The Inimitable Frances Dittmer

The small charter plane went missing on Wednesday afternoon, February 5, somewhere between Puerto Vallarta and Careyes, Mexico. When the smoldering wreckage was found Thursday, worst fears were confirmed. Frances “Frannie” Dittmer, sole passenger, and pilot Alberto Navarro did not survive. Some of you know Frannie as my-affectionately-referred-to “wife-in-law,” my husband’s first wife and mother of his children. We called each other F-1 and F-2. She was a welcome (and popular!) guest at our wedding. She was also, to state the obvious, my friend.

If you want to read about one amazing, smart, talented, funny, art-connoisseur-ing, football-passing gal–and I’m not just saying that–read her obituary here in today’s New York Times,  which I was privileged to write.

Frannie also figured prominently in another post about Veranda’s New Look, featuring her fab David Easton-designed house in Aspen.

Memorial wreath by Mindy Rice. Magnolia, bay laurel, dusty miller, anemones, ferns, and a spray of white guara.

As friends and family gathered and everyone asked what they could do, I asked Arcadia Studio’s Puck Erickson and designer Mindy Rice for a wreath. I cried when I saw how beautiful it was–although I shouldn’t have been surprised.  In about an hour’s time, scavenging in her own winter-worn garden, the immensely talented Mindy wove a ring of magnolia, bay laurel, dusty miller, ferns, anemones, and sprays of white guara. And just happened to have on hand the perfect purple ribbon. 

The wreath is symbolic of the circle of eternal life and has been used at funerals since the days of ancient Greece. Evergreens signify the everlasting. In a lovely and old-fashioned custom, a memorial wreath on the door signifies to passers-by that there has been a death in the family. As we are eight miles from town, our usual passers-by are coyotes, but we’ve had a good many humans the last few days.

As the wreath symbolizes eternity, so our family and friends are eternally grateful for all  the folks who have called, written, come by, sent food and flowers. Showing up is everything in life. It means a heck of a lot in death, too. Thank you.

Frances Ronshausen Dittmer


  1. Frances 2: This was a lively tribute to my dear sister Frannie. Thank you so much for posting it on your blog along with that fabulous picture. I have just read the Obituary in the NY Times and you just did an amazing job of capturing the spirit of my little sister. Thank you so much.

    Frannie’s sister — Marilyn

  2. So sorry for the loss of your friend and the Mother of your Husband’s children. Such a tragedy. Prayers and thoughts to all of you.

  3. What a lovely write up for such a sad occasion, Frances. Fran made a big splash in life and the hole she’s left is commensurate. All my thoughts and sympathy to you and Tom and family…

  4. Oh, Frances, I’m so sorry for this sudden and sad, sad loss. You have written a lovely, lively tribute to a magnanimous woman. Both of you make me wish my name were “Frances.” Sending love and prayers. Theo

  5. I am so sorry to hear about the sudden loss of Frannie. Please send love from Tone and me to Tom and the children, and thank you Frances for your lovely tribute. What a shock!!!

  6. So sorry to hear of the sudden and tragic death of Frances the First! Thoughts and prayers to you and Tom! Lovely tribute in NYT.

  7. You have penned a charming and uplifting tribute to a buoyant and benevolent lady. Frannie was truly special in all aspects of her life and your prose helps all of us remember her unique spirit. I was blessed to know her. I send strong thoughts, prayers, and sympathy to you and Tom and to Jason and Allison, Alexis and Chris. Thank you for posting the link to the NYT Obituary.

  8. What a lovely tribute…my father, George Barley, also died in a small plane crash and Tom was there during that very difficult time. It is always such a shock. He and my father were great friends. My condolences to you all during this time and in the future. Sincerely, Mary

  9. Dear Frances and Tom…Bill and I are devastated to know we shall never see wonderful, wonderful Frannie again…or hear her infectious laugh. Our love and thoughts are with you and your family. Your NY Times article captured the spirit of this very special friend whose ship reached shore far too soon. Much love……Barbara and Bill Broeder

  10. Frances, I am sorry for the loss of your beloved friend. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your husband. Much love to you both.

  11. An unforgettable ,genuine lady ! My heart is broken for you all ! A beautiful tribute you have written. Thank you Francis……

  12. It was such a long time ago!
    In 84 I met Frances when I was a young broker working for Refco
    In the Hamburg office.
    I went to lake forrest where we stayed in her home.
    And later we toured with her through the galleries in New York.
    She was so fascinating and such an art connoisseur!!
    We admired her so much and never forgot
    The time we spent with her!
    I am really sorry for your loss and I send my
    Prayers to you and Tom

  13. F2 – you did a fabulous job capturing F1 in her obituary. Frannie and
    I had a long chat last week and I am so grateful for that. I’m sure she
    and “Brucie” are up there laughing away!! Mary Southworth

  14. Dear Frances I am so sorry to hear about the loss of Frances 1,how truly lovely she was,we were seated with her at your and Tom’s rehearsal dinner.She was such a joyous person and I know loved by you.

  15. What a beautiful tribute you pay to this special woman. What a loss for so many, but as usual you capture her essence and allow us to know her as well.

    Thank you……

  16. I am so sorry for your loss. She will be missed by many I am sure and that in itself is a testament to her and for her. : (

  17. Very sad–deepest sympathies for family and friends she leaves behind.
    Hadn’t seen her for many years but we were good friends at the University of Texas. Charming, witty, and so bright–just fun to be with. Obviously she kept all those traits and many more for those lucky enough to be with her in later years.

  18. I loved Frannie. She believed in me as an artist when no one did. When I was a kid (age 7), she told me that I was such a good artist that I could be as good as Pablo Picasso one day! She is beloved of my heart, as I am now finally the artist she believed in me to be… 30 years later! Thanks, Frannie for inspiring me to believe in myself and love myself as artist! You will truly be missed!

  19. Frances – I am just now reading your beautiful tribute to F-1. catching up after being away so long…. I am so sorry for the loss to you and your joined families. I am also so impressed with your beautiful tribute! Could not have been easy to write, but then I read the obit you wrote in the Times. Wow – she was quite a woman, and what a beautiful piece you wrote. Very evolved and cool of you!

    1. To all of you who have written about Frannie Dittmer’s crossing over, thank you thank you again. I am so touched and heartened by your thoughtfulness and your love for her – or if you did not know her, by the idea of her. She was an inspiration to us all.

  20. I am very familiar with the amazing Refco collection. Obviously a brilliant endeavor by both Frannie and Tom. Were my eleven year old to read the February 13 post, he would remark: “really”, and in the parlance of today’s youth, “really” is not a question, it is a statement.

  21. A beautiful tribute to a truly remarkable woman. Frannie left a lasting impression, even on those with whom she spent just a fleeting moment.

  22. Mrs. Dittmer,

    My deepest condolences to you and your husband. I had the honor of being Ms. Dittmer’s chauffeur in the late 80’s every time she came to N.Y.C. Her kindness and generosity left an indelible mark on my spirit that will remain until my last days. It was through her that I met Mr. Dittmer and, for a time, was his chauffeur whenever he needed my services in N.Y.C.

    Robert Hughes

    1. Dear Mr Hughes,
      How very kind of you to write, thank you. I will share your note with Mr. Dittmer and with the children as well. Frances Dittmer was an extraordinary gal indeed, and we are all the richer for having known her.
      Blessings to you,
      Frances, aka “F-2” 😉

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