Community saddened by passing of ‘Queen of Cowee’ Frankabelle Scruggs

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Frankabelle Scruggs (R) was a staple at the annual Macon County Fair, festivals and craft shows. Cowee Quilters would demonstrate the art of quilting and sell raffle tickets for quilts to benefit the Cowee Fire Department.

Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer

Frankabelle Scruggs (L) with author Clair Suminski at a Main Street event.

After a lifetime of community involvement, Frankabelle Gibson Scruggs died March 26 in Franklin at the age of 89. She was born and raised in Macon County and she is survived by her daughter, Mary Carolyn, three sons, Hugh, Phil, and Tim, and two sisters, Luanne Teague and Suzy Lorentz, as well as six grandchildren and many great grandchildren. Her husband, Jimmy, and her brother, Billy Gibson, preceded her in death. 

The indelible mark she made on the Cowee community is how many people will remember her, shared Claire Suminski. 

“Frankabelle was an incredible supporter of Cowee School, Cowee Quilters, Cowee Fire Department, Cowee Baptist Church, Cowee Community Club, and more. In many ways, she presided as the ‘Queen of Cowee.’ And her granddaughter is the Cowee Cowgirl Veterinarian (Jessica Scruggs), so it runs in the family.”

“She was certainly one of a kind,” said Jessica Scruggs. “She always had a smile to meet people with, and she loved what she was doing every day no matter what it was. She loved helping people and she leaves quite a legacy.” 

As one of the original members of the Cowee Quilters, Frankabelle shared her handiwork and her skills as she enjoyed teaching and mentoring students. 

“And every time we had 4th Grader Day at Cowee School, Frankabelle would be there working ‘one on one’ with the kids,” added Suminski. “Everyone loved to see her engage with students. She, along with the rest of the Cowee Quilters, have been so wonderful at passing down heritage to younger generations.”

“As the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County (FHAMC) became more and more involved at Cowee School Arts and Heritage Center, I heard the word ‘Frankabelle’ before I even met her,” said Anne Hyder. “She was obviously well respected and I quickly learned she was also very talented. At one of the first festivals held there at the school, Frankabelle walked in with probably just a sample of her homemade quilts and many were hung up and down the halls of the historic school and also draped in several rooms … it was amazing! I quickly grew to care about this outstanding woman.”

Her involvement with the Cowee Fire Department and Auxiliary included regular provisions of food to firefighters. On March 29, members of the Cowee Fire and Rescue served as pallbearers for the funeral service, which was held at Cowee Baptist Church, where Frankabelle was a lifelong member. 

“Frankabelle was a sparkplug and she had a no nonsense way about her that made her especially effective. She worked very hard to help build and care for our community,” said Suminski.  “One time when I asked her how many quilts she had made, she said she did not really know for sure. I think it was at least 150, but she gave many away, including to me and I cherish it.

“We were all very proud of her work, but more than that, the gracious and hardworking family and community woman that she was. Frankabelle was one of our precious mountain gems that cannot be replaced and even though there are more that are still with us … What will we do without Frankabelle in Cowee?”

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