Frances Carney Gies (1915-2013)

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WILTON — Frances Carney Gies, author or co-author with her husband, Joseph Gies, of 12 books on medieval social history, including the “medieval life” trilogy, Life in a Medieval City, Life in a Medieval Castle, and Life in a Medieval Village, died on Dec. 18 at Hospice House in Auburn.

Frances Carney Gies
Frances Carney Gies

Frances was a lot of things and had many, many lives in her life. She was born in a world in which the U.S. wasn’t even involved in World War I yet, in which there was a Czar and an Ottoman Sultan and an Austrian Emperor and a Kaiser, in which there was a Special Theory of Relativity but not yet a General one, in which it was thought that possibly all stars were within just one galaxy.

She lived long enough to move on past Jane Austen and her beloved Anthony Trollope to read and reread Tolkien and Rowling. She was the mom of three children and four grandchildren and three great grandchildren. She was a wife for 66 years, but she was also a professional, a scholar, a historian. She was a college graduate at a time when most women were not. Her small sorrow was also her great triumph: that she outlived so many of her contemporaries, and she managed to swim in the seas that are e-mail and Facebook and the Kindle e-reader.

She was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1915, daughter of Professor Robert John Carney and Frances Gibson Carney, obtained a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1937, with a Phi Beta Kappa, and in 1938 an M.A. in English and a teacher’s certificate. In 1940, after teaching high school English in Caro (Michigan) for two years, she went to New York to marry Joseph Gies, writer and editor, also of Ann Arbor.

The Gieses began their marriage in Manhattan, moving to Jackson Heights in 1942, and in 1954 to Wilton, Conn. During this time Frances worked as a reader for the New York Story Department of 20th Century-Fox, first free-lancing and then working in the office, while Joseph was an editor at This Week Magazine, the Sunday magazine of the New York Herald Tribune. In 1944 Joseph went into the army, serving in France and Germany.

After the war, the Gieses made their home successively in New York City, Hempstead N.Y., Wilton Conn., Barrington Ill. and Oakton , Virginia, before retiring to rural Michigan. They moved to Maine in 2001. The Gieses began a second career together writing books on life in the Middle Ages, beginning with Life in a Medieval City (1969) and continuing through more than 11 books, of which three (Women in the Middle Ages, Joan of Arc: The Legend and the Reality, and The Knight in History) were officially authored by Frances alone; in reality, all of their work was collaborative.

Frances Gies was predeceased by her husband Joseph in 2006. After that loss, she rebounded and lived a life of Facebook and watching Jeopardy with her son and grandson, weekly brunches and trips to Giffords with her granddaughter and great grandchildren, discovering The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter novels, making new friends and learning new things.

She died in her sleep after a short illness.

Frances Gies is survived by her sons Charles Robert of Herndon, Virginia and Paul Joseph of Wilton Maine; her brother John Carney of Ludington, Michigan; her grandchildren Dorothea Diaz of Farmington, Maine, Nathan Williams of Houston, Texas, Frances Rose (Rosie) Rose of Eureka Springs, Arkansas and Thomas Jacques Clark of Wilton, Maine; and great grandchildren Makena and Ronan Diaz and Ezra Frances Rose.

She was preceded in death by her husband, by her older brother Robert Carney, and by her daughter Frances Jane (Jenny) Gies.

A Memorial Service will be held on Friday, Dec. 27, 2013 at 11 a.m. at Adams-McFarlane Funeral & Cremation Services, 108 Court St., Farmington with Scott Bubier officiating. Condolences may be sent for the family at www.adamsmcfarlane.com.

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