Frances Dunham Catlett
  • 105 years old
  • Date of birth: Jul 3, 1908
  • Place of birth:
    Hartford, Connecticut, United States
  • Date of passing: Apr 22, 2014
  • Place of passing:
    San Leandro, California, United States
I am especially sensitive to the mystery of the universe...people coping...the beauty of nature and dancing through it all.

     Frances, avid dancer, painter, writer, bowler, traveler and hiker, passed away peacefully at the age of 105 on April 22nd, 2014. Born in Hartford, Connecticut to John and Mary Taylor, she was the youngest and last surviving of ten children.

     She was preceded in death by three husbands: Albert Millard Dunham Jr., John Hawkins Catlett, and Matt N. Crawford; and by her son Michael Andrew Catlett, and grandson David Catlett. She is survived by her older son Kaye Lawrence Dunham, (Lorraine), four grandchildren; Pilar Walidah Dunham-Singleton(Lee),Risa-Sophia Marcellus, Michael John Catlett and Amani Katherine Dunham(Anneka), six great grandchildren; Nicol Gonzales(Marino), Andre Gonzales, Kizi Smith (LeSean), Chaunte Singleton, Dante Catlett and Asia Catlett; three great great grandchildren; Alliya Smith, Elijah Smith and Castiel Montes de Oca;  a step-daughter, Evelyn Crawford; a large extended family and circle of friends.

We invite you to share your memories. 

Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by Bobby Grande on 6th July 2016

"Grande family in CT sending love to all who miss Frances Dunham Catlett.  We were blessed to have had her for over a century!  May her spirit, legacy and legend live on forever!!!"

This tribute was added by Mo Hicks on 4th July 2016

"Aunt Frances will light up the sky in Philadelphia as we celebrate the Fourth of July - We will always remember her light and her milestone birthdays!"

This tribute was added by Marjorie Holloway on 4th July 2016

"Miss you Frances.  I often think of you when driving on the freeway because you would point out--from an artist's point of view--the beautiful scenery including the sky, clouds, and trees."

This tribute was added by Bobby Grande on 3rd July 2015

"It was seventeen years ago that Estelle, Maureen, Kathie, and Lynette flew to San Francisco to enjoy a wonderful, memorable adventure.  The occasion was Aunt Frank's 90th birthday!!  How amazing to be in such a culturally rich environment sharing such a landmark event with our Taylor Family matriarch!!  We will remember Aunt Frank's life in the spectacle of fireworks synonymous with our nation's annual celebration, while never forgetting standing in Jack London Square all those many years ago.  We love you, Aunt Frank!!!"

This tribute was added by Marjorie Holloway on 25th April 2015

"You were such an inspiration with your adventurous, free spirit. You had "it all" long before women considered having it all--family, work, art, and travel. We miss you."

This tribute was added by Mo Hicks on 22nd April 2015

"How fitting that today is Earth Day 2015 and the first anniversary of Great Aunt Frances' passing - may the universality of her spirit, creativity and beauty continue to inspire us all. Peace and blessings to all in her family and friendship community.
Maureen Taylor Hicks and Family"

This tribute was added by Harold L. Orbach on 19th August 2014

"“I never met Frances, but spoke to her and corresponded with her in the 1970's when I was attempting t reconstruct the history and work of her first husband, Albert Millard Dunham, whose work and contributions to American thought, philosophy and society had been overlooked and forgotten. She was graceful and immensely helpful to a stranger to whom she never spoke of her own marvelous life achievements in the face of great adversity. I only began to learn of these two decades later when her son Kaye Dunham contacted me on her recommendation when he was beginning the process of learning of the father he never knew and through him learned of her achievements and saw videos and photographs of her amid her large and loving family. She is a real American heroine, a model for young people, who should be recognized and honored.”"

This tribute was added by Bettie Grandison on 4th July 2014

"Enjoyed hosting you for Bridge and lunch at Cardinal Point."

This tribute was added by amy gorman on 3rd July 2014

"Happy Birthday dear Frances-
Ever since we met when I was writing Aging Artfully in 2004 you have been a mentor and inspiration for me. Your agile mind and stately walk are etched in my memory, and your search for learning and understanding until yr last days serve as a model for so many of us.
Rest easy with love, Amy"

This tribute was added by Emily Wong on 10th June 2014

"Francis was one of my grandmother Sue Thurman's dearest friends. My mother Olive, told me how she and Kaye use to live with them in DC. I remember visiting the house where Francis lived near the Farmer's Market. I visited her with Linda and Maruja Kelley, in the 1970s. I attended some birthday parties when Francis was in her 90s. I was so happy to see her at Olive's service at Fellowship Church."

This tribute was added by Stefani Rosenberg on 7th June 2014

"We will miss your mother and her energy that seemed boundless. My last memory of her was when Mary and I visited her when she was living independently in an apartment. Her unframed paintings were everywhere. As she showed them to us she seemed to be completely in her element. Her art work is truly beautiful and they are her legacy to you and to all of us will as well. That's a pretty amazing thing to have along with all of her other life stories.
I would like to share with you three of my favorite "Frances Stories" that have stayed with me for many, many years. I'll keep it brief and fill them out when we are together.
The first was on New Year's Day. Everyone was busy eating and cooking as usual. Since the entire extended family had arrived, the room was crowded and filled with wonderful aromas of the traditional meal.
Everyone was either talking away or eating, Some were opening gifts as well. I remember teaching Amali how to make origami cranes using the wrapping paper. Suddenly your mother spoke up and said that there was something she wanted to tell us. She then went on to say how  pleased she was to see all of enjoying each other's company; that it was beautiful to see so many cultures and races naturally celebrating together and she just wanted to point out to us how special is and that it touched her. I know I stopped to think about it and realized how right she was. I will never take for granted the rich treasure of friendship that we all share.
The second memory is of her reading one of Neal De Gasse Tyson's book. She said she read until the middle of the night and was in awe of the universe and the wonders that have been revealed. She said that this satisfied her wonder about nature and the universe even though many questions will remain unanswered. She was already over a 100 years old. Imagine that scene! 
The last story I've already told you, but hold on to it and keep it as a happy/funny story of coincidence.
This was when we were having dinner at your house and she began to talk about Faith Petric and how the two of them had cared for each other's children. A few days later Milt and I were in the audience listening to Faith speak along with others who were called "The Elders."  We could not believe our ears when she proceeded to tell the audience the very same story your mother had just told us a day or two before.
I hope that these memories I am sharing will be welcomed by you. I have remembered them for so many years and reveal how much her words impressed and inspired me."

