1921 – 2013

TOPSHAM — Frances Rolfe McKnight, 92, of Rumford and Auburn, died Thursday, July 25, at The Highlands in Topsham.

She was born July 18, 1921, in Rumford, the daughter of Cliff and Grace Rolfe, and graduated from Stephens High School and then Bates College in 1943 with a degree in religious studies.

Frances went on to study at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and returned to Rumford to teach music and then English at Stephens High School.

She met George McKnight after he was recruited to work at the Oxford Paper Co., and they married in 1947 and had two children. After taking a short break while her children were preschool age, Frances resumed her career teaching freshman English at Mexico High School, where she was both feared and revered by her students. She loved teaching, and the students appreciated her enthusiasm; the Senior Class of 1967 dedicated the yearbook to her. Her involvement in teaching reflected a lifelong interest in literature and education.

During her Auburn years, Frances returned to teaching as a literacy volunteer for new Americans. After retiring from teaching, Frances moved to Auburn in 1986 to enjoy living near her daughter, Barbara, and her family. In the fall of 2009, she became a resident at The Highlands in Topsham.


Frances had a great love for the outdoors and was a strong hiker, avid trout fisherman and intrepid downhill and cross-country skier into her 80s. She was especially fond of the Weld area, climbing Mt. Tumbledown, picking blueberries on Center Hill and enjoying her camp on Webb Lake with her family. Frances was a great lover of the natural world and its wild and domestic creatures; she had a particular fondness for dogs — her favorites were her family pet, Heidi, and her daughter’s golden retriever, Tucker.

Frances loved music and was an accomplished pianist who was instrumental in bringing community concerts and renowned classical performers to Rumford. Frances taught piano lessons, accompanied many musical groups and performers and gave piano duo recitals. In more recent years, she enjoyed the many musical performances at Bates College and the classical concerts at the Portland Symphony Orchestra.

Frances enjoyed traveling throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Highlights included annual summer family trips to Prince Edward Island, visits to the Swiss Alps and a Baltic cruise to Eastern Europe. Frances was very knowledgeable about political and environmental issues. She stayed in touch with issues and ideas through extensive reading, participation in Elderhostel and attendance at forums and lectures.

Frances is survived by her two children, Stanley McKnight of Seattle, Wash., and Barbara Trafton of Auburn; seven grandchildren, Sarah Steinberg, Liza Hickey, Jillian McKnight, Elliott McKnight, Ben Trafton, Sam Trafton and Emily Trafton; and six great-grandchildren, Katie Steinberg, Abbey Steinberg, Aidan Hickey, William Hickey, Evelyn Hickey and Caroline Trafton.

Frances was predeceased by her husband, George; her older sister, Evelyn Curtis; and grandchild, Maggie Trafton.

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