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June 1, 2020
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At 88, Fran Bartlett has spent 62 years in town and she’s never stopped being involved in one way or another. Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier

At 88, Fran Bartlett has spent 62 years in town and she’s never stopped being involved in one way or another. (Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)

Active Hands, Active Mind, Active Life

Published Jan. 02, 2019 • Last Updated 10:38 a.m., Jan. 02, 2019

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“I’m not one of these people that worries about the age. To me, it’s a number,” Fran says. “I’m just an active person.”

Fran came to North Haven with her husband, Bill, when he was assigned to an IBM job in New Haven 62 years ago. Though she and her husband moved around in their early years because of his Navy posting, North Haven is home for Fran.

She and Bill had five kids together and that, Fran says, is a great way to get to know people in town—from getting involved with school committees to the kids’ friends.

“My house, when the kids were young, it was always open,” she says. “I had five, but it didn’t matter how many came with them. When you’ve got five, what are another one or two?”

Fran’s kids were involved with the fife and drum corps that the school system used to run. Fran was on the parents’ committee to help fundraise, which led her into a 21-year career with the M&R Fundraisers company in Wallingford.

“To me, [North Haven] is home because this is home to my kids,” Fran says, though her five children have since moved away—in one case, as far as Italy.

She says they were all home for New Year’s for the first time in nine years.

Fran moved out of her house soon after Bill passed away 10 years ago, but she made sure to stay in North Haven.

“I’ve always been out there, so I’m always eager to meet new people and do different things,” Fran says.

Over the years, she’s been everything from a knitting instructor to a political campaigner. She even made calls for the local Democratic campaign in November.

“Anything like that, that I can be active with people and be with people, that’s what I like to do,” Fran says. “Anything I can do in town, I try to.”

Fran has been helping out at North Haven’s polls for more than 40 years now. She says it’s a good way to get involved and be with people.

“They called me years and years ago and asked me, could I work, because they needed workers,” Fran says, noting, “Once they get you on the list, you stay.”

She started taking names on election day and says she’s worked through just about every job there. Now, she goes in two or three times a year as a registrar’s assistant.

“As long as I’m feeling good,” Fran says, she’ll keep on working for the registrar. “I’m definitely a people person.”

Fran also sings in the Senior Center’s chorus and knits afghans for their annual raffle.

“The Senior Center to me is like a home away from home,” she says. “Even the people you don’t know, they come day after day and you get to know them.”

Fran even has a paid position at the senior center in Cheshire where she teaches knitting and crocheting once a week to a group of about 13 seniors.

“Knitting and crocheting is a big, big thing in my life. I’m glad I do that,” Fran says.

Her grandmother taught Fran to knit when she was six or seven, and she’s been working at it ever since. The position in Cheshire is a great way for Fran to earn a little money doing what she loves.

“It’s challenging with some people,” Fran says. “They’re funny, seniors, they have their mind [on one thing].”

Often, Fran says, that one thing is too hard for a beginning knitter like many of her Cheshire students are. Still, teaching people to knit and crochet is rewarding for Fran.

“Everybody’s happy. They hate to have to take a day off if we can’t go for some reason,” Fran says. “I love it.”

Plus, the pastime is therapeutic. Fran says that knitting keeps seniors’ hands and minds active and, of course, it’s a great excuse to get out of the house and be with people.

Fran also knits with a group at the North Haven Memorial Library twice a month in a more social setting.

“I like being with the people and it’s a different group,” she says. “I prefer being with people for the company.”

Fran is still meeting new people this way—sometimes, before she goes to the group she’ll post on Facebook, “Bring your projects. Sit down and gob with us.”

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