Obituary: Mary Frances Naffziger Feb. 15, 1931 – Dec. 23, 2022

MARY FRANCES NAFFZIGER Feb. 15, 1931 – Dec. 23, 2022

A resident of Los Alamos since 1958, Frances was a beloved teacher and fixture in the Los Alamos music community.

She was born in Salisbury, North Carolina Feb. 15, 1931, to Hannis Woodson Thompson and Lillian Boger Thompson. She admitted to being “a bit of a tomboy,” and chose to enroll in a physics class in high school rather than home economics, which the girls were supposed to take.

After high school she entered Greensboro College with a major in organ. When she graduated in 1953, she was already married to Richard “Dick” Naffziger, as he was shipped out to Korea in March of 1953 and asked her to put together a quick wedding in mid-February. Fortunately, he returned safely in December of that year, and they were together until his death in 1999.

The couple moved to Michigan for Dick to finish his degree in Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State, and upon graduation he was offered a job at Los Alamos. The desert Southwest was definitely not high on Frances’ list of places she would like to live, but she resignedly packed up their household, which now included two small daughters, feeling that this job would give her husband the needed experience to land a job somewhere else – somewhere a lot greener and closer to North Carolina. But by the time a few years passed, Frances had fallen in love with Los Alamos, so much so that when Dick informed her in the 1960s that he had gotten a rather better job offer in Los Angeles, she merely said, “you are going to miss us,” and that was that.

One of the first places the family landed was the First Methodist Church, she quickly became a fixture at the organ, with Dick joining the Chancel Choir. This began a lifelong relationship with the church and the choir, and many of their closest friends were first encountered there. A woman of deep faith, her involvement in the church was not just social and musical but one of the ways she honored our Heavenly Father.

The church was only one facet of Frances’ musical activities in Los Alamos. She began teaching private piano lessons shortly after moving to Los Alamos, and multiple generations would study with her over the next 60+ years. She was famous for her patient yet firm lessons and for the student recitals several times per year that rewarded the pupils and their parents with a spread of her famous cookies, brownies, and recital punch.

Most people would think that teaching up to 60 students, playing the organ, and raising three children (a son had joined the girls in the early 1960s) would be plenty of activity, but one of the things to which anyone who knew Frances can attest was her apparently boundless energy. So, in the early 1970s she decided to attend the College of Santa Fe, fitting courses in between her other many obligations, and obtained a teaching certificate in 1975. She was immediately hired that fall at Aspen School to temporarily fill the position created by emergency surgery to the incumbent music teacher, and for the ensuing 20 years she taught at both Chamisa and Pinon Elementary in White Rock. During that time, she took on many self-imposed duties, including producing a Christmas program and a musical each year and holding recorder classes before school. But perhaps the most significant “extra” for her was when she was asked to teach an early intervention class for children with autism and other development issues. She took great pleasure in eliciting responses from the children and continued to teach this class for many years after she officially retired from the school system.

This was hardly the sum of her activities, especially in later years. There were musical ones-she sang with the Los Alamos Choral Society on occasion and with the Coro de Camara for more that 10 years, and joined a piano quartet, the “Hot Flashes.” She also enjoyed traveling, despite not being very fond of flying, and went to Hawaii and Alaska with her bridge club, France to stay with her daughter and son-in-law, and many other trips through the years, both with family and friends. She was a famous cook and baker, a keen gardener, and an avid reader of improving books. Anything she decided to do, whether wallpapering, needlepoint, or any of a myriad of other things was done with care and to the highest standard.

Frances wasn’t a particularly demonstrative person, although she had a flair for the dramatic, but she constantly showed her love and care for family, friends, and students through the many things she did for them. When the book “The Five Love Languages” was published, she immediately identified hers as “#2: Acts of Service,” and gave her family copies of the book. One of the “Acts of Service” was her tender care of her husband during his final illness.

She is survived by her son Peter, his wife Robin, and their three sons, daughter Rebecca, son-in-law Anthony Rollett, and their four children, and daughter Nancy, son-in-law Mike Monahan, and their eight children. In addition, upon her death she had 15 grandchildren, and 20 great grandchildren. We have all been blessed to know and love her.

The family would like to express their deepest gratitude for the caregivers who filled her final years with comfort, love, and dignity-Michelle, Weifeng, Ericka, Julia, Elizabeth, Arlene, Erica and Emma. Thanks, are also due to the Los Alamos Visiting Nurses. But most of all our infinite gratitude goes to Robin Naffziger, who was her full-time caregiver for half a decade, and to Peter and Ryan (their youngest son) who assisted Robin as necessary.

Frances was interred at Santa Fe National Cemetery with Dick. Our gratitude and thanks to Berardinelli’s Family Funeral Services for their assistance.

A Memorial will be held for Frances at 11 a.m. Feb. 25, at First United Methodist Church of Los Alamos (715 Diamond Drive).

In lieu of flowers, please direct your donations to Mercy Ships, Prager University, First United Methodist Church music program or a charity of your choice.

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