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In memory of Virginia (Ginna) Franke

May 9, 1925 - June 5, 2023

With hope in the resurrection of Christ we share the news that Ginna Franke, wife of the late Rev. Merle Franke, has completed her baptismal journey. 

Virginia (Ginna) Mae Mollan Franke passed away peacefully on June 5, 2023 at her assisted living home in Austin, Texas, surrounded by her loving family. Ginna was born on May 9, 1925 in Hibbing, Minnesota to Emil and Amanda Mollan. The second of four siblings, she was raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and excelled in school, graduating as salutatorian of her class at Roosevelt High School. Ginna attended college briefly at the University of Minnesota.

Ginna met the love of her life, Merle Franke, when he took a part-time job as her church choir director in Minneapolis while attending Northwestern Lutheran seminary. He took notice right away of the beautiful blonde with the lovely alto voice, which sparked a romance that culminated in their wedding in May 1947. Soon after they married, they moved from Minneapolis to the US Virgin Islands for Merle’s first call in the ministry, at Holy Trinity Lutheran in Frederiksted, St. Croix and subsequently at Frederick Lutheran in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. Island life appealed to the adventurous young couple, and three of their children were born there. In 1954, Merle’s work took the family back to Minnesota for a few years, where a fourth child was born, then to Illinois for six years where their last child was born.

In 1964 the family moved to Austin, Texas where Merle served for 20 years as pastor of First English Lutheran Church. Ginna played an active role in all aspects of the church community, sang in the church choir, and was instrumental in launching the First English Child Development Center. In 1971 Merle and Ginna purchased their 1920’s era craftsman home on Avenue D where they lived for 47 years. They were very engaged in the neighborhood, and helped to establish the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, which works to preserve the unique and historic character of the community.

Ginna and Merle enjoyed 72 years of marriage together, with Ginna expertly and efficiently navigating her various roles as pastor’s wife extraordinaire, mother to five rambunctious kids, chief homemaker, family finance director, bookkeeper for the Texas-Louisiana Synod of the LCA, and active volunteer. Her love for her family was evident in the frequent family gatherings she organized to celebrate birthdays, graduations, weddings, baptisms, and holidays. She and Merle loved to travel, visit relatives far and wide, and spend time in the great outdoors.

Ginna’s faith guided her throughout her long life, and went beyond what she believed in her mind, felt in her heart, or said in her words. She lived that faith in how she cared for the earth, stood up for peace and justice, and treated all people with kindness and consideration. She was an active member and volunteer treasurer of Church Women United. She marched for peace at the state capitol. She provided disaster relief in the US Virgin Islands. Her passion and concern for the environment was fundamental to her being and led her to help establish green teams at church, research and implement native Texas plants in her gardens, favor walking over driving whenever possible, and teach her kids and grandkids the importance of conserving and protecting our precious natural resources.

Ginna was also passionate about games and spent many happy years playing bridge with friends, board games with her kids, teaching grandkids to play Mexican Train and other games, and reveling in beating Merle in Quiddler on a daily basis. In her later years when playing Quiddler with her daughters, she would console them if she won, saying “it’s only a game”, but if she lost, she would mutter “Mother beater” (with a twinkle in her eye). She kept her wit and feisty sense of humor to the end.

Ginna is survived by her five children, six grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. Her children: son James Franke (wife Stuart) in Austin, daughter Becky Greathouse (husband Bennie) in Blanco TX, son Steve Franke (wife, Coral, deceased) in Austin, daughter Gwen Flory (husband Bruce) in Austin, and daughter Kris (husband, Don, deceased) in San Antonio. Her six beloved grandchildren: Matthew (Tina) Flory, Liselle (Chase) Andries, Tyler Flory, Ashleigh (Brian) Abadie, Nick Franke, and Henry (Desitiny) Greathouse. Ginna welcomed with joy each of her nine great grandchildren: Ella, Presley, and Olivia Flory, Carter and Collin Andries, Jake and Jace Greathouse, Emily and Emmitt Abadie. Ginna was predeceased by her parents, Emil and Amanda, her siblings and their spouses Jean Sutherland (Bud), Vernon Mollan (Shirley) and Eddie Mollan; and her loving husband Merle, who passed away in 2020 at the age of 95.

Ginna spent her final years at The Village at The Triangle assisted living community, where she enjoyed engaging in activities, visiting with family, and playing her word games.

A memorial eucharist will be celebrated at First English Lutheran Church, 3001 Whitis Avenue in Austin, on Monday, June 19th at 1:30 PM. A reception will follow the liturgy in the fellowship hall. Interment in the FELC Chapel of the Saints Columbarium will follow at a later date. 

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to First English Lutheran Church or Lutheran Disaster Relief.

For condolences to the family of Ginna: Gwen Flory, 4810 Caswell Avenue, Unit A, Austin, Texas 78751. 

Let us pray. God of all grace, we give you thanks because by his death our Savior Jesus Christ destroyed the power of death, and by his resurrection he opened the kingdom of heaven. Help us trust that because Christ lives, we shall live also, and that neither death nor life, nor things present nor things to come, will be able to separate us from your love; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Rest eternal grant her, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon her.

We remember Ginna's family and friends in our prayers and trust that the promise of the Resurrection is true and sure. 

In Christ,

Bishop Sue Briner