frances bethel

April 16, 1930 ~ November 1, 2019

Frances Revilla Bethel, 89, died November 1, 2019. Fran grew up on her family’s dairy farm in Parsons, Kansas. She was an Alpha Chi Omega at Baker University and after graduation worked as a home economist in Wichita where she met her husband Frank Derwood “Doc” Bethel. They eventually settled in Atlanta where she turned her love for children into a career by teaching early childhood education at Dekalb Technical College and serving as division chair of health and human services.

Fran grew up in a musical family with everyone playing a different instrument. She sang the alto comedic part in musical productions and performed solos for weddings. Fran sang in her church choir throughout her life. Her master’s thesis was a book of children’s songs written for the nonmusical with number intervals instead of notes so that all teachers could sing with young children.

Hospitality and friendship were the cornerstones of her daily living, and she was most known for loving others through food. Whether it was fried chicken and biscuits for a family Sunday dinner, a pound cake for a neighbor, or her famous almond brittle candy made every Christmas season, many stories from those close to Fran are paired with a memory of something delicious she made for them.

Each person she encountered was greeted with her iconic smile and warm familiarity. She loved being surrounded by people and spent her time tirelessly caring for others. It was often said Gram never met a stranger and would know someone’s life story by the time the elevator door opened.

Fran was preceded in death by her husband Frank Derwood Bethel, her siblings Dorothy Campbell Fitch, John Campbell, and Charles Campbell, her stepson Gar Bethel, and her grandson Justin Vaughn James.

She is survived by her sister Donna Campbell Goldsmith of Houston and her daughters Kelley Bethel Dopson (Thomas Lanier Dopson) and Kathy Bethel James (Joel Vaughn James) of Atlanta. Also surviving are her grandchildren: David Thomas Dopson (Lauren), Jana Dopson Illston (James), Leah Brandon Wilson (Mike), Laura Dopson Almquist (Henry), Lindsay Brandon McFarlane (Simon), and Jason Benjamin James. She shared the joy of five great-grandchildren and a sixth due to be born later this year.

Her family thanks the countless friends who have reached out to share the impact Fran had on their lives.

A celebration of Fran’s life will take place at Sandy Springs United Methodist Church on Sunday, November 24 at 3 o’clock with a reception afterward in the Fellowship Hall. Memorial gifts may be made to Sandy Springs United Methodist Church where she sang in the choir.

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  1. Sherry Bryant says:

    Dear family of Fran
    I was a colleague of Fran’s at Dekalb Tech. I was also a home economics major in college and we always shared a special bond. Fran was a wonderful person and friend who shared her laughter and brought joy to those around her. She lived a full and wonderful life and gave all who knew her special memories. I know you will miss her. She made the world a better place.

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