA for Harry’s work, and along the way the couple was blessed with 2 boys.

Fannette was a tough-minded survivor, who always managed to maintain a cheerful, optimistic attitude through all her trials. She survived breast cancer during the mid-sixties, but only after undergoing radical surgery. Then in 1970 Fannette endured the unimaginable pain of son Patrick’s tragic death at age 18 in an auto crash. Finally, within a year of Patrick’s death Harry’s Boston area electronics plant closed and Fannette had to leave family and friends to join Harry while he took employment in Canada and then Germany. Fannette endured all these trials with a minimum of complaint.

Some of Fannette’s favorite sayings:

  •  “Tough beans!” (to kids and grand-kids when they whined)
  • It doesn’t cost anything to smile.
  • Don’t trouble trouble until trouble troubles you.
  • Fannette believed when life gives you lemons you find a way to make lemonade.

Fannette was blessed with an agile and brilliant mind and a pioneering spirit. She had her High School’s highest aptitude scores in Math and Science, and won academic scholarship to “Seven Sister” Barnard College, graduating with a BA. After raising her sons and returning from Germany in ~ 1975 Fannette completed a computer science certificate and spent over a decade working at Honeywell as one of the first female computer programmers during the IBM punch card era. Although Honeywell offered Fannette a higher paying management job marketing and selling programming services to major customers Fannette turned down the promotion without regret because it would have limited the time she could spend with her family. Fannette eventually managed a team of male programmers before retiring to care for Harry when he fell ill and ultimately succumbed to cancer in 1989.

Fannette placed a high premium on family. At least once a year Fannette and family would drive their station wagon cross-country to visit the boys’ grandparents in up-state NY and in Springfield OH. There were also frequent visits to the boys’ aunts and uncles and their families, who would at times be included in joint visits to the grandparents. Fannette also took her family to visit relatives living abroad, engineering epic family reunions in Normandy France in 1961 and including her grandchildren in a 2000 Normandy reunion. Fannette was blessed with great-grandchildren whom she met many times. Fannette appears in a 2017 photo with great grandson Ben when he was 2.

Fannette and Harry made their spacious Lexington MA condo into a waystation where family were always welcome to stay while passing through the Boston area. Fannette even made herself available as a sounding board and lay counselor when her niece needed support, talking on the phone with her every day for an hour or more over a year period.

Fannette doted on her grandchildren and her nieces and nephews and their families and delighted in giving them funds to take them shopping at bargain stores like Marshall’s and Filene’s Basement and in buying them practical gifts like snow boots. Fannette was a lifelong “compassionate conservative” Republican but could never imagine letting politics come between her and her loved ones. In fact, many relatives who were committed Democrats were surprised to learn that Fannette was not.

Fannette was an engineer and designer at heart who loved to maximize the utility of both the things she did and the things she possessed, and whose working motto might well have been “form follows function”. When Fannette and Harry bought a condo in a converted schoolhouse on their return to Lexington from Germany they maximized the space by planning and executing the build-out of an open air student mud room space into 3 levels of loft art studio, basement wood shop, and ground floor living room. Fannette and Harry maximized the usefulness of a guest bedroom by installing built-in fold-down work surfaces and Murphy beds.

Fannette’s standard attire in later years was polo shirt, khaki’s or jeans, and cardigan in cooler months which she insisted on wearing until they practically fell apart, and she became the world’s hardest person for whom to buy clothes. Kudos to Cecily and Barb for overcoming Fannette’s resistance and outfitting her so beautifully in the black and white and grey outfit she wore in the photo taken the day of granddaughter Jessica’s August 2013 wedding.

Fannette loved to devise practical kitchen procedures and to impart then to her nieces and grandchildren:

  • Store instant coffee in the freezer to keep it fresh
  • Mix your salad dressing (Dijon, balsamic, and olive oil with salt and pepper) in the bottom of the salad bowl, using the utensils you plan to use to toss the salad, so you don’t get an extra bowl dirty.
  • If you don’t have a salad spinner, wrap lettuce in a kitchen towel and go outside to become a human salad spinner, spinning around while holding the towel and lettuce in outstretched arms, a welcome job for her grandchildren.
  • Throw a few unshelled pea pods into the bowl with the frozen peas to make them seem homemade.

Fannette was an expert seamstress who sewed her own clothes as a girl and continued to sew on a tiny basic Singer sewing machine that she finally gave to her niece as a graduation gift, replacing it with a new model. Fannette always said she preferred her old Singer and found a similar “antique” Singer to give to her granddaughter on which Fannette taught Jessica to sew.

Married to a man who spent most of his free time painting and woodworking, Fannette herself possessed a wonderful sense of artistic style. Fannette’s home décor was eclectic; mid-century modern chairs, antique French armoires and sideboard, and a beautiful old “distressed” oak table. The walls were enlivened by carefully arranged hangings of Harry’s watercolor landscapes and the oil paintings of longtime family friend M. Tremblay featuring the Normandy coast and lovely young girls with windswept hair.

Showing her typical thorough planning, when Fannette decided to move o Seattle to be close to her grandchildren she traveled from Lexington to Seattle multiple times and toured every residential retirement living facility in the area before choosing the Hearthstone, near Green Lake, in 2005. She chose Hearthstone partly because it featured independent, assisted, and high maintenance care, and mostly because it was a few blocks from the grand-kids. Son George will be eternally grateful to Fannette’s for her consideration and foresight in choosing a facility that met all her needs as she declined, in contrast to his friends who had to pry a parent kicking and screaming from the family home after it was no longer safe for them to remain there.

Without being preoccupied with control, Fannette stepped up to lead the small communities in which she was involved. She was president of her condo association in Lexington, and when she first moved into the Hearthstone, she immediately joined all kinds of groups and took on leadership roles there, too. Fannette also managed a team of male computer programmers in a male dominated field at a time when prevailing attitudes made this much more difficult than today.

Fannette loved listening to jazz, constantly playing her Smithsonian Jazz collection until that was finally prevented by her uncorrectable progressive hearing loss.

In her last years when asked how she was doing Fannette liked to say she was doing fine and expected she would be like “the old one hoss shay”, that kept going and going and going until one day it just fell apart. Fannette got her wish.

Fannette is survived by sister Betty, son George, grandchildren Patrick and Jessica, great grandchildren Ben and Claire, Cousin Paul Louis (Papi) and family, and nephews and nieces Kenny, Rick, Jane, Claire, Annette, and Sophie and their families.

While there will one or more memorial gatherings, the details will have to await the time when we have a better handle on prudent Covid-19 travel and gathering practices. Meanwhile, please post your contact information, including location, if you wish to be notified about memorial(s), and feel free to post your own remembrance.

One Response to “Fannette Luhrs”

  • Scott Saunders says:

    You wrote a beautiful biography of your mother. Fannette got to experience a life filled with loving family and many accomplishments. I enjoyed reading about her different leadership roles. Whether she was at Honeywell or the Hearthstone, it’s clear that she wanted to be involved in making things happen. I’m glad that we got to meet her several times during our holiday caroling at the Hearthstone.
    Scott Saunders & Irene Wagner

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