This tribute was added by Pam Grady on 20th May 2014

"I only had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Catlett once when I was doing a story on her shortly before her 100th birthday. What a wonderful woman and what an inspiration she was."

This tribute was added by Mo Hicks on 16th May 2014

"Aunt Frances brought her extraordinary light to us on the East Coast with every visit.
She was and will always be an inspiration to us all to live live fully and creatively.
May we send our condolences to her loved ones with a message of peace and love - Maureen Taylor Hicks and Family"

This tribute was added by Kera Ward on 16th May 2014

"Although we only met this wonderful dynamic woman twice, I cannot express the deep and lasting impression she left on Asia and me.  And I’m so happy that Frances and Asia were able to meet for David’s sake -- I’m sure that made him so happy.  I totally 100% believe Frances’ (along with David’s) spirit and soul in fact live on and on in all of their family  - - and for me I have to believe they both live on in Asia!  Mine and Asia’s thoughts and prayers are going out to you and the entire family and we both wish you all peace, love and all of God’s blessings as the family gathers in July as you remember and honor this very extraordinary woman."

This tribute was added by Marjorie Holloway on 16th May 2014

"I met Frances in 1957 at the S.F. Dept. Of Social Services. 4 of us were the first " Negroes" to work in Child Welfare. I admired Frances who at that time was working full time; raising two sons and taking Art classes at Mills College. She was "doing it all" back then and was such an inspiration to many women. We kept in touch over the years. I attended most of her Exhibits and was so proud to purchase one of her paintings, paying her in installments. In her early 90s she invited me to join the No Name Bridge Club which I enjoy until today. I will miss her greatly."

This tribute was added by Thelma Fuqua on 12th May 2014

"Although our paths had crossed briefly at a book signing a few years before, Frances was already in her 99th year when we worked together  on her retrospective at AAACC.  Her talent and elegance, along with that sharp wit and zest for life, will always be an inspiration to me.  I feel truly blessed for the opportunity to have known, if only briefly, this fabulous and fascinating lady."

This tribute was added by Walidah Rushiddin on 4th May 2014

"Gramma our Gram...Looking back to our childhood magical memories, I can recall moments of warmth and happiness. From Majestic ave. and the big Thanksgiving meals at the long table in the back, the big back yard and the Tree house, making mud pies with the neighbors, Camping Trips with the Smith-Tabors, the fleishhacker swimming pool, her sitting out in the back yard in the morning drinking her coffee, and reading her newspaper every morning, walks on the beach collecting sea shells, her rock tumbling and polishing, Paul Brown the toy maker, Curly the shaggy dog, travelling with our gramma to visit  relatives, the way she said, " di-a-pur" (smile), telling us how many books she use to sit under a tree and read, her olympic style swimming laps, Zen and Allen Watts, the Unitarian Church, Felllowship Church, rides to Ballet classes, her Soprano singing voice, her jogging around the track, her dancing spirit, her saying, " Oh fudge" (smile), her long line of Colleges attended from; Univ. of Chicago to Mills colllege, and her wonderful, magical paintings that we watched her create over the years...Yes, she will always be our " Gram"...who we love forever and until..."

This tribute was added by david paul anderson on 2nd May 2014

"It was a  pleasure to have known and worked with her.
Often I would ask her a lot of questions, I was amazed at her
sharpness. She was truly a remarkable woman. I will  miss her.
Best wishes to all.                  Peace                     David"

This tribute was added by Joy Luster on 29th April 2014

"I met Frances about sixty-five years ago at Fellowship Church in San Francisco. Over the years we shared holiday meals,hikes, camping, and so much more. I admired her artistic skills. Frances was a unique personality who payed attention and listened, and had wise comments to make, if you wanted them. I have felt privileged to be one of her many friends. Rest in peace and harmony."

This tribute was added by Carrie Taylor on 27th April 2014

"Love to my family near and far.   Aunt Frank has left us all a wonderful legacy  not just in her beautiful artwork but in the way she graced us each with the blessing of having her in our lives however big or small.  She IS the stories we tell."

This tribute was added by Shukuru Sanders on 27th April 2014

"Hi Amani, Please accept my condolences for your loss. Ms. Frances was such a lovely person... and so multi-talented!  Love to you and Kaye"

This tribute was added by Bettie Grandison on 27th April 2014

"Enjoyed having you for lunch and bridge at Cardinal Point.  You were an inspiration to all of us."

This tribute was added by carole korb c on 26th April 2014

"We are all one family and will always be there for each other. Amani and Kaye....know that Adel and I are thinking of you all the time. With much love in our hearts...."

This tribute was added by Sydney Vilen on 24th April 2014

"I met Frances when I moved into Strawberry Creek Lodge 18 years ago.  She embodied spirit, truth, and energy.  Frances was an inspiration who loved life and tried everything, even Tai Chi in her 90s!
Rest in Peace, dear one."


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This memorial is administered by:

Amani Dunham
Kaye Dunham

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