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Distance can’t separate 100-year-old woman from her beloved St. John Valley

FORT KENT, Maine — A soon-to-be centenarian has held on to her Fort Kent upbringing and shared it with her own family despite living in California for more than 80 years.

Rebecca (Cyr) Franz will turn 100 years old on July 4.

She grew up at 10 Forest Street in Fort Kent along with her seven siblings — Silvio, John, Gloria, Caroline, Renaldo, Roland, and Regina, all the children of John and Martha Cyr.

Franz attended St. Louis Convent Elementary School on East Main Street, and St. John High School.

“She began working as a secretary at the U.S. Air Force base in Presque Isle, Maine, around 1938, where she worked for four years,” said her grandson, 33-year-old Aaron Franz. “Her sister, who was in California at the time, convinced her to move out to San Francisco and work as a secretary for the U.S. Navy at their now closed San Francisco Shipyard at Hunters Point.”

But she never forgot her roots, even after marrying husband Valentine Franz and raising the couple’s two sons — Roland, who has passed away, and Brian, who is Aaron Franz’s father — in a town south of San Francisco.

“She shared with us very warm memories of her childhood in and around Fort Kent, picking wild blueberries in the hills behind her home and enjoying time outdoors. She would ice skate in the winter and frolic in the beautiful surrounding countryside in the fall,” Aaron Franz said. “Even to this day, she reminisces with us.”

Rebecca Franz currently lives in an assisted living home in Elk Grove, California.

She maintained her life as a humble and devoted woman, according to Aaron Franz.

“She loved gardening; she always cooked for the family; she was a faithful Catholic and spent over a decade with the Our Lady of Mercy women’s group. She was actively involved in several bowling leagues,” he said.

She would often prepare hearty home-cooked meals of stew with dumplings or buckwheat pancakes.

And in her younger years, Rebecca Franz traveled from one coast to the other to visit her hometown and family.

“My father recalls multi-week cross-country car trips from the San Francisco Bay Area to Fort Kent to visit his grandmother, my great-grandmother, in her small country home that still stands a short walk from the train tracks in town,” Aaron Franz said.

Brian Franz, 64, who describes his mother as “warm, loving, giving, and empathetic,” said that during these trips to northern Maine throughout his childhood he enjoyed fishing, hiking and other outdoor activities.

“She loved being outdoors, which rubbed off onto my dad and me,” Aaron Franz said. “Some things she relished in her youth in and around Fort Kent included hiking in the woods behind her house; skiing, sledding, (and) snowshoeing on Jalbert Hill (now Lonesome Pine Trails).”

He added that he hopes one day to visit Fort Kent to see firsthand the town which meant so much to his beloved grandmother, about which he learned so much through her storytelling.

“In the 33 years I’ve been alive, my grandmother is one of the most selfless and caring people I’ve known. Growing up, she always put others before herself ,” he said. “She exemplifies love.”

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