Nancy Wright and JD Wright came into the booth to talk about Nancy’s mother, Frances Guy Ericksen, known to JD and his siblings as Gaga. An extravagantly generous tipper and the inspiration for the “Frances Ericksen Memorial Tip,” she passed away in January of 2008 but left behind a loving family and many, many stories of her life, her love and her faith. Frances was raised in the church. Her father was a Methodist minister and enlisted Frances’ help as an organ player at funerals when she was a young girl. As a mother Frances tried to share her devout religious beliefs with Nancy, but as Nancy grew older and took a different spiritual path their differences began to take their toll. Nancy recalls one argument that became a turning point in her relationship with Frances.
“When I was about 30 we were together at the house [she and my dad] have in Homosassa and it was just a miserable weekend and I felt our relationship was awful. And I told her right before I left that I couldn’t deal with that kind of criticism anymore and it wasn’t helping me. She said that’s what mother’s do and who would tell you if not your mother. I told her I didn’t need a mother anymore I needed a friend. If she wanted to continue to try and be my mother that way that I didn’t want that, but to call me if she wanted to be my friend.”
“I kind of, almost, didn’t expect to hear from her because she could be a little stubborn. It’s kind of a family trait. I think about two weeks, though, after that conversation I picked up the phone one day and a kind of small voice said on the other side;”
“Hi, this is your friend.”
“And it was. And we stayed friends until she died. With only occasional lapses and critical judgment, but I think I had my lapses too.”
Frances was a frequent volunteer and in the early 1960s she developed an interracial prayer group in Tampa, Florida. Frances was determined to keep the group going despite threats of cross burning and other violence. Frances was invited to go to the church of one of the prayer group members who was African American. There was a special event taking place at the church and Frances happily agreed to attend. The event was a speaking engagement at which Black Panther Party for Self-Defense co-founder, Huey Newton, was speaking. He gave an inspiring and incendiary speech that was filled with calls for uprising. In her typically outgoing fashion Frances walked up to Mr. Newton after the speech, took his hand in her’s, placed a small aluminum crucifix in his hand and said, “This is for you. God loves you. Jesus loves you and so do I.”