Frances Fortner Knowles

November 8, 1937 - April 26, 2021
Frances Fortner Knowles

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Frances Fortner Knowles “Mimi” , 83 of Wilmington, NC passed away peacefully while at home surrounded by loved ones on Monday April 26, 2021.

Frances was born on November 8, 1937 in Bakersville, NC. She is the daughter of the late Elizabeth Hensley Fortner and James Ewing Fortner. Frances grew up in Asheville, NC; she graduated Lee H. Edwards High School in 1956 and from Greensboro College in 1960. Upon graduation from college she started her career as a Home Service Representative for Carolina Power and Light Company in New Bern, NC. She was transferred to Wilmington where she met and married Robert Gail Knowles “Vic”. They were together for 51 years until his passing in 2013.

After starting a family, Frances chose to stay home to raise her children and be actively involved in their lives. Later she became a substitute teacher at John T. Hoggard High School where she was inducted into the Order of the Viking. Frances was a long time member of the Wrightsville United Methodist Church where her joy was teaching the Senior High Sunday School for over 60 years. She was a beloved mentor and confidant for many whose lives she touched. She was affectionately called Mimi, not only by her children and grandchildren but also by their friends. Family and establishing meaningful traditions was her first priority. For over 45 years annual trips to Bald Head Island have been a treasured family gathering. Frances and Vic enjoyed both domestic and foreign travel, experiencing new food and cultures. She had a special passion for Native American culture.

Frances is survived by her son, Brett Carlton Knowles and wife Amy of Wilmington; daughters, Laren Knowles Rutland and husband Bill of Waxhaw, NC and Shannon Knowles Luhrsen and husband Mike of Wilmington. Grandchildren Brittain Knowles Young and husband Danny of Raleigh, NC, Savanah Gray Knowles of Charlotte, NC; Matthew Jack Luhrsen and Cole Ewing Luhrsen both of Wilmington; twins Cade Jackson Rutland and Kyle Arundel Rutland of Waxhaw, NC. Also survived by her dear sister Mrs. Clyde Strange ( Sylvia) of Chester, SC.

The family would like to thank her dedicated physicians and staff along with the loving and compassionate caregivers of “Team Mimi”; Debbie, Catherine, Risa, Jess, Charlene, Morgan and Cathy.

A graveside service will be held Monday May 3, 2021 at 12:00 noon at Oleander Memorial Gardens, 306 Bradley Drive Wilmington, NC 28403.

In lieu of flowers , donations may be made to the Duke Raleigh Cancer Center, in care of Alumni and Development Records, Box 90581, Durham, NC 27708.

Please share memories and condolences with the family by clicking on the “Post a Condolence” tab below.

Wilmington Funeral & Cremation 1535 S. 41st St. Wilmington, NC 28403

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  • April 30, 2021
    Kim Garner says:
    I am so sorry for the loss of Mimi. Your mom was such a sweet and kind person. She will be dearly missed. I am praying for peace and comfort for you all.

  • May 03, 2021
    Sharon Roetger says:
    Bob and I were so sorry to read of your loss. Frances was such a fun person and a joy to be around. We know she will be greatly missed. May your many happy memories bring you peace at this difficult time.

  • May 03, 2021
    Nancy Smith Marks says:
    Frances was one of the most amazing, compassionate women I have ever known!! What a special blessing she was to anyone fortunate enough to cross paths with her. Memories of just some of her kindnesses would fill a book. We love you, we miss you -- Thank you for being my friend!