Mary Frances Abbitt

Published 2:35 pm Wednesday, February 17, 2021

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FRANKLIN – Mary Frances Hundley Abbitt passed away on Feb. 17, 2021, in her home.

Mary Frances Abbitt

She was born on May 27, 1928, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Born to Frank Robert Hundley and Effie Ethel Stone Hundley, she grew up with her sister, Hazel Beamer, along the railroad tracks in Bassett, Virginia.

Mary Frances would later graduate from Fairfax Hall in Waynesboro, Virginia, and Longwood College, majoring in elementary education and voice. After graduating from Longwood, Mary Frances moved to Franklin, where she taught elementary school. She often told the story of how when she first heard the trains run in Franklin, she knew she could make the town her home. Not long after arriving, she met the love of her life, John David Abbitt Jr. She lived for 70 years on Clay Street, rearing her three children, John David Abbitt III (Kay), Mary Denson Moore and Frances Townes Abbitt.

Mary Frances was famous for her ham biscuits, yeast rolls, vanilla pound cake and hand-knitted blue-and-gold stocking caps that she made for anyone who asked. Known in the family as the baby whisperer, she was never happier than when she had a baby in her lap, often quieting them with her beautiful lullabies and hymns. She welcomed her grandchildren, Sam Abbitt (Monica), William “Hank” Abbitt, Annie Moore Morgan (D.J.), Paul Moore (Allison Gerolami), Anne Sauerborn Joyner (Ches), Mary Sauerborn and Eleanor Sauerborn (Tyler Wolk) for extended visits. Her great-grandchildren, Reese Morgan, Isobel Morgan, Flora Moore, Mattox Abbitt, Warren Abbitt, Camp Joyner and Townes Joyner loved her backyard “playground.” Her house was filled with dolls, toys and stuffed animals, bringing delight to all the children who visited.

Mary Frances was a lifelong member of Franklin Baptist Church, where she had a strong commitment to its mission, education and music programs, leading the Girl’s Auxiliary, assisting with the chorister choir, cooking Sunday night dinners for Training Union and teaching in a variety of capacities. If someone needed help, she always answered the call, whether it be for housing family members for people in the hospital, cleaning the church or collecting Betty Crocker coupons for a dialysis machine. She served the community as one of the first Pink Ladies at Southampton Memorial Hospital and was on the city’s Beautification Committee. She was a strong supporter of the Franklin City Educational Foundation, was committed to downtown and loved “We Be Jammin’.” She was also a board member of the Salem Baptist Children’s Home.

Mary Frances was devoted to Franklin, made special by its people. She greeted everyone as her friend. The family would like to thank the enormous generosity, support and love the community has shown her through the years. They would like to offer special thanks to Ann Coles for her devotion over several decades and to Benny and Liz Burgess and Stacy Billups for their attentiveness and care. The Worrell family has been lifelong, loyal neighbors. Special thanks are offered to Dr. Mike Ponder and the amazing cadre of caregivers, particularly those who were with her during her final months: Cindy Griffiths, Robin Hudgins, Ikisha Cary, Nikki Babb, Tonya Mason, Casie Brown and Latika Holland. Words cannot adequately express our appreciation for their loving care. Helping Hands Sitter Service and Kindred Hospice have been invaluable.

Due to the current COVID-19 restrictions and health considerations for friends and family, a celebration of life will be held at a later date when safe conditions exist. The family appreciates your understanding during this time of mourning.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Franklin Baptist Church, the Franklin City Educational Foundation, P.O. Box 96, Franklin, VA, or an organization of your choice.