Frances Belcher Dunnam was born on November 11, 1920, in Benton, to William Pinckney and Minnie Dooley Belcher. Frances passed from this world Sunday evening, April 30th.
Frances was the great granddaughter of James S. Conway, the first governor of Arkansas. Additionally, she counted among her forbearers Tennessee’s first governor, General John Sevier. While at Benton High Frances was cast as the lead in a school play and, as luck would have it, her leading man was J. A. “Sonny” Dunnam: this marked the start of their lifetime romance. United in marriage in 1940 at The Benton United Methodist Church, they enjoyed 52 years of marriage before Sonny preceded her in death in 1993. She attended Normal College in Natchitoches (now known as Northwestern) and Sonny joined the corps at Texas A&M. Frances had a brief career at Bossier Bank & Trust while Sonny served his country as an Army officer in the European theater of war during WW II. After the war, Frances settled into her lifetime career as a homemaker while Sonny picked up his career at the Bank of Benton.
Frances was always most at home in her kitchen: a space that she had designed herself and which incorporated innumerable special flourishes to make it efficient. It was also able to accommodate the many pickles, preserves, relishes, and home-grown goodies that she would “put up” every year. Well known for her culinary accomplishments, family, friends, and just about anyone with an appetite could rely on her for a wonderful meal and for her generous hospitality. Also an avid gardener, Frances spent countless hours perfecting and maintaining the yard that she had “tamed” from a majestic stand of pines into a lush carpet that was a delight to spend time in. One of the last of her tight knit circle of friends, she loved to reminisce about the lifetime of activities she had enjoyed with them: her “Benton Group” monthly get-togethers of high school friends; dinners with the Shreveport Syndicate Members and the widows, like herself, that had been awarded the status of “honorary member”; meetings of The North Highlands Book Club; and her lifetime of travels with friends, family, and of course Sonny.
The passing of Frances Belcher Dunnam marks the end of an era for those of us she leaves behind. Her keen mind, her astounding memory, her tireless work ethic and striving for perfection in all she did, and her continual generosity and caring for others are among the things that we all cherish about this formidable and accomplished woman.
Mrs. Dunnam was preceded in death by her brother-in-law and sister-in-law Ray and Virginia Padden; and son-in-law, Robert McRae. She is survived by her children Nancy Dunnam Roper and significant other Bruce Koury of Benton, and J. Arthur Dunnam III and his husband Roy Cohen of New York; as well as by one granddaughter, Lisa McRae Geter; great grandchildren Brandon, Dylan, and Taylor; and her nephew, Perry Padden, his wife Melissa and their two sons. Also surviving Frances is Debbie Pleasant, dear family friend who has tirelessly given her time, efforts, and incredible care to insure that the last 24 years of Frances’s life were without worry or want; the family’s gratitude for her kindness cannot be put into words.
A graveside service will be held on Friday, May 5, 2017, 10:30 AM at Hillcrest Memorial Park with Pastor Cheryl Nelson of Benton United Methodist Church serving as officiant. The family will receive guests from 9:30-10:15 AM at the Funeral Home.
Pallbearers will be great grandsons, Brandon Price, Dylan Price, Taylor Geter, nephew Perry Padden, and friends John Pleasant and Jim Coleman.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials be made to The Benton United Methodist Church or to St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital, PO Box 1000 Dept. 142, Memphis, TN 38148.