Frances Wollrab

Frances Louise Helmer Wollrab, 97, of Bloomington, passed away peacefully Friday (Jan. 12, 2018) with her family at her side. She had been at Heritage Health, Normal, since June 2017.

A celebration of life will be scheduled by her family at a later date.

Frances was born July 7, 1920, in Jackson, Tenn., to Adrian Edward and Ione Fite Helmer. She had two siblings who predeceased her, James Helmer and Elizabeth Helmer Clark. Her family moved to Piedmont, Calif., when she was very young, where she graduated from Piedmont High School and attended the University of California at Berkeley. She had many fond memories of her childhood that she often shared with her children and friends.

During World War II Fran met her husband, James Culver Wollrab, in San Francisco, Calif. They were married Oct. 19, 1943, in Bloomington. After his service in the U.S. Navy, they lived for two years in Champaign while he attended law school after which they moved back to Bloomington and raised six children together. Jim passed away Jan. 1, 1989.

Surviving are their children, James Wollrab Jr., Boulder, Colo.; Vicki (Don) Marvel, Eugene, Ore.; Fred (Deb) Wollrab, Bloomington; Wendy (Mark) Bardwell, Bloomington; John (Laurie) Wollrab, Normal; and Bill (Vera) Wollrab, San Luis Obispo, Calif.; nine grandchildren, Anne Marvel Chrisman, Jason Marvel, Wendy Wollrab, Jamie Wollrab, Brandyn Wollrab, Tom Bardwell, John Bardwell, Alan Bardwell and Summer Wollrab; and 15 great-grandchildren.

Fran had many diverse interests and hobbies and was even a bit of an entrepreneur. She loved collecting antiques and owned a small antique shop for a brief time. She also had a small business called American Kraft that made the “Dolly Dress Rack” which was sold in Marshall Fields and local toy shops. She enjoyed reading and shared that love with her children. Over the years she enjoyed dabbling in art and photography, traveling with family and friends, volunteering at the Community Players Theater and sharing her cottage in Macatawa, Mich., and her home in Carmel Valley. Fran was able to make several trips to Europe using her membership with the international home exchange program. She truly enjoyed adventures which took her to the backroads and off the beaten path. One of her favorite travel adventures was with her husband when they traveled to Bloomington’s sister city in Asahikawa, Japan, as part of the sister city program. Fran was also a member of the Bloomington Art Association and the Antiquarian club for many years.

Frances can be remembered as generous and caring. After World War II, she and Jim sponsored a Russian prima ballerina and her family through the Refugee Relief Program. They assisted her in setting up a ballet program, beginning in their home and then moving her business to a studio in downtown Bloomington. One of her favorite verses of poetry was “help thy brother’s boat to cross and lo thy own shall reach the shore.” Thank you, Frannie.

Beck Memorial Home, Bloomington, is handling arrangements. Condolences may be left at

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