Her dad was in the lumber business and when he went into an area to cut timber, he would take his family with him to live close to where he was working. It was only later that her parents realized she was not born as stated on the birth certificate in Bradley County, but on the Bill Davis Farm just across the county line. That called for a delayed birth certificate.
Frances was one of two girls with nine brothers in her family and grew up in the Prospect community on the Sam Murray farm. She attended Prospect Elementary School and graduated from Bradley Central High School. In fact, she and her husband, “Jim,” had actually graduated in the same class, but “we didn’t know each other,” Frances said.
Five generations of Murrays had a background with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and Frances’ home church was Prospect Cumberland Presbyterian. She and James were married in the church there and their family attended the Prospect church.
The Swaffords lived in Prospect after marrying, then moved to Hopewell close to James’ parents, Ellis and Evelyn Swafford.
The couple have one son, Brian, daughter-in-law Patty Graham, and two grandchildren, Cody and Cortney.
Frances worked in the family businesses — keeping books for her dad’s lumber company and a used car business, along with another car place.
While at New Prospect, she was organist and pianist for the church until they changed their membership in 1972, to First Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Frances had grown up playing the piano — learning to play hymns at the Prospect Cumberland Presbyterian Church when in high school.
Although she took lessons for a while, she is more “self-taught.” The piano teacher came to the school and Frances was able to take lessons for a couple of years (around the seventh grade). She had to “just quit” when she found out she would have to go to her piano teacher’s house with no one to take her. But, she said, she regretted not continuing.
At First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Frances entered into a new ministry. Not only does she play the piano and sing in the choir, she is president of the Cumberland Presbyterian Women’s Ministry Circle. As an elder, she also served a three-year term and is on the church worship committee. She serves on the Education Board — “quite an undertaking,” she said. Her son, husband and daughter-in-law are elders, also. “The whole family is involved,” Frances said.
But what really is her heartbeat is the Logos Ministry, a program she help to initiate for children and youth.
She worked with the Rev. James Searcy — it was is idea, she said — during the time the program was being organized in 1988 and served as director of the non-denominational ministry for five years. Her duties included organizing and coordinating the activities of more than 25 students.
The group meets on Wednesdays from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. The program consists of Bible study, worship skills and activity period, ending with a family-style dinner time. The students change classes with time for each activity and they sing during regular church services.
So how did she wind up working at the funeral home? That was her husband’s doing. Jim went to work (after retiring from 49 years with Cleveland Express) for Grissom Funeral Home in 2000. And at Jim’s suggestion — “Get Frances in to do some visitation” — Frances started there about seven years ago
“(They) needed someone to help out with visitation,” she explained. “I feel it’s a ministry.”
She said people ask, “How can you do that?”
And her answer, “You have to love people and feel compassion — be there to comfort them.”
She works on call now as a funeral assistant. “I do whatever is needed,” she said, “visitation and sometimes in the office, too — and I have driven the flower van.”
But, she said, “everything centers around church.” The Swaffords work together in coordinating things to get ready for Advent season. They start right after Thanksgiving each year and “we enjoy that,” she said.
This is her 14th year doing the Murray reunion, also, and the family urges her to continue the gatherings each year. And she serves as secretary for the Cemetery Association.
As far as hobbies go, Frances said she loves music, still loves to play piano, and also enjoys reading. She told how she used to sew, making all her clothes. She learned to sew, she said, on a pedal sewing machine. She is also a home decorator — her redo of her kitchen proves that. And she used to mow three lawns regularly on the riding lawn mower.
“I like being outside,” she said. She and her husband had friends who owned a houseboat and they always enjoyed the river cruises.
Travel is high on her “like to do” list. Her favorite trip was also the most disastrous. In the late 1980s, Frances drove the van loaded with church youth 3,000 miles to the week-long Logos youth conference at Estes Park, Colo. She served as counselor at the conference.
On the way out, she lost the filling in her tooth, then the air conditioning went out on the van. And on Sunday evening as they started the return trip, the engine died. They were at a truck stop in Illinois and a wrecker pulled them in. Frances told the mechanic to disconnect the air conditioning — which was shutting off the engine — and the rest of the trip was made with the windows down. “I’ll always remember that trip — but not to do it again,” Frances said.
Frances said the two of them like to stay busy, and now that her husband is retired, they can do things together. And with their church involvement and the grandchildren next door, they look forward to more enjoyment during their retirement years.