For the past several weeks dozens of our readers have called or written about the status of Frances Woody, our newsroom administrator, columnist and de facto chief of stuff around here. They have all been very nice. Mainly people have wanted to know if Frances is OK and when she might return to writing her column.
It’s not an easy question to answer. For the past couple of months we have subbed columns by staff members or republished columns Frances has written over the past dozen years or so while she takes a break.
There are reasons Frances has decided to take some time away from writing. Many of her readers already know about one of them. Some, I’m finding, still hadn’t heard. I got notes from a couple over the past week.
Here there are. My response follows.
“My family is concerned about Frances Woody. We notice that you are printing her earlier columns, which are a pleasure to read.
“After we returned from a vacation this summer, going through a week’s worth of newspapers, I saw an obituary for a young man that I suspect was Frances’s and Tom’s son. Was I correct? I don’t know Frances personally, but we read her columns and feel as we know her family.
“I’m just curious if Frances and Tom lost a child, and that is why Frances’s are reprints.
“Whatever the reason, God love them.”
And I got this one just a day or so ago.
“At first I thought Frances Woody was on vacation but it has been quite a while since she had a new column. Can you tell me why? I do so hope her husband is not ill again. I have enjoyed her columns for the 12 years I have lived here. I do enjoy yours also.”
MY TAKE: This is basically what I wrote in response to both readers — and indeed to all the people who have contacted us about Frances, who is far and away our most popular writer.
“Thanks for contacting me
“The situation for Frances is a little complicated. Her son Andy died in July unexpectedly — very unexpectedly — of a hidden heart condition. He was 48. As you can imagine, she and Tom took it very hard. She decided then to take a break from writing — but not quit. She wants to get back to it as soon as she feels inspired to do so. While Frances is working in our office, doing her normal stuff, she’s not written a column since. I told her she could get back to it whenever she wanted.
“Then came the second blow. Tom’s cancer has returned — something they just found out a week to 10 days ago. Right now he is preparing to have surgery in hopes of removing it. The date for the surgery hasn’t been set. This was another setback.
“Because Frances is so important to our staff and family here, I’m not pushing her to do anything she doesn’t want to do. She’s still coming to work — with Tom in tow many days. I want to give her all the time and space she needs.
“Many people have written to me over the past few weeks about Frances and I may update this in my blog. I’ve done so a couple of times. As you know, Frances is very popular.
“I have been passing along the kind words of readers to her and she appreciates them all. Thanks also for your nice words about my work. It’s much appreciated.
“Please take care and know Frances will hopefully be back soon.
ADDITION: When this changes I will post something here. Please keep Frances and Tom in your thoughts and prayers. I know I am as are all of us here at the Times-News.