Kelly Franks

Kelly Franks

November 9, 1940 - December 21, 2017

Carolyn (Kelly) Harrison Franks, 77, an awardwinning San Marcos Main Street Manager who helped transform a fading downtown into a vibrant center for music, dining, and shopping, died Dec. 21 after battling lung cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Hired by the City of San Marcos in 1988, to fill a short-term vacancy, her tenure lasted 25 years.

Main Street is affiliated with state and national programs and the Texas Historic Commission. The San Marcos program became essential in reinvigorating the downtown, where historic buildings had been refurbished with aluminum siding and painted facades in the 1950s-60s in an attempt to “modernize” the 19th century Hays County seat.

By the mid-1970s, major anchor stores had moved out to new shopping centers and the downtown struggled to keep businesses alive.

Under Kelly’s dogged, persistent efforts, over time, the downtown restored most of the historic buildings to their original architectural splendor, attracted business investments of tens of millions of dollars, and established special events that re-energized the downtown.

With the help of volunteers, the city and the county, Kelly was one of the five founders of Sights & Sounds of Christmas She worked to put San Marcos on the map, even bringing the Great American Race, a coast to coast antique classic car rally to town.

Kelly helped connect the downtown community to Texas State University, with special events such as downtown clean-ups and wine walks for parents of university students. She worked with the city and county to establish the Farmer’s Market, held annual trail rides through San Marcos to the San Antonio Stock Show, and established the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame music festival.

She re-popularized pioneer campfire biscuits at Sights & Sounds of Christmas, prepared by the Main Street board, and a famous peach cobbler served during the annual San Antonio Rodeo Trail Ride as it passed through town. She was also known to clean up after the horses—as needed.

Kelly helped coordinate the donation of an historic church to the City by the late H.Y. Price, owner of the San Marcos Telephone Company. Today the facility has become the popular Price Senior Center.

Kelly Franks was born in Oswego, KS on Nov. 9, 1940, to Maxine and Herman Harrison. She was a graduate of the University of Kansas where she received a BS in physical therapy. She worked in several hospitals including in the Panama Canal Zone where she was stationed with her first husband, Lloyd Meredith Willson (a beloved nephew of the great composer of the 1962 musical, The Music Man).

Meredith, an Army captain, was killed in Vietnam in 1968, leaving Kelly a young widow with their four year old daughter, Wendy. Living in Dallas, she spent several years advocating on behalf of Vietnam War Veterans, with the assistance of H. Ross Perot.

She moved to Austin where she met and married UT basketball star and banker Larry T. Franks. They became the parents of a second daughter, Shannon Franks.

When they came to San Marcos in the early 1980s, Kelly busied herself as a mom and community volunteer with Southside Community Center, the Junior Service League, Beta Sigma Phi, the Heritage Association, and the Junior Miss Program.

She won numerous accolades over the years, including the Texas Historical Commission’s Anice Read Award of Excellence, the Heritage Association’s Presidents Award, San Marcos Women’s Hall of Fame, Citizen of the Year by the Board of Realtors, and Woman of the Year by Beta Sigma Phi. The San Marcos Main Street Program was also recognized annually by the National Trust for Historic Preservation for meeting strict program standards.

In 2011, Kelly was named a “Legend of San Marcos.” She retired from the city in 2013.

She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, Capt. Lloyd Meredith Willson, her husband, Larry Franks, and nephew, Hunter Owens. Kelly is survived by her daughters, Wendy Willson (Franks), of Frisco, TX and Shannon Franks of Hutto, TX; grandson, Preston Boliver of Lake Dallas; great-grandson Weston Boliver of Denton; brother, John, and sister-in-law, Karen Harrison of Cedar Park; brother, Mike Harrison of Parsons, KS; sisterin-law and husband, Mary Elizabeth and Gregg Owens of Austin, Tx; sister-in-law and husband, Martha and Perry Ratcliff, of Brenham; and several nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

Visitation will be at Pennington Funeral Home on Thursday, Dec. 28, 6 to 8 p.m.

Graveside Services will be at the San Marcos City Cemetery, 11 a.m., Friday, Dec. 29.

A Celebration of Life Service will be held at 1 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 29, at the First United Methodist Church of San Marcos, with the Rev. Bill Henderson officiating.

Arrangements by Pennington Funeral Home, San Marcos, Texas, 512-353-4311,

San Marcos Daily Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666