Laura Frances Stroup Lunsford, known to family and friends as Mama Frances, passed away July 5, 2021. She was 92 years old. She was born at home in 1929 in Asheville, North Carolina, to Nancy Collins Stroup and Samuel Christopher Stroup. She weighed 3 pounds at birth; when her mother was told that her newborn might not survive, her hands “so small they’re like bird claws,” her mother responded that if she lived, she’d be stronger than all of them. Frances fulfilled that prophecy. She went on to have thirteen children, 20 grandchildren and four great- grandchildren. She married her childhood sweetheart, Jim Lunsford, a fiddle player and songwriter, and they moved their growing family from state to state, finally settling in Nashville, Tennessee. She was widowed at age 49, becoming a single mom with eight children still at home. She became an avid runner and to all who knew her, she was a poised, dependable source of wit, levelheadedness, and joy—a solid friend who encouraged all around her to laugh and to dream, as long as they kept the house clean. She was a muse for songwriters and artists and was co-creator and star of the mockumentary film, “Mama Frances the Family Pope.”
She is preceded in death by her husband James Camille Lunsford and her son, James Martin Lunsford, her brothers Joseph Martin Stroup and Donald Stroup. She is survived by her sister, Pat Bailey, her seven daughters Mary (Beanie) Self, Nancy, Tomi, Teresa, Celina, Ethel (Eppie) Ozen and Laura (Sam) Lunsford and five of her six sons Kiffen, Joseph, John, Chauvie, and Silas; her grandchildren Joann Selvidge, Sally Helms, Emma Treadwell, Robert, Frances and Harriet Provine, Camille Collard, Flannery, Lucy and Norah Madden-Lunsford, Ruby, Faron and Millie Lunsford, Ellis Kaan and Emily Ozen, Jack, Sam and Will Lunsford, Guy and Tomi DeFonzo. Great-grandchildren Frannie and Stevie Selvidge, Anna Vail Helms and Chauvie Treadwell. Many nieces, nephews, in-laws and extended family: King Self, Warren Denney, Philippe Collard, Bill Miller, Kerry Madden-Lunsford, Justine Hyde, Ergun Ozen, Leta Wood, Suzanne Staton Lunsford, Paul DeFonzo, Steve Selvidge, Nate Helms, Patrick (Paddy) Treadwell and Iris Zhu. The family would like to thank the doctors and caregivers of St. Thomas Ascension and Alive Hospice, and especially caregiver Lisa Mullens. Thanks also to Nashville Cremation Center. Mama Frances will be missed and remembered by many across the United States and in Turkey, Germany, France, Canada, England, and China. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you reflect upon the sacrifices that mothers make, and if yours is close by, thank and cherish her. If you wish to make a donation, give to any community-based organization that supports families caring for children with disabilities. A memorial service will be determined at a later date.
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