February 17, 2014

Mary Frances Turner Higgins


— Mary Frances Turner Higgins passed away following a brief illness on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, in Jacksonville, Fla.

She was a loving and devoted wife, mother and grandmother. She believed that teaching young children was a calling which she felt honored to answer.

Mary Frances, the second of three children, was born to Lela Mae Groover and Arthur Berryman Turner on Aug. 23, 1920, in Goldsboro, N.C. When she was 12, the family moved to the Berry Schools in Rome when her father was hired to be the instructor of brick masonry. She was very proud to have known Martha Berry and for her dad to have contributed to the building of what is now Berry College.

Having chosen teaching as her career, Mary Frances moved to Dalton in 1949. She accepted a position as a third-grade teacher at City Park Elementary School. Miss Ellie Matthews spotted her the first day and rushed home to tell her still-single nephew, Dan Higgins Jr., about her. His brothers had also eyed Mary Frances and encouraged Dan to ask her out. They were married on June 2, 1953. In 1958, Mary Frances and Dan’s niece, Kay, moved to Dalton to reside with them, following the death of Kay’s mother and Mary Frances’ younger sister. A year later, Kay became a big sister when Marie was born.

Mary Frances continued teaching in the Dalton Public Schools at City Park and Brookwood, and she retired from Westwood in 1975 after her 30-year career as an educator. She loved children and she enjoyed watching them learn, grow and develop. At the same time that Mrs. Higgins was teaching school Monday through Friday, she also taught first grade Sunday school at First Baptist Church of Dalton, where she was a dedicated and faithful member until she and Dan moved to Florida in 1978.

They moved first to Indian Harbour Beach, Fla., and later to Palm Coast. Following Dan’s death in 1994, Mary Frances moved to Jacksonville to be near her daughter, Marie Adams and her husband, Donnie.

Mary Frances was preceded in death by her parents; brother, Arthur Turner; sister, Katherine Turner Burton; her husband of 41 years, Dan Higgins Jr.; and her first husband, Frank Holland.

She is survived by her daughters, Marie Adams and her husband, Donnie, and Kay Burton Higgins and her husband Keith Spalding; brother and sister-in-law, Arthur and Sue Burton; grandchildren, Christopher Spalding and Mary Katherine Spalding; and nieces and nephews and their families.

In lieu of flowers, should you desire, please make a contribution to an organization whose mission and work Mary Frances cherished. These would include First Baptist Church, P.O. Box 827, Dalton, GA 30722; Berry College, 2277 Martha Berry Highway N.E., Mount Berry, GA 30149; and Dalton Education Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 1408, Dalton, GA 307422-1408.

At her request, a private graveside service will be held at Whitfield Memorial Gardens for family and relatives.

The family will receive friends at Love Funeral Home on Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m.

Words of comfort may be sent to the family at www.lovefuneralhomega.com.

Love Funeral Home, 1402 N. Thornton Ave., Dalton (across from Hamilton Medical Center), is in charge of arrangements.