High-Country Health Food and Cafe in Mariposa California


Fran Shell obitFran Shell

June 15, 2022 - A rare California Native Daughter, Fran was born on one of the family ranches outside Jamestown on a cold December night and was always known as the Christmas Angel. Her family roots went back to the gold rush days in Tuolumne and Mariposa County and the family operated well known goldmines and had famous cattle ranches.

From those humble beginnings she eventually broke glass ceilings for other women by becoming the first female Assistant Vice President at Alexander and Alexander, an international insurance brokerage, where she specialized in employee benefits. She had bigger clients such as AMF Bowling Corp, Camping World and the LA Dodgers and smaller ones such as Karen Carpenter and Johnny Mathis and their respective music companies.

Tired of the Jackasses on Wilshire Blvd, as she called them, Fran took an early retirement and moved back to Cowgirl Country planning to ride her horse end enjoy life. On a whim, she became the Sales Manager at the Mariposa Gazette. Her talents led to record breaking sales and growth for the paper. Fran always treated her clients right and considered them her friends. Long after retirement from the paper she insisted on always doing business with former clients.

From a young age Fran excelled in music and played several instruments. She was most proud of playing the French horn and especially earning the position of first chair in the orchestra.

Over 20 years ago Fran took a pottery class from Ann Mendershausen and fell in love with the art. She became a well-known Fran Shellpotter and people often proudly said they owned a “Franny pot”. She was represented by galleries in and out of Mariposa, had a one woman show at the Ahwahnee Hotel, and for 20 years was selected to be an artist for the annual Sierra Art Trails. She also enjoyed photography. Being out in nature and birding brought much pleasure and she enjoyed winning ribbons at the fair for her photos.

She believed in giving back to the community. Early after moving back to the foothills in the mid-1980s Fran joined the John C Fremont Hospital Foundation and was a staple over the years in their fundraising efforts. She raised more money through her outreach than any other person involved with the Foundation. She was co-founder of their Black and White annual event and chaired the event a number of times. She also served a term as President of the Foundation. As a community member, Fran spearheaded the campaign for Measure G 20 years ago that led to saving the hospital from closing.

Fran was a champion of animals and always had several pets. They could be horses, chickens, cats or dogs or all of them at the same time.  Her friends called her the cat whisperer. People understood the pets came first and they came second.

Fran was known for her very dry sense of humor and her dedication to her friends. Once she decided someone was a friend, they became a friend for life. She could always be counted on for anything.

This passing of a great soul means her chronic pain of 30 years is finally gone. She left relaxed with all the pain wrinkles dissipated.

Many people will miss her terribly, including the love of her life and partner and wife for 38 years, Suzette Prue. Nephews Walt, Mike, and Phil McLean and Nick Ward, nieces Linda McLean and Anna-Marie Cramer, sister-in-law Lori Ward and so many friends will never forget her.

Those so inclined are invited to make a donation in her name to the John C. Fremont Hospital Foundation, PO Box 1093, Mariposa, CA 95338.