Published in The Washington Post on Feb. 12, 2021.
Frances R. Kolarek
Frances R. Kolarek Passed away on Tuesday,
February 9, 2021 of complications from Covid-19.
She was 103.
A native Washingtonian, Frances was born on
November 18, 1917. She was diagnosed with Covid
on January 6, 2021 the day of the Capitol Insurrection,
and passed away peacefully at the Collington
Episcopal Life Care Community, where she had
lived independently for the past 30 years, the longest she lived anywhere.
Frances graduated from Central High School in Washington, DC, in 1934 at the age of
16. She attended George Washington University but the Great Depression interfered with
her studies. Instead, she went to work at the Washington Times-Herald, and became a
reporter, a remarkable accomplishment for a woman at the time. It was here that she
began two love affairs: one with writing, the other with her future husband, Joseph C.
Kolarek, whom she married in 1942.
In 1944 Joe began his career with the Office of War Information, later known as the
United States Information Agency, in New York City. His first posting was to Prague, in
1945. Frances traveled out of the U.S. for the first time in her life in 1946 to join him. She
sailed on the Argentina, the second passenger ship to cross the Atlantic after the war.
She had been working for Time magazine in New York as a fact checker. When she
moved to Prague, Time asked her to file stories on life in a city recovering from the war.
As a career diplomat's wife, Frances continued to accompany her husband on postings
to Berlin and Belgrade, where their daughter, Mary, was born, then to Conakry, Guinea.
and finally to Bonn, Germany.
When Joe left the State Department, they lived in Columbia, Maryland, before retiring to
an eighteenth-century house on Taylors Island on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Frances
later wrote a book about this historic, isolated, eroding spot of land: Vanishing Islands
(Heritage Books, 2008).
In 1991, realizing that isolation was not healthy for a widow of her age, Frances moved to
Collington, where she became a pillar of the community. As editor-in-chief of the
Collingtonian, the community newsletter, she had the opportunity to get to know everyone,
staff and residents alike. Frances was a great listener, and she took what she heard and
acted on it, mentoring employees, writing letters on their behalf, and sharing a lifetime of
experience. In her late nineties, Frances wrote a blog about her perspective on aging.
"Mrs. Kolarek" will long be remembered for zipping around the halls at Collington on her
scooter, greeting friends and offering words of wisdom. Despite her peripatetic life,
Frances continued to enjoy travel, especially to Italy.
She instilled her love of art in her daughter, who became an art historian. Frances' affinity
for islands manifested itself in her love of another vanishing island, Venice, which she
visited many times. Frances is survived by her only child, Mary E. Frank, and adoring
son-in-law, Howard, of Coral Gables, Florida; a host of nephews and nieces, and all the
people whose lives she touched with her love and concern.
We express our deep appreciation to Collington for the loving care extended to Frances
during the past month of her illness and to Hospice of the Chesapeake for their
compassion in the past days.
Gifts in Frances' memory may be made to the Collington Foundation, 10450 Lottsford
Road, Mitchellville, MD 20721 OR to Save Venice, Inc. 133 East 58th Street, Suite 501,
New York, NY 10022.
A memorial service will be held at a later time.