Local woman looks back on century's harvest

Blowing out 100 candles is no small feat. That is unless one employs a hand fan, as Hinsdale's June Franc did when she celebrated becoming a centenarian on May 31.

"I'm full of hot air," Franc quipped while sitting on her front walk surrounded by a lush garden.

She and her late husband, Harold, started tending their plot on the village's north side in 1958 as Ohio transplants. Harold's engineering career had brought the young family west, and they were smitten by Hinsdale's hilly topography in the predominantly flat region.

"There were old houses. A lot of families, a lot of kids," she said of the block then, noting the redevelopment that has occurred since.

Born in 1924, Franc grew up in Cleveland during the Great Depression. She looked back with gratitude that her parents always found a way to provide for her and her seven siblings.

"My father would walk the streets looking for work. We never went hungry," she shared of her German immigrant dad. "He could do anything."

Franc helped her mom by caring for her younger sister and younger twin brothers. Her now 96-year-old sister, Jean, is her only surviving sibling. Franc met her musical husband through their church's youth group.

"He played the flute in the church band. His brother played the violin, his sister played the cello, and the other sister played the piano. They were our whole band," Franc said with a laugh.

Harold and her brothers served overseas during World War II, a source of constant unease. Harold joined the U.S. Army Signal Corps in the Pacific, stringing military communication lines that often required going in ahead of the regiments.

"You had to be very careful where you put your hands when you climbed the tree because in the crotch of the tree they'd put mines," Franc said of the perilous assignment.

On the homefront, war rationing meant limited supplies.

"You had to have a ticket to buy meat, you had to have a ticket to by anything," she said. "We had a lot of chicken soup, because that really lasted."

Franc recalled her Cleveland neighbors throwing a victory party at war's end. Her mom declined the invitation.

"She was on the porch praying that my brothers would come home safe," she said.

In Hinsdale, Harold became the neighborhood handyman, and Franc found an outlet at Graue Mill volunteering for decades as a spinner and weaver and educating visitors young and old on the life skills of a bygone era.

"It felt like I was doing something," she said of the opportunity. "The children had never seen a spinning wheel. They'd never seen how you'd make bread."

She looked back fondly at family bowling outings, being active at then-Hinsdale Baptist Church and doing crossword puzzles with Harold. She lamented his death at age 75 before he was able to fully embrace retirement.

Franc shared the secret of how her rich life, like her bountiful garden, continues to flourish.

"Stay out of trouble. Don't drink, don't smoke, don't do any of that stuff," she said. "You just go day by day."

- profile by Ken Knutson, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean