Frances Nicholson Beer

Beer—Frances Nicholson Beer, 90, on March 25, 2021, following a fall in her home at Kendal-Crosslands in Kennett Square, Pa. Born in 1930 to Evelyn and S. Francis Nicholson, Fran grew up in Media (Pa.) Meeting. She attended Media Friends School, West Chester Junior High, and Westtown School, enjoying summer weeks at the shore and at Camp Dark Waters in Medford, N.J. Fran earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., where she met her future husband, John Beer.

After Fran and John married in 1951, they moved often, participating in meetings in Urbana and Charleston, Ill.; Hanover, Ind.; and Stillwater, Okla., also connecting with Quakers during 1954 and 1968 year-long stays in Germany. Family visits east were timed for Friends General Conference (FGC) Gatherings in Cape May, N.J., and a summer running an American Friends Service Committee program in Philadelphia, Pa.

In 1961, they settled in Newark, Del., raising their family amidst a large and affectionate network of Nicholson and Beer relatives. Fran ran a comfortable, orderly household where everyone did their part, and where each child was lovingly nurtured in both responsibility and independence.

Newark Meeting was Fran and John’s core community and spiritual home for almost 60 years. After a year attending the Alapocas Worship Group in Wilmington, Fran and John were part of a small group that founded Newark Meeting in 1962. Fran served the meeting in many capacities with calm clarity and deep understanding of Quaker process. Fran and John hosted many Christmas parties and summer picnics, committee and business meetings, and Friendly Suppers.

Fran attended more than 70 Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) annual sessions and many FGC gatherings. She participated in many vigils and protests with John, most recently at the Friday afternoon peace vigils in downtown Kennett Square.

Fran served on FGC’s Central Committee, Westtown Committee, and various PYM committees. At Kendal, she served on yet more committees. In her last years, Fran participated in redesigning the assisted living and personal care sections of Kendal’s main building.

Fran was sensible, considerate, and organized. She helped Quaker organizations devise practical systems, including her work on FGC’s “Blue Book” policy manual, and her service on PYM re-organization committees. Fran enjoyed figuring out the housing assignments for FGC gatherings and trying to accommodate hundreds of requests.

Fran played piano and sang with her musical family—first with school friends, including John, later with her parents and her children gathered round the piano after dinner. She loved singing alto in community choruses, notably her many decades with the University of Delaware’s Schola Cantorum.

Fran treasured clerking the FGC Hymnal Committee. She coordinated a ten-year process to publish Worship in Song: A Friends Hymnal in 1996. As a member of the League of Women Voters, Fran advocated for such issues as public kindergarten, open space, freedom of information, and lobbying disclosure. She served on the Newark Election Board, and as a League member, helped reform election procedures at the local and state levels.

Fran was a strong swimmer from the time she was a toddler, swimming daily if she could. She relaxed by reading novels and biographies, doing puzzles, watching operas and theater. Fran and John shared a passion for history, museums, and concerts. They had several stints living abroad in Germany, Austria, Jerusalem, and at Woodbrooke in Birmingham, UK.

Fran was preceded in death by her brother, James “Tim” Nicholson, and young child, Carolyn Beer. She was survived for six months by John, her husband of 69 years, whose care had been her faithful focus. Also surviving are four children, Jennifer, Sandra, Michael (Latanja), and Matthew (Elizabeth); five grandchildren; and a sister, Joan Nicholson.

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