Ramona A. (Wiggins) Frank, 89, formerly of Prairie City, died Nov. 6, 2017, at Edgewater in West Des Moines, from complications of Alzheimer’s. A funeral service was Friday, Nov. 10 at the Prairie City United Methodist Church.
Ramona was born to Harry Marshall and Mary Margaret (Morhauser) Wiggins Oct. 13, 1928, on the family farm west of Prairie City. Her experiences growing up on a farm during the Depression shaped the work ethic that endured her entire life. She learned to value family, work hard every day, live thriftily and love the land. Ramona began her education in a country schoolhouse but moved to town school in first grade. She was valedictorian of the Prairie City High School class of 1946. Ramona graduated from Iowa State Teachers College (UNI) with a degree in K-12 education. After graduation she taught physical education for a short time in Grinnell.
On June 7, 1951, Ramona was united in marriage to John Phillip (Phil) Frank in Colorado Springs, Colo., where Phil was serving in the U.S. Army. Following his discharge, they returned to Prairie City, where they made their home and raised two children, Michelle and John. In 1961, the Prairie City Community Schools approached Ramona about developing a physical education curriculum for the elementary school. She became the elementary PE teacher the following year and served in that position until 1976. Her teaching position then switched to Prairie City Junior-Senior High, where she taught art and after the district’s consolidation, to PCM Middle School, where she taught art and seventh and eighth grade science. Ramona’s earth science classes planted much of the landscaping on the grounds of the middle school and Prairie City Elementary. She helped develop an area of the school ground into a restored prairie that served as an outdoor classroom several years before the prairie restoration at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. In 1987, Ramona was named Jasper County Environmental Educator of the Year. She retired in 1991.
Even in retirement, Ramona stayed active. She enjoyed walking and biking, working in her flower garden, refinishing furniture, traveling and even helping to care for two of her great-grandchildren. Throughout her life Ramona enjoyed traveling to new places, planning summer camping trips for her family to many American and Canadian national parks. She and Phil packed their tent for their final camping trip in 1993, the summer before his death. During her 70s, she participated in several European tours, the final one to Ireland when she was 77. Ramona was a two-time cancer survivor, having survived an acoustic neuroma in her early 20s and breast cancer in her 60s. She was a life long fitness enthusiast and was able to live independently in her own home until age 85. In 2014, declining health caused Ramona to move to Edgewater in West Des Moines, near her daughter’s home.
Ramona is survived by her daughter, Michelle (Greg) Bird of Clive; son, John (Cindy) Frank of Prairie City; grandchildren, Michael Bird, Megan (Scott) O’ Conner, Katie (Jeremy) Davis and James (Rebecca) Frank; six great-grandchildren, Hannah and Brendon O’ Conner, Rory Bird, Jaxon Schultz-Frank, Brydon Henning and Carter McKee; and sisters-in–law, Faye Frank and Joyce Wiggins Walker. Several cousins, nieces and nephews also survive her. She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Phil; her three brothers, Harry Jr., Lowell and Lionel Wiggins; brother-in-law, George Frank; and niece, Rita Frank.
Should you so desire, memorials may be directed to the PCM Middle School Library, the Alzheimer’s Association of Central Iowa or the American Cancer Society. Condolences may be left for the family at coburnfuneralhomes.com.