Fran Redmon

Fran Redmon

Philanthropist, arts supporter dies at 86.

Fran and Gant Redmon were selected as Living Legends of Alexandria in 2011.

Fran and Gant Redmon were selected as Living Legends of Alexandria in 2011.

    Fran Redmon, a philanthropist and longtime supporter of arts in the community, died March 11 at the age of 86.

Fran Redmon defined graciousness. Known to many as the matriarch of arts in the community, for decades she opened her home to numerous nonprofits to help raise funds for the many organizations that sought her support. On March 11, the longtime community philanthropist died after an extended struggle with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. She was 86.

Frances Mae Redmon was born May 16, 1937, in Collinsville, Ill., the only child of Herman Moritz Wilhelm and Frances Ida Wilhelm. She attended a Lutheran school until the fourth grade, when she transferred to a public school and met Gant Redmon, the man who would be by her side for more than eight decades.

Redmon attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale before transferring to the University of Illinois. She was elected president of her sorority, Sigma, Sigma, Sigma, and graduated in 1961 with a degree in speech education. Redmon and Gant married in 1958, the same year she was first runner up and talent winner in the Miss Illinois pageant, a part of the Miss America Scholarship organization.

Following graduation, the couple moved to Alexandria, first to Belle Haven then to Tall Oaks, their stately home in the Seminary neighborhood. They raised one son, Gant Redmon III.

“Both my mom and dad were so integral to the Saint Stephen’s and Saint Agnes community,” said Redmon’s son Gant. “The cheerleaders were always saying how much they appreciated all that she did helping them with choreography. And you could always hear her ringing a cowbell from the stands during football games.”

The younger Redmon remembers the more playful side of his mother, saying, “Mom was a master at surprise birthday parties – no question about that. And I don’t think she ever missed one of my lacrosse games.”

Redmon had begun a fashion career on the College Fashion Board of Stix, Baer & Fuller, a St. Louis department store. She continued in the Washington area as Assistant Fashion Director of Woodward & Lothrop, soon moving onto the runway as a free-lance fashion model in the frequent fashion shows sponsored by charities in hotels and embassies.

A “triple threat” performer who could sing, dance and act  – she won the pageant talent competition with a dramatic scene from Joan of Arc – Redmon participated annually in the Hexagon Show, an original musical, political, satirical revue, written, produced, and presented by an all-volunteer group of Washingtonians. Later, she established an award in her name at the University of Illinois to be given annually to a sorority member in the performing arts.

In the 1980s, Redmon turned her focus to advocacy, serving on the boards of several arts and civic organizations. She was active in the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra and SOLA, its support organization, Virginia Chamber Orchestra, Wolf Trap, Alexandria Singers, Little Theatre of Alexandria, Friends of the Torpedo Factory, Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, BalletNova, Washington Ballet, Washington Choral Arts, the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington, and others, usually concentrating on fundraising for each by chairing special events and hosting such events at her home.

She was appointed to the Virginia Commission for the Arts by Gov. Jim Gilmore and served from 1998 until 2003. In this capacity she advocated for grants to arts organizations throughout the Commonwealth, but especially for those in Northern Virginia. Along with her husband Gant, a managing partner with Redmon, Peyton and Braswell, LLP, Redmon was recognized as a Living Legend of Alexandria in 2011.

“We have shared values and enjoy being a team,” Redmon said when named a Living Legend. “We can’t imagine not partnering with each other. It takes a lot of planning and work to have a partnership in life and in the community, but when you find your niche and do something about it, you’ve found your place.”

The Redmons were named the 2008 University of Illinois Alumni of the Year, the first time the distinction was awarded to a married couple. In 2017, the couple was recognized for their many years of leadership and service to the community at the Senior Services of Alexandria gala.

“From my days as a substitute teacher in the Alexandria public schools to working with arts organizations, it’s been a joy watching this community grow,” Redmon said at the gala.

Redmon is survived by Gant Redmon, her husband of 66 years; son Charles Gant Redmon III of Boston; granddaughter Hannah Winslow Redmon of Basalt, Colo.; and granddaughter Leah Virginia Redmon of Melrose, Mass.

Visitation will be held Friday, March 15, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Everly-Wheatley Funeral Home, 1500 West Braddock Road. A Celebration of Life will be held at Christ Episcopal Church, 118 N. Washington St., on Saturday, March 16, at 11 a.m. Interment in Ivy Hill Cemetery will be private at a later date. Contributions to Goodwin Living Foundation, 4800 Fillmore Avenue, Alexandria, VA  22311 are suggested.

Redmon, who hosted fundraisers and events at her home for as many as 250 guests at a time, valued social connections in building friendships, fundraising and advocacy, saying, “People have to be so aware of the friendships they have and how we can help each other.”