Frances Eloise Bateman Heath, age 96, passed away peacefully on Monday, March 30, 2020. She was born on July 21, 1923, to the late Samuel Merritt Bateman Sr. and Mattie Clark Bateman. The following month, in August, she was baptized at Bethel Presbyterian Church and her father was made an elder of the church the same day. She continued to live most of her life in Claudville, Va.
Frances was intellectually ahead of her time and had a desire for learning that never stopped. She was an avid reader all her life. Her favorite store was Barnes and Noble and her favorite author was David Baldacci. Frances also enjoyed cooking and baking, traveling, was a die-hard Wahoo who loved watching UVA basketball games, and Tony Bennett’s No. 1 fan.
Frances learned the love of reading at a very early age. Her father would read the newspaper to their family after dinner every night. She also said she would sneak away “to her place” during the day to the top of a tobacco packhouse and lie on the hay to read.
Frances completed her education in 1938—at 15 years old—but chose to remain in school for another year because she didn’t want to stop learning. She stressed the value of continuing your education upon her grandchildren and was proud to say that all of them are college graduates.
Frances attended the College of William and Mary but had to leave due to World War II. She returned home and started nurse’s training at Martin Memorial Hospital in Mt. Airy, NC. While in nurse’s training, Frances joined the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps, but the war ended before she had the opportunity to serve.
Frances worked as a registered nurse (RN) at Martin Memorial Hospital (now known as Northern Regional Hospital) for many years doing everything from working in the ER, Med. Surg. (medical surgical), OB, to house supervisor. She also worked for several years as a private nurse for Dr. Ben Lawrence in Mt. Airy. Dr. Lawrence often said she was the “best damn nurse in the state of North Carolina.” She continued working as a private nurse well into her 70s.
Nursing, however, was just one of her and her late husband, Sam’s, many jobs. She married Samuel Milton Heath on Feb. 2, 1946. They raised three daughters, two of whom are also nurses. Sam was a rural route carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, they farmed tobacco, and owned and operated Heath’s Grocery in Claudville. When Sam fell ill with cancer in 1984, Frances took care of him in their home until he passed in January 1985.
After she retired from nursing, Frances was able to enjoy her time with friends and family. She continued to read as much as possible. It was not unusual to find her reading 3 to 4 different books at one time—all of them dog-eared and lying next to her in bed. Over the years, she bought so many books that she could’ve run a bookstore out of her home.
Frances was very active in her community. She was member of the local Home Demonstration Club and attended both Bethel and Danube Presbyterian Churches, playing the piano at Danube for many years. She sewed quilts, planted flowers, and loved watching Jeopardy (she knew all the answers, by the way!) and UVA basketball games. She also loved to travel with family and friends to places like Charleston, Savannah, Key West, and with her husband to his Army reunions. One tradition she spoke about often were her yearly trips with her grandchildren to Myrtle Beach. We wish we could’ve gone one more time, Grandma Frances!
Frances was preceded in death by her husband of almost 40 years, Samuel Milton Heath; her granddaughter, Sharon Lynn Slate; her sister, Margaret Jane Bateman; and her brother, Samuel Merritt Bateman Jr.
Frances leaves behind many who deeply loved her, including her three daughters; Nancy Heath; Vicki Lawson and, husband, Steve Lawson; and Martha Fain and, husband, Doyle Fain, all of Claudville, VA. She also leaves behind four grandchildren; Sean Slate, Samantha Boyd, Stephanie Todd, and Sybil Slate; her great-grandchildren; Sebrina Slate, Abigail Boyd, Samuel Slate, Celina Slate, Joseph Todd, Anna Boyd, Wendy Slate, and Lyndon Slate.
Frances often recited the following stanza from the poem “Psalm of Life” by Longfellow to her grandchildren, hoping she made a difference in their lives and those around her. And she did.
A Psalm of Life
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us,
Footsteps on the sand of time.
Online condolences may be made by visiting www.moodyfuneralservices.com.