By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Frances Gondring, who helped seed library, to receive women's honor posthumously
Frances Clara Gondring will receive posthumous honors as "Outstanding Woman of History" from the Stanislaus County Commission for Women.

The award - as well as awards for living women - will be bestowed at the commission's annual dinner set for Saturday, March 31 at the Ceres Assyrian Cultural Center.

"She would be very pleased and surprised that she received this, I am sure," said Marian Sanders, her niece.

The library in Ceres bears the name of her sister, Florence Gondring, but only because of Frances' determination to help set up a permanent library.

"I was impressed by how civic-minded Frances was and how much she contributed to Ceres, including funds for the library named for her sister Florence," said County Library Director Vanessa Czopek of Ceres, who nominated Gondring for the award.

Frances Gondring was born a "preemie" in Nebraska in 1886 to Judge John M. and Dillie Gondring. Health issues forced John Gondring to move his family to less hot and humid California. They settled in San Jose and then moved to Ceres in 1912 on land that is now the Richland Shopping Center..

After World War II broke out in Europe, Frances tried to become an ambulance driver but was turned down because of her small stature.

Both Florence and Frances both earned teaching degrees from San Jose State College, then earned master's degrees from Columbia University in New York, which was unique for women at the time.

Frances and Florence - nicknamed "the girls" in the family - were known for their independent streak. After graduating in New York they took a long road back to California together.

"Cars were just coming out and they had a car that had with a trunk in the back and they camped along the way and the two grls drove across the United States camping all the way," said Sanders.

The sisters worked as teachers elsewhere and spent summers in Ceres to help with the family fruit orchards. The Gondring children were taught never to waste, including the fruit which was diced up in the cutting shed.

"She was very devoted to her family," said Sanders of aunt Frances. "She was only home during the summer because she taught school at many different places."

In San Jose Frances taught manual arts, the name for woodworking and leather working. She also taught at the Oliveview Sanitarium through Los Angeles City Schools. Marian remembers how Frances befriended many other "old maids" and taxied them around and often bringing one home to Ceres to share in family holiday celebrations.

Neither sister married. Marian once asked her aging aunt if she ever regretted not having been married nor having children, and came the reply: "No, I don't think so because it seems like all of my friends who were married and had children seem to have one problem or another." To which Marian answered, "Sure, they may have problems but they're well worth it."

Marian recalls that Florence's free flow of her opinions would often set her at odds with others while Frances was "the more reserved of the two. Within the family she was a very beloved aunt. Frances was reserved in her opinions and a very honest and trusting woman as well as being frugal. We were brought up that way."

Ceres seemed like the logical place for Frances and Florence to spend their retirement years. They both maintained membership in the Ceres Woman's Club and the Ceres Study Club. They were also members of the Modesto chapter of the AAUW, or the Association of American University Women.

Both loved to read and were unsettled that tiny Ceres didn't have its own library that was open on a consistent basis. "The two were always interested in having an actual library."

When Florence died in 1968, Frances made a sizable donation for the city to build a library. When it wasn't being being built in a timely fashion, Marian and Frances would routinely call city attorney Ernie Rushing who would assure them that the project was advancing - ever so slowly.

Frances was happy to see the library building dedicated in 1973. For years the library operated in what is now the city's Planning Department. When the adjacent post office building was vacated for the Mitchell Road facility, the city acquired it and moved the library over.

Before Frances died in 1986 at the age of 100, people would ask her secret of longevity. She'd reply, "I've just been very, very good."

"That's true, she led a very straight life," commented Marian.

Mrs. Gondring was laid to rest at the Masonic Cemetery on Scenic Avenue in Modesto.