Frances Arlene Knuth
February 12, 1930 ~ February 15, 2022
Frances was born on February 12,1930 in Colony, Kansas, the middle daughter of Donna Wells Colton and Clarence Colton. In search of opportunity the family moved to LeRoy, Kansas where Donna taught school and Clarence ran the local auto repair garage. Frances told of their hard times during the Depression: she could tell there were no paying customers at the garage when dinner was cornmeal mush and the next day’s breakfast was fried cornmeal mush. Years later at a Chicago restaurant she learned that “polenta” was Italian cornmeal. She was shocked that such a poor person’s food would be served in a nice restaurant.
Frances graduated from LeRoy High School in 1948 where the played the coronet in the band, then got a teacher’s certificate from Emporia Teachers College and taught in a one room schoolhouse.
She met Earl when her car broke down and Earl stopped to help her. When she became serious about her future husband, both families were initially opposed to the match as he was from a farming family in the strongly German Lutheran community of Aliceville just 10 miles away from Leroy, but considered quite “different” from the Methodist Colton family.
Earl became disheartened with farming life, and had an opportunity to go to work at a California airplane factory with his brother-in-law. He moved west, but was unable to convince Frances to follow him. To try to break them up Frances’ father took a picture of her kissing an old friend and sent it to Earl to make him mad. But instead he quit his job and came back to marry her. They were married on December 25, 1948 and were happily married for 63 years. Soon after, Earl took a job with General Motors near Kansas City, and they set up housekeeping in an apartment in Parkville across from the plant.
They had their first child, Douglas, in 1951. In 1953 they bought a new 2 bedroom home near Gladstone for $11,000, where they would live for the rest of their time together. They had two more children: Barbara in 1955 and Alan in 1956.
After years of experience as a housewife, Frances got a job as a cook for the North Kansas City School district. Working initially as a cook at Antioch Junior High, then as an assistant manager in the Oak Park High School kitchen, then Manager at Topping Elementary, Winnetonka High School, and New Mark Middle School. For many years her kitchens produced all of their meals in-house, including baking the breads. In those years she had the authority to set menus for her school, and she concentrated on preparing foods that were nutritious and that the children would eat. She carefully monitored what they left untouched and modified the menus accordingly. She delighted in introducing international foods, particularly at New Mark where she could get suppliers to provide items to decorate the cafeteria and spark the children’s interest. She was part of a group of women from the kitchen staff who stayed close for years after retirement.
In addition to her work in the school kitchens, for years she had second jobs doing home sales parties for kitchenware and jewelry. Since Earl worked nights, when she had a sales party elsewhere the kids were on their own, with Doug trying to watch Barbara and Alan. In the process though, Doug learned to cook.
Frances and Earl were active in the Lutheran Church: first at Holy Cross, then as founding members of King of Kings. Frances was especially active in the church kitchen. For years she led a group who made cinnamon rolls for church events and for sale at church fundraisers. King of Kings initially had a small galley-style kitchen, but Frances felt strongly that they needed a professional grade kitchen as membership increased. When the church did a major expansion she insisted they include a new kitchen upgrade, although the budget was insufficient for equipment. She designed the equipment layout for the kitchen, raised money to supply it and used her contacts in the professional kitchen equipment world to shop for the best deals. After that for years she was able to cook and bake for all kinds of church functions in her kitchen.
When the kids were old enough the family started to travel every summer. Since Frances was off for most of the summer and Earl was laid off every August from General Motors, that was the standard time for family vacations. The layoffs meant a minimal travel budget, so typical vacations were driving and camping in state and national parks or staying with relatives. These trips were often for several weeks across the western states. The station wagon was outfitted with camp boxes for all the necessary equipment. When arriving at a camp site, everyone had a job setting up camp while Frances prepared dinner. Staying at then-free park campgrounds, preparing all meals and limiting excursions to free sites, the only cost of a vacation versus staying at home was gas for the car, which was inexpensive in the 60’s.
Although Frances didn’t generally share Earl’s passion for collecting, she did collect antique dolls, Kewpies and angels, belonging to clubs and attending conventions. She was also a seamstress, sewing dresses for Barbara, grand-daughter Connie, the antique dolls and Barbara’s Barbies.
After Earl’s death in 2011 Frances continued to live in their home for several years, until the children realized that the lack of human contact was not good for her and convinced her to move, first to a retirement complex then to Oxford Grand assisted living where she would get more help.
Frances is survived by: sister Jean Colton; son Douglas Knuth and spouse Cathie, their son Chris Owen and wife Anne, their sons Andrew and Braden; daughter Barbara Knuth and spouse William Burk, their daughter Connie Wells and spouse Dave and their sons Cole and Connor; Son Alan Knuth and spouse Joan, their daughter Kathleen Vazquez and spouse Ramon, and their daughter Olivia; son Matthew Knuth and spouse Leann and their daughter Brianna and son Michael.
Visitation will be held from 10:00 a.m., Friday, February 25. 2022 at King of Kings Lutheran Church 1701 N.E. 96th Street Kansas City, MO 64155. The Funeral service celebrating Frances’ life will commence at 11:00 a.m., with Pastor Frank Greene presiding. Burial will immediately follow at Terrace Park Cemetery. Memorial contributions are suggested to King of Kings Lutheran Church or to Martin Luther Academy. Memories of Frances and condolences to the family may be shared at meyersfuneralchapel.com.