Next month, a Queen Creek woman will mark a milestone birthday.
On April 11, Frances Brown will turn 100, celebrating with a cake that has as many candles as she has years.
Mrs. Brown will be surrounded by about 30 family members and friends, all of whom have been asked to bring a photo as well as their favorite memory of themselves with the matriarchal centenarian, according to her granddaughter, Kristen Hekekia.
Ms. Hekekia said her grandmother, whom everyone calls G.G. (short for great-grandma), has lived a remarkable life.
“She served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. She trained the pilots on the Link trainer (flight simulators),” the Queen Creek woman wrote in an e-mail to the Independent. “She met her husband in the Navy. He was a mechanic who serviced the flight simulators. He frequently checked on her trainer, just to be sure it was in good working order and also maybe because of the cute ‘WAVE’ who was running it. WAVE was a term they used for the ladies in the service.”
WAVE is an acronym for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.
Frances and Bruce Brown married in 1945 and had one son, Ms. Hekekia’s father, Brent, who also served in the Navy as a young man, Ms. Hekekia wrote.
While she met her husband during World War II, she also experienced losses. Mrs. Brown lost a brother and a brother-in-law during the war — one while serving in a submarine, the other in an airplane, Ms. Hekekia wrote.
After her husband passed away in 1998, Mrs. Brown lived on her own in a two-story home until just a few years ago. Now she lives in an assisted care home in Queen Creek, where she continues to impress her family.
“She walks with a walker. Has amazing vision, less amazing hearing. She does have some dementia, but is very sweet and well-spoken and remembers the past pretty well. I think with her service and all the service in her family, she has a remarkable story,” Ms. Hekekia said.
Ms. Hekekia helped her grandmother complete the profile below so others could learn more about the Queen Creek’s newest centenarian.
Name: Frances Shefchek Brown.
Town/Neighborhood: Queen Creek.
When & why I moved here: In 2015, to be closer to my family.
What I like about living here: My family is nearby.
My family: My wonderful, handsome son, Brent; his sweetheart, Sheri; my five grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
My life history: I was born in Kellogg, Idaho, in 1917, to Henry and Celia Kaiser Louka Shefchek. Both of them immigrated to the U.S. in 1905 and 1906, respectively, from Prussia. They left everything behind and built a new life here in America. They were married in Illinois and made their way across the country, finally settling in Vancouver, Washington, where they bought land and started a farm. Dad also worked for the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway. So, I grew up on a farm with my siblings and my favorite horse, Babe. I went to school in Walnut Grove, Washington, and attended the University of Washington while I was in the U.S. Navy. Prior to joining the Navy (after Pearl Harbor), I worked as a draftsman in the shipyards on the Columbia River.
Who are the people who inspired you (and how): My parents and my elder brother. My mom and dad worked so hard to clear the land and built a beautiful and productive farm east of Vancouver, Washington. They also raised us through the Depression and we never wanted for anything. My elder brother, Henry Jr., was brilliant. He graduated from high school at age 16. In World War II, he was a submariner and was lost in combat in the South China Sea in 1944. He left his wife, Mildred, and two beautiful children, Paul and Ann.
What was it like to live through World War II and serve as a Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, known as a WAVE? How did you meet your husband?: I served for several years and taught Navy pilots how to instrument fly in a Link Trainer. My duty stations were in Washington, Idaho, Iowa, Georgia and Texas. I met my husband, Bruce Taggart Brown, while serving in Beeville, Texas. We were married the 26th of February, 1945, at my parent’s home in Vancouver, Washington. We had one son, Brent, and a daughter, Lynn, who we lost at childbirth.
What was the secret to your long marriage?: Laughter. When life throws you a curve ball you can choose to laugh or to cry. We did a lot of laughing, some crying too, but we always did laugh together.