Cover photo for Frances Zeller's Obituary
Frances Zeller Profile Photo
1927 Frances 2020

Frances Zeller

April 8, 1927 — August 4, 2020

Kansas City, MO

Frances Irene Zeller (Calvert) passed away peacefully at her home in Kansas City, MO August 4, 2020. Age 93.

Frances was born to William Brooke and Julia May Calvert, then of Independence MO, on April 8th, 1927.

She spent her early life on a dairy farm in Independence MO, playing with her growing number of siblings around the barn and in a nearby wood. But times were hard. She shared a haunting memory of trailing after her father early in the Great Depression as he drove the family's small herd of starving cattle to the banks of the Missouri River then, in a desperate act of humanity, on out into the water. The Calverts relocated to central Kansas City in the early 1930's where they lived in a number of places, on at least one occasion needing to move house in the dead of night. She described watching her mother cook a supper of fried potatoes in a skillet atop an old-fashioned clothes iron that she'd heated in the fireplace. But the family never went hungry, they stuck together, and she always spoke of these as happy times. The early struggles perhaps instilled in her a lifelong thriftiness typical of her generation and an appreciation for life's simple pleasures and to accept things, and people, as they were. Later, she took guitar lessons, kept a “spy kit” under her bed, rode the streetcar downtown, and walked to school with her best friend, Dorothy Allen--graduating from Central High in 1945. Many family and friends called her Francie.

She met her future husband, Michael William Zeller of Harrisonville MO, at Mike's Magazine Exchange on Prospect Ave, a popular hangout for their teenage gang. The pair exchanged letters after Mike enlisted in the Navy, and, while on leave, they met under the clock at Union Station, borrowed a friend's car and Mike proposed on a quiet lane in Loose Park. They were married a few days later, and Mike briefly went AWOL as they enjoyed their early matrimony.  Frances worked for Western Union and a firm providing serums to the KC Stockyards; but after the war she dedicated herself to raising a family. In the early 1950's the couple built a small home in Merriam, KS mostly of salvaged redwood planks, then settled in the Northland in the early 1960's where they raised their children and lived out their lives.

She also volunteered with Campfire, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and PTA and she taught disabled children at Englewood Baptist Church. She and Mike enjoyed vacations out West with her siblings and their lifelong friends Phil and Rusty Phillips, and more recently travelled with their dear friends Phyllis and Danny Owen, including a trip to England for a son's wedding. Frances leaves behind a trove of journals and calendar entries describing adventures large and small. This was an expression of her compulsion to understand and to remember exactly what happened when and where. She kept maps on the wall, and a dictionary and an encyclopedia set were always at hand.

Frances was also a stubborn optimist who believed life was a mirror that reflects back what you give. She loved meeting new people, walks, gardening, local history, PBS, music (she was a hummer), her morning paper and crossword puzzle, breakfast, lunch and dinner, hugs, and most of all: babies. She was a reliable ping-pong player with the deep well of patience needed to teach her grandchildren to play. Later in life she was known to telephone her children to share her excitement about a red moon or the changing of the fall colors outside her window. She insisted, despite the many problems—of which she was well aware, that the world is a good place and that love conquers. Frances gave her love unconditionally and in buckets. She understood that her greatest achievement was creating a family who loves and laughs together.

Frances is preceded in death by her husband, Michael Zeller, and her siblings George Calvert (as an infant), Reece Calvert, Ruby Hill, Ruth Mcgaughey, Bill Calvert, Roger Calvert, and John Calvert.

She is survived by her brother Don Calvert; her children Philip and spouse Cheryl Zeller, Deborah and spouse Vince Fesi, Cindy and spouse Steve Rhodes, and Michael and spouse Liz Zeller-Last.  She also leaves behind nine grandchildren: Kimberly Zeller, Joseph Fesi, John Zeller, Amanda Grobelny, Christen Stein, Jason Rhodes, Sam Zeller, Miles Zeller and Will Zeller; and ten great grandchildren Alex Fesi, Jake Fesi, Chase Zeller, Olivia Fesi, Nate Zeller, Joslyn Rhodes, Max Grobelny, Jaxson Rhodes, Maya Stein, and Nolan Stein; and too many nieces and nephews to name.

The family would like to thank her loving and capable care providers at Interim, Home Instead and KC Hospice. You are heroes.  In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to Kansas City Hospice.

In light of the pandemic there will be no service, but the immediate family intends to gather outdoors to celebrate a life well lived.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Frances Zeller, please visit our flower store.


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