Frankie May Calvert dedicated herself to family, community, Sunday dinners

Monday, March 24, 2014 | 6:19 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Frankie MayMiller Calvert could always be found poring over new recipes to dazzle her guests for Sunday dinner.

Mrs. Calvert's son-in-law, Hank Landry, first met her at one of those dinners. She greeted him with a smile and plenty of food, he remembers. After dinner, Mrs. Calvert brought out her scrapbook of recipes, and the family "analyzed" the dinner, he said.

"She pursued cooking in almost a scholarly way," he said. "She approached it with chemistry."

Frankie May Calvert of Columbia died Saturday, March 22, 2014. She was 92.

She graduated from Gage High School in Oklahoma, where she was a member of the marching band. In 1940, she enrolled at Oklahoma A&M College, now Oklahoma State University, and she graduated four years later with a bachelor's degree in home economics. Later that year, she married Oscar H. Calvert.

Mrs. Calvert worked part time as a secretary in MU's Department of Agriculture, where her husband worked as a professor. Nevertheless, Landry said, her primary focus was taking care of the family.

After retirement, she served as a deacon at First Presbyterian Church. Mrs. Calvert went out of her way to make members feel connected, Landry said, by sending them cards and reaching out to people who had missed weekly service.

"No matter who would come in the door, she would would introduce them by name. She made a point to know the name of everyone," Landry said. "She saw it as a way of building a community."

Mrs. Calvert remained active in her children's lives, serving as a Cub Scout den mother and Camp Fire girls sponsor.

Mrs. Calvert did much of her volunteer work with her husband, and the two could often be seen holding hands, her daughter, Janet Sampson said.

Every year for Easter, Mrs. Calvert made a "Famous Bunny Cake," a coconut cake recipe passed through the family, carved into a bunny shape and served on a homemade wooden platter.

"Her husband made this board that the cake came on and now its kind of a family heirloom," Landry said. Nowadays, the board resides in her daughter Linda Landry's kitchen, where she continues the tradition.

Sampson remembers her mother cooking decadent desserts like chopped apple cake, white Christmas pie and Texas sheet cake.

Mr. Calvert took a sabbatical from teaching in 1969, and the family moved to Budapest for a year. Mrs. Calvert embraced the opportunity to learn how to cook with new ingredients, Sampson said.

"She really fell in love with the people of Budapest," Landry said.

The Calverts also lived in Suwon, South Korea, in 1978. The residents of Suwon had poor access to basic kitchen and household items, Landry said, so Mrs. Calvert bought some from one of the military bases and handed them out.  

Mrs. Calvert is survived by her children, Kerry Calvert and his wife, Susan, of Portland, Ore.; Janet Sampson, and her husband, Alan, Linda Landry and her husband, Hank, and Tracy Calvert and his wife, Rhonda, all of Columbia; 11 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Her husband, Oscar, died earlier.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church, 16 Hitt St. A reception will follow.

Memorial contributions can be made to First Presbyterian Church.

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