In Memoriam:

Frances E. Reid

September 11, 1909June 10, 1994

Frances Reid was a co-founder with Ruth (Reg) Grauert of Bearnstow in 1946. She continued to co-direct Bearnstow with Reg until 1994. Frances died at Christ Hospital in Jersey City on June 10, 1994 after a brief illness.

A memorial concert and exhibition by her students was presented on July 30 and 31. Her ashes were spread between cabins 2 and 3 over those of her beloved pets. See the memorial concert program (PDF).

Fran with Bedlington terrier
Remembrances from Bobbie Gottschalk

The whole time I was at camp, Fran spent her winters teaching dance in Concord, NH. She often brought students from her dance classes in Concord up to camp.

Fran and Reg acted as a tag-team as leaders of Bearnstow. Fran was the softer one, quick to show concern and worry. Reg was the disciplinarian, for the most part. But, if one of them got too upset, the other one was able to step in with calm reason. They lived in a bunk down at the boys’ side of camp, the north end of camp.

Fran loved to teach dance in bare feet, banging a drum to give us the beat. She was short and wore jeans rolled up to just below her knees and a T-shirt. When she demon­strated a dance move, she would usually call out, “Daaa, daaa, daaaaaa... chah!”

During the winter months, when all of us were missing camp, Reg would write let­ters if we wrote to her, but I don't think Fran ever wrote to me. Ironically, although Fran seemed to have a warmer personality, it was Reg who was more engaged.

Remembrances from Bebe Miller

As far as I know Fran lived her adult life in Concord, New Hampshire, but she had family roots in Maine. One of our weekly summer trips on Sundays was to Five Islands at the end of one of the long peninsulas northeast of Portland. It was always special, a nostalgic visit for Fran. She would take us to the remains of a house that had burned down long ago, as it had belonged to an aunt I believe. I had a sense that she didn’t have a close family, and had grown up “without,” so this reminder of a homestead was very dear to her.

Fran and Reg lived in cabin #2 with 5 or so of the younger boys. They were both caring in their own ways. I remember Fran doting on a baby, a child of a former camper named Marian Stebbins, when they visited camp one summer.

Frances in the kitchen, in the 1990s.
Fran and Reg lived in cabin #2 with 5 or so of the younger boys. They were both caring in their own ways. I remember Fran doting on a baby, a child of a former camper named Marian Stebbins, when they visited camp one summer. Fran could make this baby giggle and laugh; she leaned in and cuddled her with her voice and smile. Reg was more stern, she smoked a pipe for years, and for me was such a model of how I wanted to be in the world: she seemed to know something about everything, anything, from plants to constellations to swimming the crawl without making a splash. Fran and Reg were my brother Clair’s counselors for years.

Fran lived the rest of the year in Concord, teaching dance in her school. Having had Reg as my first dance teacher in NYC at the Henry Street Settlement, Fran’s classes were of a different nature. She talked about how her aesthetic and training was in Lyric Theater, somewhere down the continuum from Vaudeville. Her specialty was tap dancing although she also choreo­graphed costumed extravaganzas for each age group. We learned “routines” that we performed in the Final Show, the last Saturday of the camp season. In one of my family’s early summers my brother, sister and I performed a Cake Walk, a style devel­oped by enslaved persons in the South; we now know the form as a parody of white plantation Southerners. As we were (most likely) the only Black kids around, I think Fran felt that she was giving us something quite special. I’m sure many folks in the audience had never seen Black kids perform and had nothing to compare it to; I hope there were some who were appalled. What she did give us though, what she gave all of us, was an excite­ment about being part of a magical event. Rehearsals were intense, there were tears, but in the end it was glorious.

Fran at Bearnstow in 1990
Fran was incredibly active, and focused particularly on the care of the buildings. There were so many things to do! She would climb up and sweep the Lodge roof, lead chore teams in the dining room and kitchen, keep the pantry and linen closet in meticulous order. She didn’t know how to swim (which I thought was pretty amaz­ing given where we were) but would go out in the rowboat every once in a while. She once told us teenage girls about how a boy taught her to light a cigarette “into the wind” while leaning back in a canoe, scandalous and incredibly alluring.

