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LJ native became known for Alaskan art expertise

Fran Reed, 65, dies of cancer

By Leigh Ann Dewey

The life of a La Jolla native known for her artistic talents and zest for living will be celebrated Oct. 17 at a party held in her honor, in the home where she grew up.

Fran Reed, 65, died of cancer on Sept. 11 in Anchorage, Alaska. Born Fran Williams on June 12, 1943, she graduated from La Jolla High School and later attended the University of Oregon in Eugene, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in art education and met her future husband, Dick. The couple moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, where Dick Reed sought a job as a firefighter.

“The plan was to go up there, and make enough money fighting forest fires to pay off our student loans,” Dick said last week. Since Fran loved the beach and her hometown, “we had plans to live in La Jolla,” he said, “but I didn’t get the (firefighting) job.”

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The couple “fell in love” with Alaska, Dick said. Fran became fascinated with native Alaskan artifacts and began studying them on her own.

Art of Alaska

She also taught weaving at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her interests in native artifacts and art merged when she began creating baskets made of dried fish skins and other natural materials.

Fran traveled the world to learn more about her craft and artifacts native to other areas. She was widely known as an expert on native Alaskan art, and became an adviser to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., where she helped identify and repair Alaskan skin items in their collection.

But for all of her talent and knowledge, Fran’s friends and family say they will remember her most for her love of life and her ability to have fun.

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“What I’ll remember most (about her) is her very, very happy smile,” Dick said.

Loved life

Longtime friend and New Jersey resident Linda Lucky said Fran and her friends gathered for “performance luncheons” throughout her illness for the sole purpose of having fun. Bright colors, big hats, wild wigs and huge glasses were worn.

“People would ask us what we were celebrating,” said Lucky, who organized the outings. “We said we were celebrating life.’”

Several celebrations of Fran’s life have been held in Alaska and Portland, Ore., where she had many friends. Following the party Oct. 17 in La Jolla, family members and friends will scatter her ashes on the beaches she played on as a child, Dick said.

Fran Reed is survived by her husband, Dick; daughter, Jocelyn Davis; son, Collin Reed; and grandson, Eric Reed.