Frances (Fran) Joy Funk, 78 of Coventry, Connecticut, passed away on Saturday, October 10, 2020, following a brief illness. Born on January 6, 1942, Fran was raised and loved by Harry and Charlotte (Tow) Levitt. Fran grew up in West Hartford and New York City, where she spent a childhood playing with her cousins, riding horses, and attending her beloved Kittatinny Summer Camp. She had ever the adventurous spirit, and when recounting tales from her girlhood, Fran often exclaim, “Oh, my poor Mother!”
Fran studied Art at the University of Connecticut, where she met her best friend and lifelong partner, Charles (Chip) E. Funk, III. They married in 1960 and moved to a farmhouse in Coventry, where they would live together for the next 59 years. There, she tended to family, vegetable gardens, flower gardens, and a host of rescues and pets, including ducks, chickens, rabbits, a horse, and many dogs and cats. Fran would apply her creative spirit in the kitchen, baking bread and curiosities including dandelion wine, sumac lemonade, and lily bud “green beans.”
A part of Fran’s education, beyond her voracious appetite for reading, were workshops in photography, which led her to a career in photojournalism. She worked as a Freelance Photographer from 1976-81 for the Hartford Courant, Staff Photographer from 1981-85 for The Norwich Bulletin, and culminated her career as Chief Photographer at The Willimantic Chronicle from 1985-2009. Through her position as Chief Photographer, Fran developed deep ties within the community; she loved the thrill of chasing stories and was often first on the scene. She earned many awards for her photography during the span of her career, including the 1986 UPI New England Newspaper Awards First Place for Division III Features Photograph, as well as multiple regional awards for news photography and feature photography.
A separate but equal passion for Fran was her work with Joshua’s Tract Conservation and Historic Trust. She joined the organization in its early years and helped shape its goals for land preservation. Fran served as President from 1976-80, during some formative acquisitions, and again from 2013-14. She was presented the Joshua’s Tract Conservation and Historic Trust Award to Individuals in 2017 and continued to industriously serve as Chair of the Gristmill Volunteers and Education and Outreach Committee into 2020.
Fran was also a very active Coventry community member, generously giving time to friends and neighbors in need. She served as a member of the Beautification Committee, Chairwoman of the Conservation Commission from 1974-78, as well as a stint as Tree Warden (where she often received ribbing, as this is a misunderstood role). Among other recognitions, in 1977, she was awarded Citizen of the Year by the Coventry Jaycees for outstanding and meritorious service to the Town of Coventry.
Fran had a brilliant and kind spirit and she brightened the lives of each person she met. Admired by many, she fostered numerous deep and lasting friendships, each bringing a great and unique joy to her life. Fran treasured her annual Cape Cod trip with the “Sisters of the Sea” and spoke of those friends with a broad smile. She felt honored to be a part of a reoccurring lunch with the “Forty-Twos” and greatly enjoyed the warm company and conversation of many. To quote a line from the Wizard of Oz, “A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.” All of you know who you are and she loved and cherished you dearly.
Fran was predeceased by her husband Chip on February 13, 2020. She is survived by son Charles IV, his wife Rachael, their children Charles V, his wife Elizabeth, Leah, her husband Daniel, their daughter Eden, and Adam; son Benjamin, his wife Lorraine, their children Stephanie, her husband Joshua, Molly, and Carley; her sisters-in-law Dency Sargent, her husband Robert Sawyer, Cynthia Funk, her partner Janice Kuhagen; aunt MaryAnn Griswold; cousins Donald, Diana, and Valerie Hirsch; nieces Catherine, Diana, Melissa and nephews Robert and Jasper. A special acknowledgment to her three brothers, Mike Fairservice, Edward Mason, and Andrew Stathis who came into her life at just the right time.
A celebration of life for Fran and Chip will be held when it is safe for family and friends to gather. In lieu of flowers, please make a contribution to Joshua’s Trust, joshuastrust.org, P.O. Box 4, Mansfield Center, CT 06250, or buy and read a book to a child. To sign an online guestbook visit www.potterfuneralhome.com
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