Frances A. Delaplaine Randall, who chaired the board of directors of The Frederick News-Post’s parent company for more than 15 years, died on Wednesday.
She was 93.
In addition to her support and leadership of the newspaper, Randall was an author, lifelong Girl Scout, historian, philanthropist, musician — and chased many interests far beyond the bounds of Frederick County.
Will Randall, who replaced his grandmother as chairman of the board of Randall Family LLC in 2015 until the paper was sold to Ogden Newspapers last year, described Frances succinctly: “She’s an icon,” he said.
Will Randall said his grandmother was self-reliant, unflappable and strong-willed. She became chair of the newspaper’s board in 2001, retiring to an emeritus title in 2015.
“The newspaper meant everything to her,” said her daughter Ruth Ann Randall.
Myron W. Randall Jr. said his mother relished writing for The News-Post and publishing a number of history books. Something new was always in the works, he said.
“She never did get the last one finished,” Myron Randall said.
Frances Randall lived in Frederick County for most of her life, growing up on Lindbergh Avenue, which was once near the edge of city development, said her brother, George B. Delaplaine Jr.
Delaplaine, who was publisher until the Randall family purchased full control of the paper in 2001, recalled summers at the pool with his sister and taking long bike rides on weekends.
As a teenager, Frances Randall pioneered Girl Scouting in Frederick. After joining in 1938, she stayed involved for the rest of her life.
Lidia Soto-Harmon, CEO of Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital, said Randall was often called “the First Girl Scout of Frederick.”
“A lifelong Girl Scout, she was a beloved volunteer, a generous donor,” Soto-Harmon said. “She was a historian. She was so much fun.”
A section of Camp Potomac Woods is named in honor of Frances.
“We’re really going to miss her so much. ... But we were so lucky to have had her for such a long time and have learned so much from her,” Soto-Harmon said.
Deedee Luttrell Randall said her mother was “superwoman” and “never one to shy away from any adventure.”
In the 1970s, Frances would drive her daughters’ Girl Scout troops out to a camp in Wyoming. Deedee said she remains impressed with her mother’s ability to plan so extensively where to stop, fill gas, eat and stay overnight — and to handle the stress of caring for a gaggle of young girls.
“She just had command,” Deedee said. “... And she was always prepared.”
Randall always had a love for the outdoors. She would organize long hikes with her family, for which she’d naturally packed a number of guidebooks to identify trees and flowers and various fauna.
“She would take me to the most obscure places — even in Frederick,” Ruth Ann said, noting her mother’s penchant for driving the open and rural roads.
Frances organized semiannual family road trips and even simple overnight jaunts to Finzel Swamp in western Maryland. She savored the opportunity to travel abroad.
Traveling was her way of living, absorbing and truly understanding history, Ruth Ann said. “That’s where you really learn. It all comes to life before your eyes,” Ruth Ann said.
Randall was a devoted alumna of Hood College, where she studied before going on to earn a master’s degree in chemistry from The Johns Hopkins University.
Randall put her degree to work at Camp Detrick and other jobs, before meeting her husband and getting married. She would be honored by Hood College in 2006 with an honorary doctorate degree.
“Franny was a really special person,” said Ron Volpe, the former president of Hood College.
He said Randall was a key ally in transitioning the school to a coeducational campus in 2003.
Randall served 12 years on the school’s board of trustees and was made a trustee emeritus in 2001.
She was a generous supporter of the music program at Hood, and donated numerous pianos to the school over the years.
Randall’s death is a loss, but she had a long life and touched so many lives, Volpe said.
“She just was a shining light. And I just loved being around her,” he said.
Randall was a legendary figure at Hood, said Andrea Chapdelaine, the college’s current president.
“She was the kind of alumna that any college would like to have,” Chapdelaine said.
When she got to Hood, Randall really embraced her and was helpful in making her feel at home, she said.
The president’s house at Hood had belonged to one of Randall’s uncles, and when Chapdelaine arrived, Randall shared her memories of playing there as a child.
“It just really made the house become a home,” she said.
Randall shared her love of history and documentation of life in Frederick County with nearly everyone.
Randall had been a life member of the Historical Society of Frederick County since 1966, and gave generously to support the society.
Mary Boswell, executive director of Heritage Frederick, recalled Randall’s participation in The Frederick News-Post’s History Bee, an annual quiz competition about county and state history.
The competition is so valuable in sharing knowledge of local history, and it was thrilling to sit with Randall at the competition, Boswell said.
But Randall wasn’t just interested in recording or documenting the past, she said.
“She acknowledged that history happened every day,” Boswell said.
Randall’s legacy will include the work she did to share Frederick County history with an audience that otherwise may not have seen it through her articles in The News-Post, said Mary Mannix, the Maryland Room manager at the C. Burr Artz Public Library in Frederick.
“She was one of our working public historians,” Mannix said.
Randall and her family were major contributors to the Maryland Room, which opened in its current form when the library’s building on East Patrick Street was built in 2002.
Despite her role in the Maryland Room’s creation, Randall also used the room until recently for her own research, and never expected any preferential treatment, Mannix said.
“She was a very well-behaved researcher, as we like to say,” Mannix said.
Her family and Frederick County were Randall’s two main loves, but historic preservation and mentoring programs for girls were also important to her, said Elizabeth Day, president and CEO of The Community Foundation of Frederick County.
Randall served on the foundation’s board of trustees from 1986 through 1992, and her presence on the board lent credibility to the new group, Day said.
Randall also devoted many years to the Frederick Woman’s Civic Club, serving briefly as president and, naturally, as publicity chair for many years.
She was also involved in groups including the Frederick Sister Cities Association and Daughters of the American Revolution, where her lifelong involvement earned her a 75-year pin.
She was choir director for five decades at The Church of the Transfiguration in Braddock Heights, where she also played organ.
“She just had a multifaceted life,” Deedee Randall Luttrell said. “... The bucket list was never empty. She always had a new trip she wanted to go on.”
“She just had a lot of interests,” Ruth Ann said. “She was never bored.”
Frances Randall was predeceased by her husband, Myron W. Randall Sr., and a son, George. Her three surviving children — Myron Jr., Ruth Ann and Deedee — remain in Frederick County and retained leadership roles at the newspaper until it was sold in 2017.
The family traces their ancestry to John Thomas Schley, the first settler of Frederick.
A funeral is being planned for next week. An obituary from her family is expected to be published over the weekend.