“Where’s Frances?” Arlington National Cemetery Update

“It is the feeling of loneliness I mind here—of being lost and no one to search for me.”    Frances M.A. Roe.  Army Letters from an Officer’s Wife, 1871-1888.

IMG_0114Soon after returning from Arlington National Cemetery, I couldn’t help but wonder “where’s Frances?” I dug out the Roe file which includes both Frances and Fayette’s Last Will and Testament (LW&T).  It specifies the lot designations at Arlington and internment instructions for himself, mother Elizabeth J., and wife Frances (his father -Rear Admiral Francis Ashbury Roe was interred in 1901). Lieutenant Colonel Fayette W. Roe nominated and appointed R. Golden Donaldson, Brig. Gen. Henry P. McCain and Lieut. Col. William C. Borden as the executors of his estate to oversee the final instructions:  

FIRST: Upon the death of myself and of my devoted and beloved wife, Frances M.A. Roe, I direct that our respective bodies be removed to the receiving vault at Arlington National Cemetery, and interred in that cemetery in the lot designated by the War Department, and under the service by the Fort Myer Chaplain, all with as little expense as possible.

The lot designed for myself and wife adjoins the one for my father and mother, and in which my father’s remains are now buried. My mother’s remains are to be buried in the lot with my father. There is one monument erected on the two lots designated for me and for my father. My father’s and my own name are already carved on it. When my wife’s remains are buried there and my mother’s remains buried there, I direct that their respective names be also carved thereon.


The empty plaque for Frances M.A. Roe.  In the background is the monument of Captain Timothy O'Leary and  wife Clara.

The empty plaque for Frances M.A. Roe. In the background is the monument of Captain Timothy O’Leary and wife Clara.

Fayette W. Roe died on September 28, 1916. His mother, Elizabeth J. (Synder) Roe died March 3, 1919, and Frances M.A. (Mack) Roe died on May 6, 1920. According to her LW&T, the executor’s list of expenditures included the funeral expenses in Washington. Armed with this information, I contacted Arlington to help find Frances and to resolve the likelihood of lost records considering its been 95 years since her death.

First, the good news! Many thanks to the Director of Quality Assurance, Eric Fies, and his due diligence. He has resolved the missing case of “Where’s Frances?” A recent email confirmation:

“Frances Roe is interred with her husband in Section 2, but is currently uncommemorated. There are four decedents associated with this case – Fayette Roe (commemorated on Private Marker), Francis A Roe (commemorated on Private Marker), Elizabeth J Roe (commemorated on footstone), and Frances Roe (uncommemorated).”

 Arlington is aware of the Roe monument issues and working on a resolution. However, Frances’ name will not be added to the private monument. Instead, they will order an upright government marker to be set in the location where she’s actually interred; one gravesite over from the Roe private monument. Presently, I’m awaiting information about the timeline for the marker and why her inscription will not be added to the Roe monument?

Arlington’s guidelines maintain that the decedent’s inscription is determined by the ‘next of kin’ or NOK.  Frances has been uncommemorated for 95 years. Both her and Faye had no siblings and were childfree in their 45 year marriage. In consideration of these facts, perhaps Arlington will allow me the privilege as her NOK?

Frances has patiently waited many times for things while being lost and no one to search for her -until now.  Hopefully, Arlington National Cemetery will add dignity and grace in her commemoration by acknowledging one woman’s extraordinary life, commitment and devotion to USMA, country and flag. After 95 years of patiently waiting to be found, I hope Arlington National Cemetery will proudly honor Frances’ life with a well-deserved inscription:

Frances M.A. Mack Roe

Army Letters from an Officer’s Wife, 1871-1888

I love army life here in the West, and I love all the things that it brings to me

Beloved wife and comrade of Fayette

August 22, 1844 – May 6, 1920

Roe Obelisk at Arlington