Blackshear’s ‘first lady’ fought cancer three years
Mary Fran Grissom, wife of Blackshear mayor Kevin Grissom, is remembered by friends for her larger than life personality and neat appearance – never a hair out of place — for the stylist who hailed from Pittsburgh, PA.
Grissom died Monday evening, December 30, at Satilla Hospice House in Waycross following a battle with cancer. She was 60.
Grissom moved to Blackshear from Savannah when she married Kevin in 2012. She then took on the role of pastor’s wife, joining Kevin in ministry at Blackshear Church of God (BCOG) where she worked in children’s ministry, ladies’ ministry and sang in the choir.
“The first thing everybody is going to notice is that she was always very well kept … but it’s her larger than life personality. She was an extremely vivacious person, loving life,” said Amy Evors, worship leader at Blackshear Church of God. “Even through all the sickness she went through, she was still very trusting and held strong and fast to her faith that God was with her.”
“Whenever she was present, she kind of filled the room with her presence. She was always very sweet and kind,” recalls Anja Evors, Christian education director at BCOG. “She was very good about being straightforward and honest when it came to the Word of God … It was a breath of fresh air and very appreciated.”
Grissom was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago and underwent more than a dozen surgeries. Her cancer returned less than a year after remission and progressed to her lungs, but close friends say Grissom’s fight with cancer never defined her. She continued to live life as she would have without the disease.
Shortly after her first cancer diagnosis, Grissom single-handedly cooked an authentic Italian meal and served it to the church family as her Christmas present to the congregation. She didn’t tell friends of her diagnosis until after the holidays in an attempt to spare their feelings.
“She preserved others’ feelings … How strong she was in her own presentation to keep others from being upset or sad,” says Colleen Youmans, Grissom’s close friend and confidant.
Youmans, also a member at BCOG, is a former nurse. She stayed by Grissom’s side during surgery recoveries and cancer treatments whenever Kevin was called away. She was with Grissom last Monday when she passed away.
The duo often went on adventures, spending ‘girl time’ together Grissom would say, but Youmans, a Pierce County native admits she wasn’t sure at first what she would have in common with the ‘Yankee’ who was her pastor’s wife.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh how am I ever going to relate to this Yankee Italian?’ … but it was awesome!,” Youmans says with a laugh. “I think it’s because she was so different — because we were such opposites — we just attracted (to each other).”
Grissom operated her own salon, Mary Fran’s, out of the Grissom couple’s home in Blackshear until she became too ill to do so. Many former clients from her Hilton Head salon followed Grissom here for their regular hair appointments.
“She opened up a salon there in their home,” says Anja Evors. “When she put her hands in your hair, it was like she was working a piece of art … I never heard of any dissatisfied customers.”
Determined to make every moment count, Grissom began checking items off her bucket list after her cancer diagnosis — mostly places she wanted to visit. Grissom went skydiving in June 2019. Her last big excursion was a week-long trip to Spain, France and Italy with Kevin last October.
Those who knew Grissom best are quick to comment that she adored Kevin, her husband of seven years. Grissom was already battling cancer when Kevin became Blackshear’s mayor, but she didn’t hesitate to support his new role.
“She loved that man,” says Amy Evors. “She was very supportive of him.”
For a complete obituary, see Page 3.