The loss of the Big House in the mid 70s must have been devastat­ing. By then camp had shifted from a sleepover camp to local classes in swimming, arts and dance for children and adults; this format lasted through 1993. Fran eventually moved to Jersey City when her school closed. She kept up the dance classes at camp — she nurtured quite a number of young dancers into adulthood — even after she broke her hip in 1988. She continued to envelop the young kids in her love and care. As she had done with us, she would talk with each one every morning, going over their list of chores, what was expected, what might be difficult but doable, and they would listen seriously, ask questions. She would shower them with her attention, and they felt known; they felt they were heard. Fran was complicated, her love for us was complicated, her love for Bearnstow was deep. In 1994, when she found out her illness was terminal, Reg said her complaint was, “but I haven’t finished.”

Remembrances from Janet Erickson

These memories are from my six years as a camper in the 1960’s, ages 10 to15. In general, I remember Fran being vibrant, full of “piss-and-vinegar,” able to be center stage in any group. Fran acted as Program Director, in charge of activities, housekeeping, and dance classes, and was counselor for bunk 2. Reg said that Fran liked to climb high in a tree and make it sway back and forth. I envy that kind of nerve!

I remember Fran standing on the rock between the Lodge and Dining Room, holding her clipboard, telling us what our activities would be for the day. She would wear her hair held up in back with a big barrette, knit top, jeans, rubber-soled moccasins with beading on the front, and a whistle hanging on a braided lanyard that someone had made for her.

Although the camp bell woke us up and called us to meals, it was Fran’s whistle that marked the changes from one activity to another. I could hear it anywhere in camp except at the beach; she’d come to the ledges to whistle the end of swim time.

I remember Fran presiding over the dining room from the head of her table in the corner between the porch and kitchen door, with the portraits of the Bedlington terriers Timmie and Burdock on the wall over the bureau. Reg’s table was opposite, next to the office door.

Reg & Fran in front of the Big House, ca. 1962, with their Bedlington terriers. Unfortunately, the Big House collapsed
from a winter snow load in the early 70s.
I remember handing the bunk’s laundry bag and dirty sheets and towels over to Fran through the window in the kitchen alley, get­ting supplies for our bunk from her there, and buying stamps and postcards from her there. Fran & Reg kept a supply of flashlight batteries, toothbrushes and other sundries, which they’d sell to us at cost. They were frugal! If you needed one shoelace, you could buy one shoelace.

Fran was very proud of Bearnstow’s track record of excellent inspections for health and safety, as she told us frequently. Fran said that ideas for some of her best choreography came when she was cleaning things.

Fran could dance anything! She said that one of the things she did in her career was to pop out of cakes at parties. And Fran taught me to dance ballet, modern, tap, polka, waltz, and probably more I don’t remember. She taught performance as well to dance with intention and focus, making it engaging for the audience as well as experience for us. Fran made dances designed around our individual skills, where those of us without dance backgrounds learned by working with Reg’s students from the Henry Street Playhouse and her own students from New Hampshire.

Fran and Reg taught me to create on demand, to improvise. Reg brought audio tapes, costume pieces and ideas from what she had been doing in NYC, and the two of them put together wonderful pieces for us to dance, intermingling choreographed and improvised segments. Some were serious, some were fun, even silly.

Costumes, scenery and props were suggestions. I remember wearing a band of ruffled tulle around my arm to suggest a tutu. For our “Chicago” piece, Fran drew a loop on a big piece of paper and pinned it on the Big House cyclorama as background.

I remember Fran’s drum and chant “yee-ta, yee-ta, yee-ta, yah!” I remember Fran helping me with unfamiliar exercises. I remember Fran telling me off in no uncertain terms when I wasn’t concentrating. I remember Fran teaching us how to sit quietly in our places behind the cyc when another group was performing.

Between them, Fran and Reg filled a large bag of experiences and skills for me that I drew from during both my careers.