A Fondren-based jewelry designer has created a limited-edition necklace to honor a Jackson Academy senior, whose kindness, creativity and artistry are still remembered two and a half years after her death.
Audra Bowman, owner of the 47blooms jewelry line, and Angie Noble, creative director and designer for the line, produced the necklace that features a pave star and honors Frances Anne “Franny” Fortner.
The Jackson Academy senior, who was the only child of Fondren residents Laurilyn and Tom Fortner, died on May 17, 2018, the day before graduation, after her car hit an unsecured manhole cover in Jackson. She was 18 years old.
A striking girl with long, red hair, Frances Anne Fortner was an artist like her mother, a ballet dancer, an animal lover, vocal on issues important to her such as women’s rights and known for being a friend to everyone. She planned to attend the University of Missouri, where she had received an academic scholarship and had been accepted into its journalism school.
The star motif seems especially fitting because of several reasons.
“She shined her light,” Laurilyn Fortner said of her daughter. “She was that person. I have so many good memories, even though her life was short.”
Frances Anne often wore a necklace with a star, one that her mother had when she was in high school and college and had passed along to her. “Her friends remember her wearing a star necklace,” Laurilyn said.
Bowman and Noble, with input from Laurilyn, came up with 17 designs as part of the commission.
The favorite that won out is a pave star (24-karat gold plated) set on a 24-karat gold plated chain (16-inches with an adjustable extender).
The necklace retails for $54.95 and may be purchased at 47blooms.com.
Sales will kick off during an event on Dec. 1 from 5-7 p.m. at the JA amphitheater, which is next to its performing arts center. The event will be inside the center if the weather doesn’t permit an outdoor event.
The hope is that all who loved Frances Anne – mothers and daughters, the JA family and the community beyond, even guys – will attend, said Bowman, whose daughter is a member of the same graduating class as Frances Anne.
Funds left in an account that held proceeds from the 2018 sale of prints, mugs and notecards featuring her daughter’s artwork prompted Laurilyn to commission 47blooms to create the tribute piece.
All of the proceeds from the sale of necklaces will go to Franny’s Hour, a healing arts program at the University of Mississippi that is in memory of Frances Anne. Tom Fortner is chief institutional advancement officer at UMMC.
Franny’s Hour kicked off in September 2019 with a program that included performances by Mississippi Ballet and harpist/vocalist Laura Pitts and the unveiling of the painting, “All of This,” by Ellen Langford of Jackson, which celebrated Frances Anne’s zest for life.
The coronavirus pandemic has put Franny’s Hour on hold but plans are for it to return, said Dr. Charles O’Mara, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs at UMMC. “We really want this to be something that develops a firm foothold and continues long into the future,” he said.
The arts enrich the soul and spirit, he said, and programs such as Franny’s Hour lift the spirits of patients, families, caregivers, visitors and employees, he said. “There are many people who believe and there is evidence to support that that sort of enrichment facilitates the healing process of patients,” he said.
It is customary to provide an artist who contributes talent to a program with an honorarium, O’Mara said, explaining how funds would support the program.
Noble, whose daughter was in the same graduating class at JA as Frances Anne, praised Laurilyn and Tom for the numerous ways they have chosen to celebrate their daughter’s life, including establishing scholarships at JA and Ballet Mississippi.
“The Fortners have done so much for Fondren and Jackson,” Noble said. “Tom has served on many boards and has been invaluable to UMMC.”
The Fortners partnered with Fondren Renaissance Foundation and used the account that contained proceeds from the 2018 sale of prints and other items for arts-related activities in Fondren.
The fund paid for mosaic artist Teresa Haygood to lead a workshop for third graders at Boyd Elementary, watercolorist Wyatt Waters to direct a workshop for high school students that was held at the Cedars and Scott Allen of A Plus Signs and Creative to produce a mural on the Fondren Corner Building that features the self-portrait of Frances Anne and the quote: “For all the pain in the world, there is so much more beauty.”
The necklace created by 47blooms, Laurilyn said, “is a way to put a bow on it. We are planning to relocate. My husband is retiring at the end of the year. but we’ll still have ties to Jackson.”
Bowman began designing jewelry six years ago as an outlet to process her grief after her mother’s death from brain cancer in 2011 and her father’s death from Alzheimer’s disease in 2014.
“This became a therapeutic means to force myself to be still and work through my grief,” Bowman said. “Out of that an accidental business was born.”
Bowman’s friends began to notice her jewelry and liked what they saw.
“She would wear the jewelry she had made and her friends started noticing how awesome it was,” Noble said. “They would buy what she was wearing.”
Bowman considers 47blooms a tribute to her mother as she instilled the sentiment, “Bloom where you’re planted.” The 47blooms line is now carried by 20 wholesale accounts across the South, sold on its website and at trunk shows.
“This is the first tribute piece I’ve designed and I wanted it to be exactly what Laurilyn wanted,” she said.
The necklace turned out just like she had hoped, Laurilyn said.
“I plan to wear it a lot,” she said. “I always wear something that reminds me of her every day.”
The design is simple, timeless, appropriate for any age individual and pairs well with other necklaces, and that’s what Frances Anne’s mother desired.
Each addition to the 47blooms line receives a name and the one for the star necklace designed in memory of Frances Anne is especially touching.
Heavenly, as suggested by her mother.