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Town, friends mourn longtime volunteer Abel

Farragut lost one of its most dependable community volunteers, Monday, Jan 22, with the death at Parkwest Medical Center of Frances Larson Abel, 84, wife of longtime Concord resident Gene M. “Mac” Abel.

Charlie Owens, who with his wife Doris Owens and Bill Dunlap, were among volunteers dedicated to improving the Farragut Folklife Museum, said Mrs. Abel had capably managed its gift shop since 1991. Gift shop proceeds rose steadily, the Owenses said, and helped sustain museum operations. In 2006 alone, sales proceeds contributed $3,000 toward the museum budget, thanks largely to Mrs. Abel’s efforts.

Mrs. Abel, daughter of Presbyterian minister the Rev. Dr. B.M. Larson and Mrs. Larson, graduated from Old Knoxville High School in 1939 — then from The University of Tennessee. For decades, she lived in the Abels’ 1866 Concord home. The couple was among six generations of Abels, McNutts and Coxes who lived at Concord, although the original family home was lost when TVA created Fort Loudoun Lake.

After 25 years as an engineering associate in TVA’s electrical design department, Mrs. Abel retired in 1979. Her husband was, for years, associate director of libraries at The University of Tennessee.

An accomplished quilter and knitter who also knew crochet, she lovingly made scores of quilts given to friends on special occasions. Never idle, she also was remembered for creating hand-painted Christmas trees. Her unstinting volunteer work for the town exceeded 3,000 hours. Doris Owens said:

“Frances couldn’t just sit. She had to do something, usually with her hands. She kept a basket of her handiwork. Gift shop visitors found it wonderful, and one bought all she had. That helped the museum.”

Mrs. Abel’s museum service made her one of just four Unsung Navy “Admirals” in its volunteer cadre.

“Frances was reserved, never flashy, but with a great personality,” Owens said. “She was very conservative in ordering for the museum and sold many items on consignment.”

Her abiding love of Concord’s village was evident in Mac Abel’s 1987 illustrations of “Concord: Where Time Stood Still,” a history by her husband of 63 years. An artist and ex-teacher, she had played tennis, skied and, after retirement, walked three miles daily.

In 28 years volunteering, she aided East Tennessee Children’s Hospital’s gift shop, FISH pantries, Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries, Hope Resource Center and recorded for the blind. Once she told a reporter: “I’d worked for TVA twenty-five years and I thought, when I decided to retire, I had to have something worthwhile. It’s very satisfying to know you’re doing something for somebody besides yourself.”

She was also an active Concord Presbyterian Church member for 60 years.

Owens said many friends enjoyed hospitality at the Abels’ lovingly restored home.

“In everything she did, she touched lives,” Owens added.

Surviving is her husband, Gene M. “Mac” Abel; son Dr. Bob Abel, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife Linda of Franklin, N.C.; daughter Carol Russell and husband Dave of Concord; five grandchildren — Barbara Abel of Franklin, N.C., Jonathan Abel of Palmyra, Va., Sarah Mathis and husband Jackie; Erin McCarty and husband Chris, and Laura Russell, all of Knoxville; and great-grandchildren Emily, Isaac, Daniel, Esther and Luke Abel.

Extended family includes her brothers, Bert Larson of New Jersey and the Rev. Robert Larson and wife Mary Larson of Knoxville; sisters Margaret Angel of Knoxville and Alice Schroeder and husband Charlie of Lancaster, Pa.; nieces, nephews and international students Fred Wickert, Clara Parker and Fan Zhang.

The family received friends Saturday, Jan. 27, at Click Funeral Home Farragut Chapel. Dr. Kenneth Gates, Dr. Bob Abel and Rev. Robert Larson officiated at a 3 p.m. service. Memorials may be made to Concord Presbyterian Church.


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