Frankie’s generous gift to vision research
CERA is grateful to the late Anne Frances ‘Frankie’ Frees (1929 – 2019) – social worker, gardener, and philosopher – for her generous bequest for eye research.
Frankie Frees spent much of her life helping others, despite facing her own challenges.
Born Anne Frances Frees in 1929, she was dubbed ‘Frankie’ and it stuck, as did her determination and fierce independence.
After losing her husband while in her 40s, Frankie decided to become a social worker. In her 80s, she studied philosophy.
“She went to uni in her fifties and got a degree in social work,” Frankie’s granddaughter Nicole recalls. “She used to work at an adoption agency.”
Helping others gave Frankie great satisfaction after experiencing tough times herself, which included losing her father to a heart attack when she was a child.
Frankie grew up in Leongatha and had an older sister, Pat, and younger brother, Ray. She spent her adult life in Melbourne’s bayside suburbs.
Frankie met her husband, Clive, a World War II pilot, at a New Year’s Eve dance and told others it was “love at first sight”. They married in 1953 and honeymooned in Sydney with a caravan.
Their first son, Yonto, was born in 1954 and named after a character in the book How Green Was My Valley. Dane, whose name reflected Clive’s Danish heritage, arrived in 1956.
Ray sadly died in an accident in 1973, and Frankie lost Clive in 1976. Yonto died in 1979 at just 25, and Dane passed away after a short illness when he was 50.
Passion for social justice
After Clive died, Frankie enrolled at university, following her social justice passion. She spent 18 years as a socialworker at an adoption agency and in family welfare.
Today, Frankie is survived by her grandson Ben, granddaughter Nicole, daughter-in-law Debra and great grandchildren Chloe and Ashlea.
Nicole has fond memories of her Nanna, who told her imaginative stories while babysitting and grew her own vegetables. “She loved her garden,” Nicole says. “She was in a gardening club.”
Until she was diagnosed with lung cancer in mid-2017, Frankie attended St David’s Parkdale Uniting Church, wrote to politicians, and volunteered for the Parkdale Epilepsy Op Shop, where she took flowers and succulents from her garden to sell.
She also sang in The Cheltones choir. “They used to raise money for Oxfam and Leprosy Mission,” Nicole says. “When I was younger, we used to go Christmas shopping and we’d fill up a shoe box with toys. She then sent them to a kid in need.”
Eliminating eye disease
Frankie’s generosity was legendary, so Nicole is not surprised that she made a generous donation to the Centre for Eye Research Australia Foundation. The Foundation was established to support the long-term sustainability of the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA). In 2019 alone the Foundation gifted over $400,000 to advance CERA’s mission to eliminate major eye diseases and reduce their impact on people’s lives.
“Frankie seemed to admire the work of Fred Hollows,” Nicole says. “She also did thorough research on the charities before she donated, so I’m sure she was passionate about finding cures for eye diseases.
“Frankie has been donating to CERA since 2002. Preventing and treating blindness was obviously important to her as she also showed continued support to other vision charities by donating to Vision Australia and Fred Hollows. She was always a charitable person.”
CERA’s vision is a world free from vision loss and blindness. For those affected by vision loss, the impact is profound – our researchers have the capacity to make a very real difference, but we cannot do this alone.
If you’re considering leaving a gift in your will to advance CERA’s research, please call our Donor Relations Advisor, Elaine Levine, on 1300 737 757 for a confidential discussion. You can also learn more at Leave a gift in your will.