Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 8:03 pm | Updated: 8:12 pm, Tue Jan 24, 2012.
Obituary: Mary Frances Yancey
Mary Frances Yancey
Nov. 6, 1913 –
Jan. 19, 2012
Mary Frances was born in 1913 in Waxahachie, a small town, but one rich in culture due to the presence of Trinity University and the town’s prominence in the cotton industry. She and her older sister, Dorothy, lived with their parents, Lora and Edward Cunningham, in a charming Victorian house on Main Street. Mary Frances’s natural interest in architecture and design was apparent from a very early age, generally preferring to play with dollhouses instead of the dolls that lived in them. As a little child, she would play in the gravel drive, using sticks as floor plans and rocks colored with crayon as furniture.
Mary Frances left Waxahachie to attend The Hockaday School in Dallas as a border. She never diminished her support of Hockaday, and was eventually named a life-trustee. She attended Smith College in Northhampton, Mass., where she studied philosophy and architecture. Her major in architecture facilitated her love for interior design. After graduating from Smith in 1937, she married Sherod Foster Yancey and moved to Dallas, where she lived until her death.
They loved summer in Maine and she spent 73 consecutive summers there.
In 1959, her life was redirected by the death of her husband. During the following years, Mary Frances ran a business, expanded her decorating business, sold fine art, raised three children, and became involved with community activities, ultimately, reinventing herself at age 46. In the 1960s, helped to bring Orton Gillingham Training for dyslexia to Scottish Rite Hospital. This specific method of instruction was groundbreaking at the time, and has continued to help countless people with learning differences.
Mary Frances’s community involvement extended beyond education, however; she was a member of the Junior League, the Women’s Club, the Founders Garden Club and the last member of “the sewing club” that began in the 1930s.
Equally as varied as her community involvements are Mary Frances’s decorating experiences. Over the last 60 years her projects extended from private homes to vacation homes, offices, clubs, restoration and guidance for Old City Park, public rooms in preparatory schools, colleges and universities, and a hospital. And while the job assignments have led her far afield, Mary Frances got the most pleasure in her “second generation jobs” – being called by young people whose parents’ homes she decorated in the past. At 86, she wrote a book entitled, “House Warming,” which provides classic decorating advice for homemakers on a budget. One of her great joys was help someone on a shoestring budget set up a new space in which to live. Mary Frances, tape measure in hand, would take them to furniture auctions or antique shops, looking for bargains, always, once she was done, the place was cozy and sophisticated. She instilled a love for art, furniture and design in us and changed us and Dallas for the better. She had an exemplary life.
Mary Frances Yancey was preceded in death by her husband, Sherod Foster Yancey; her son, Sherod Foster Yancey Jr.; her daughter, Martha Jane Yancey; her sister, Dorothy Reed; and her nephews, Edward Reed and Steve Yancey.
She is survived by her youngest son, David Cunningham Yancey and his wife, Elizabeth; their children, Alexandra and Augustus, as well as by her granddaughter, Mattie O’Neal, her husband Zach; and her daughter, Vanya Suchan; by her niece, Sherod Yancey; her niece, Ann Reed; her great-nieces, Betsy Eiseman and her husband, Richard Jr., and their children Reed and Richard III, and Carolyn Hersh and her husband, Chris, and their daughter, Demmi and son, Karrer.
In lieu of flowers, send contributions to the VNA or Vitas Hospice.
The memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, at the Highland Park Presbyterian Church, 3821 University Blvd. in Dallas.