Frances Padgett

In a 2005 Florida Times-Union interview, she said her goal every day was to have a ball and to help everyone around her have one as well. “She was Dolly Parton, Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball wrapped up into one big ball of fire that loved life,” said her granddaughter, Kandy Kent, who lives in Atlanta. Couple that irrepressible spirit with a tireless record of community service, and the portrait of long-time Arlington civic leader, Frances Padgett begins to emerge.

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Frances Adell Hungerford Padgett was born in Madison, WI in 1922, and moved to Florida at an early age. In 1939, she graduated from Weirsdale High School in Marion County, and married her husband, Clarence F. Padgett in Baker County.  She worked at Western Electric and General Electric for a combined 32 years and later opened her own  catering business.

Frances and her family moved to Arlington around 1950. She was one of the first people to cross the Mathews Bridge as part of its opening day parade in April, 1953, and sixty years later she would reprise the role for OAI’s Mathews Bridge celebration.

As a working mother raising four children, Frances immersed herself in numerous civic and religious activities. They became devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on Fort Caroline Rd., and her inspirational attitude motivated everyoneshe came into contact with, including the neighborhood children who referred to her as “Nanny Padgett”.

Frances served eight terms as president of the Arlington Woman’s Club and served as President of the Arlington Senior Center Advisory Board for 25 years. In 1991, Frances was named as one of ten Volunteers of the Year by first lady Barbara Bush, and in 2001, Mayor John Delaney appointed her as Chairman of the Senior Citizens Elders Council. In 2011, Sheriff John Rutherford awarded Frances with a bronze eagle statue in recognition of her hard work with the Arlington Senior Center, which earlier this year and shortly after her passing, was renamed the Frances Padgett Arlington Senior Center in her honor. “Frances was the Arlington center,” said one board member.

Her energy and generosity were as boundless as her zeal for life. She parasailed during summers at Daytona Beach until she was 91, and adopted her own mile that she maintained in front of the senior center. Her giving spirit was evidenced as Mrs. Claus in the neighborhood Christmas parties she was famous for, and she would leave her tree up all year and start wrapping gifts in January, to give to children and everyone who came. Frances volunteered her time to more than twenty groups and organizations, championing not only her Arlington community, but individual people as well.

 

 

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