Frances M. “Fran” Hedrick, 90, passed away Tuesday, October 13, 2015 at home in Rapid City.
Fran was born June 30, 1925 in Searsboro, Iowa, to Orville and Marie Gilbert. She was the second oldest of 5 children. She married Robert F. Hedrick on May 24, 1945 at Offitt Air Force Base in Lincoln, Nebraska. Bob and Fran moved to Keokuk, Iowa in late 1945 to start a family, they then moved to Denby, SD in 1956 where Robert helped ranch with Frances’ parents. Bob, Fran and their seven children moved to Rapid City, SD in 1961.
Fran always loved sports but it was the boys’ little league games where she started taking an active role in baseball. Fathers normally filled the umpire shoes at those games, but on one bright Saturday morning, Fran decided a woman’s shoes would also fit. This was the beginning of a near 40 year career of umpiring and refereeing. Fran would continually take on new sports; she would watch the sport, learn the sport, learn the rules to the sport, and then gain certification to referee or umpire the sport. Starting with baseball/softball in 1966, she included basketball in 1972. Somewhere in the mid-70’s, Fran added football and volleyball to her resume.
As the first female certified official in South Dakota, there were plenty of obstacles and plenty of jeers from the game crowds, but that only solidified her resolve. She was a self-professed tomboy, but knew she was tough enough to be on the field or court and was positive she could be fair and carry herself well with the players, coaches, and other officials. From Little League all the way up to Amateur Baseball, Fran officiated 5 State Amateur Tournaments, 2 Regional American Legion Tournaments – 1 (1994) as the honorary umpire where she was selected to “umpire the lines” in the championship game, 3 State American Legion Tournaments, 2 State A Girls High School Basketball Tournaments (including the first Girls State A Tournament in 1975), an NAIA College Regional Basketball Tournament, State Slow Pitch and National Fast Pitch tournaments. She served as head umpire for the American Legion Post 22 Baseball program for many years and volunteered her time organizing the American Legion tournaments and YMCA youth basketball tournaments. Fran was inducted into the South Dakota Umpires Association Hall of Fame on September 29, 1991. Other known awards include: • Rapid City Sports Council Award of Appreciation - 2012 • South Dakota Girls and Women in Sports Leadership Award – 2000 • SDHSAA Distinguished Service Award – 1998 • Rapid City Sports Hall of Fame - 1993 • Us Baseball Federation - Amateur Baseball Woman of the Year - 1989 • US Baseball Federation - Golden Diamond Award - 1986
Fran was also very proud to be the Searsboro Iowa Marbles Champion when she was young – or as Fran put it “dominating the marble scene”.
In 1975, when Rapid City held the American Legion World Series, Fran introduced herself to George Bradley, who was a scout with the Philadelphia Phillies. George offered her an unpaid position with the title of Associate Scout for the Philadelphia Phillies. She was thrilled and didn’t care that there was no money involved. Fran carried that title for several years, and as most people who know her can attest, wore her Phillies hat proudly.
Fran challenged herself in many ways. Aside from her officiating career, Fran hiked 260 miles of the Appalachian Trail in her early 60’s, learned how to swim in her mid-60’s and worked one summer on an archeological dig (through the School of Mines) near Belle Fourche with her good friend Hilda Anderson. Fran worked for the Rapid City Parks Department from 1981 until about 1997. You could see her driving around the city in a Cushman vehicle watering at the various parks. She enjoyed the job because she was able to work with two of her daughters and it allowed her to be outdoors during the summer.
Fran’s other pride and joy was her 1938 Chrysler, which she bought and had completely restored. She often drove it to games and around town. In her elderly years, her son Tom kept the car running and would take Fran and Bob for drives through the Black Hills. Fran will receive one final ride in the ’38 when her sons Tom, John and Joe drive her to the Black Hills National Cemetery for her burial.
Fran left this world with a worn out body but a wealth of amazing memories. One of Fran’s quotes was “either yer out or yer safe”. This was Fran, right was right, wrong was wrong; grey areas were for politicians and lawyers and she didn’t have much time for either of them.
Fran would bake several times per week when the kids were in school. After that time, she continued to bake bread, pies and brownies that she regularly gave away to friends and family. Not just any brownies but the “best” brownies.
Survivors include her children, Nancy Wold of Nemo, SD; Claudia(Steve) Hoffman of Sammamish, WA; Tom Hedrick of Rapid City; Beverly (Greg) Polak of Lakewood, CO; John (Terri) Hedrick of Des Moines, IA; Joseph (Shelley) Hedrick of Gilbert, AZ and Mary (Rick) Christensen of Albany, MN; 16 grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren, one great-great grandchild, one sister Joann(Bob) Nix of Greencastle , PA, and sister-in-law Elva Hedrick of Morton, IL. Frances was preceded in death by her mother and father, Orville and Marie Gilbert, husband of 69 years, Robert, an infant son in 1964, sister, Grace Long, brothers Marty Gilbert, Jim Gilbert, son-in-law, Roger Wold, and brother-in-law Dick Hedrick.
Fran was a great Mom and Grandma, she was always involved in her kids’ lives and had their backs (and sometimes their butts); she passed on her determination, strength, and passion for “living life to the fullest” to her children and grandchildren by the example she set in everything she did. The family would like to express special thanks to her health aid, Conception Hendricks and Regional Hospice, and their brother, Tom, for caring for Fran for years and allowing the opportunity for her to remain in her home until her death.
In lieu of flowers, the family will apply memorials toward funding research for macular degeneration.
Memorial visitation will be held from 5-7pm, with a Prayer service at 7pm on Sunday, Oct. 25 at Kirk Funeral Home. Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10am on Monday, Oct. 26 at St. Therese Catholic Church. Burial will be held at 3pm at Black Hills National Cemetery.