Frances Van Winkle, until recently of Alvin Texas, passed away November 30 2019 in Kingwood Texas.  She was born on July 9 1925 to Ermina (Cox) Donham and Ralph Donham in Hillsboro, Ohio and grew up in Whiting, Indiana.  She was preceded in death by her husband, Rudolph (Rip) Van Winkle and her brothers, Robert Donham and Walter Donham.  

She graduated from George Rogers Clark High School in Whiting, Indiana, and earned a BS in Chemistry from Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, where she was a member of the Phi Mu sorority.  She did factory work during high school summers in World War II and worked as a chemist at National Pectin after college and marriage until she had children.

While the children were young the family lived mostly in Indiana, except for a 3-year stint in Karachi, Pakistan while Rip was working there. The family moved to Alvin in 1973, where she lived until moving to Watercrest senior living in Kingwood in 2019.  

Fran was an energetic participant everywhere she lived.  In Alvin, she was an active volunteer for decades at the library (where her work included the building committee), the Alvin Museum Society (docent at two museums), the AAUW, the Episcopal Church, and the clothing outlet.  

She enjoyed using her mind, and was a well-known local duplicate bridge player in several regular Alvin bridge clubs. She was never without her word puzzles.  The genealogy research she did for many decades took up two cabinets and revealed (among many discoveries) that she was a distant cousin to Queen Elizabeth II.

She enjoyed the out-of-doors. She always gardened, in keeping with a family tradition going back to her grandfather, a famous apple grower. She competed (to the extent a girl was allowed) in running and volleyball.  Hiking and camping were courtship and young family activities.  In Karachi, she was an award-winning amateur golfer.

Karachi was where she first got a chance at foreign travel.  She arranged for each year’s (company-paid) one-month “home leave” to consist mostly of stops in foreign countries.  This was the beginning of 45 years of travel to wherever her imagination took her, including scores of countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, Latin America, and even behind the Iron Curtain.  

Fran embraced modernism in her eclectic décor, her appreciation of convenience, and her sometimes sardonic sense of humor.

She was a spirited personality who relished people and life.  Even after a slight stroke slowed her down, she was out and about every other day in Alvin, for church, volunteer work, bridge or doctors. At Kingwood, she was downstairs daily with her walker looking for “partners in crime”.  Everywhere, she stood out for her original conversation, as well as her distinctive and ever-present hats.

She will be missed.

She is survived by her daughters: Sharyl Van Winkle, Laurel Dow, and Melody Trambaugh; grandchildren: Stephanie Dow, Jeffrey Dow, Sierra Trambaugh, Sarah Fisher, and Hunter Trambaugh; as well as numerous nieces and nephews including Gary Van Winkle of Alvin Texas.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, March 7 at 2 pm at Grace Episcopal Church in Alvin.

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