My neighbor Frances Barron, always working in the yard of her East Liberty Street home, died last week at age 99.
Somewhere in heaven, she must be tending to the flowers. She was well known for her garden, full of roses, irises and vegetables.
But there was more to Frances Barron than her love of nature. After graduating from what was then Winthrop College, she and her brother Ralph Martin co-owned the York Tire Store and York Petroleum Co. She was just as devoted to her work.
“Frances (still would be) keeping the books while she was in the hospital after having her children,” said her friend Frances Williamson. “She was tireless.”
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After retirement, Barron had more time to enjoy her garden, and she joined the Rose Alba Garden Club in 1983.
“She loved every part of her garden, the flowers and the vegetables,” said her son Archie Barron, 72. Archie was born in the Barrons' tidy brick house that Barron and her husband built in 1935.
“We always said that it was a neighborhood garden, more than one for herself.”
Even in the middle of the summer, Barron could be spotted bending over near the curb pulling weeds.
“Nothing fazed her,” Archie Barron said. “Ninety-plus degrees, she'd be out there. A year ago, she was 98, and she still put 18 tomato plants in the ground.”
Barron was a faithful member of the York ARP church. “She was always very good about attending and going to Sunday school,” said her neighbor Margaret Moss. “But her real joy was working in the yard.”
The Rev. Tony Grant was Barron's pastor for 28 years. “She worked so hard at everything,” he said. “She grew the most beautiful roses I've ever seen. She also was a great cook. There's a time when we just couldn't have a church supper without Miss Frances' brownies.”
Grant's favorite story happened about 10 years ago. He stopped by to see her “and there she was, in her mid-80s, on top of her house cleaning the gutters.”
Barron “taught by example,” Grant said. “She didn't say a whole lot, but she did so much.”
Barron also was known for canning vegetables, her needlework and entertaining at home well into her 90s.
“After going through the Depression,” Archie Barron said, “you develop a different idea of what's important. Not making lots of money, but the real stuff … She lived a long, full life.”