Frances Drewry Austin, 85, of Laurel, Md., died June 27, 2019, after a brief illness.
Fran, as everyone knew her, was born in Fincastle, the oldest child of Carrie Alene (Nininger) and Raymond Randolph Drewry. After high school, Fran was married briefly to a Navy man, who took her away to Key West, Fla. When it was time for his transfer, she stayed in Key West. Fran worked as a waitress and eventually became the Monroe County Registrar of Births and Deaths. She married Key West native George W. Barber and their son, George Randall, was born in 1956. Ultimately, that marriage too ended and Fran moved with her son to Maryland.
Deciding on a nursing career, Fran received a diploma from the Frederick Memorial Hospital School of Nursing. She was among the first group of nurses to work in the ground-breaking Shock Trauma Center at Baltimore’s University of Maryland in the late 1960s. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing at the University of Maryland. Initially accepted to the University of Colorado’s Master’s program, she decided that Colorado wasn’t far enough West and drove on to California.
Fran’s California years were busy ones. She got that Master’s Degree in Nursing at UCLA. She was at the forefront of the nursing profession as an Adult Nurse Practitioner when that specialty was in its infancy. Fran worked for several hospitals in the process, taught nursing, and contributed to a nursing textbook. She joined the Army Reserves and during her Army career, rose to the rank of Major. Marrying for a third time to Arthur Austin, with whom she maintained a lifelong friendship, this marriage also wasn’t to last. After it ended, she went on active duty and was stationed in Korea, a time she always spoke of fondly. Along with her Army nursing duties in Korea, she taught English as a Second Language.
On discharge from the Army, Fran returned to Maryland and worked for a period of time as a Howard County real estate agent. She excelled at that job but missed nursing. She was hired as a Nurse Manager in the Triage Clinic at the BaltimoreVA Medical Center and worked there for about 5 years. Craving a change, she then accepted a position as the Nurse Manager of a long-term care/hospice unit at the Fort Howard, Md., VA Medical Center. While there, by then in her 60s, Fran developed an interest in wound care and returned to school to become a Certified Wound-Ostomy Nurse. She held positions in that specialty at George Washington Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Adventist Hospital in Silver Spring, Md., and Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham, Md. She was active in the Wound-Ostomy Nurses Society and was recognized and consulted by her peers for her expertise.
Fran reluctantly retired from nursing when she was 79 years old. Over the entire course of her career, she was well respected and admired as a consummate professional nurse, whose work ethic was second to none. It’s been said that working with Fran wasn’t the challenge, keeping up with her was the challenge. In retirement she continued to mentor young nurses, copiously read and studied medical literature, and kept abreast of world events. She was a dedicated animal lover who pampered her many pets. Fran is remembered as a wonderful friend, a person who lived life on her own terms, and always, always for her beautiful red hair.
In addition to her parents, Fran was preceded in death by her son George, an unexpected and painful loss, and by her brother Raymond.
She is missed by her long-time companion, Danny Dambraskas; grandsons, Thomas Pearsall and Adam Barber; and great-grandson, Damien Barber. She leaves behind sisters, Joyce Bullard and Beverly Hurley; brothers, Richard Drewry, Kenneth Drewry, and James Drewry; many beloved nieces and nephews; and a long, long list of treasured friends.
Services honoring Frances’ life will be 1 p.m. Wednesday, July 31 at Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church (White Church), 2357 Mt. Pleasant Church Road, Fincastle. Burial with military honors will be in Mt. Pleasant Church Cemetery. The family will receive friends at the church one hour prior to the service.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to either the ASPCA, P.O. Box 96929, Washington, D.C. 20090-6929; or the American Heart Association, 3140 Chaparral Dr., #106, Roanoke, 24018.