Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Mae Alice Frison

'Mama Frison' filled her life with love for kids, the Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — Mae Alice Frison, with her spunk and sunny outlook, predicted good things for 2008.

It was a big year for her. She was turning 100. Her brain was sharp as scissors, but she started playing Sudoku anyway to keep things fresh upstairs. She never missed a chance to watch the Tampa Bay Rays. She banged a cowbell for B.J. Upton and Edwin Jackson, her favorite boys.

Everyone figured she'd have a good year. When she asserted that the Rays would have their best season, however, that was harder to swallow.

But she knew.

• • •

She was born in the Georgia countryside in 1908. She didn't even have a birth certificate.

Her grandmother, who had been a slave as a young girl, took care of little Mae Alice, treating her illnesses with herbal remedies. She went to school in a one room schoolhouse and toted a lunch bucket. Her uncles made moonshine in a backyard shed.

As a young woman, she moved to Jacksonville and met her husband, John Frison, a minister. His preaching career took them to Winter Haven, then Bartow. She stayed smart, voting in every election since Dwight Eisenhower.

Mrs. Frison had a natural grace with kids. She legally adopted several children and took countless others under her wing. In Bartow, she ran Jack and Jill Day Care for 15 years.

"That became her passion," said her nephew, Abdul Karim Ali. "She just devoted the rest of her adult life to giving herself to raising children."

After her husband died, she moved to St. Petersburg. She lived independently, but never lacked for visitors. Everyone called her "Mama Frison."

When Meals on Wheels volunteers came to her home in Greenview Manor, she welcomed them in with a big "Come on in, baby! Sit down!"

Mary Jo Swiggett, a St. Petersburg nurse, adjusted her weekly volunteer route to make Mama Frison her last stop of the day.

"She was telling me these really neat stories," said Swiggett. "She remembered everything from the time she was 3 years old. She said she was never lonesome because she had so many happy memories to keep her company."

Employees from the Rays also delivered meals to Mrs. Frison, and she chatted with them about baseball. At first, it confused her. With three players on base and another at the plate, she'd ask, "If he hits the ball, too, where is he supposed to stand?"

"She just had such a sweet personality," said Wes Engram, the Rays director of corporate partnerships. "She would send us letters every few months saying how she's cheering for her boys."

When she turned 100 in March, the Rays gave her an official jersey with her name on the back. And earlier, they had treated her with tickets to a game.

That day, she sat in the stands, legs draped in a blanket. She waved her Bible wildly, screaming. The Rays were projected to lose that day.

But they won.

• • •

Mrs. Frison fell in her apartment recently, landing in the hospital.

Thursday night in the intensive care unit, she wanted to watch her team. The match notoriously turned sour for the Rays, the Boston Red Sox surging from miles behind to win.

A nurse brought in a television. Mrs. Frison watched until she got sleepy. The Rays still had a strong lead. The nurse offered to wake her later and tell her the outcome.

But she knew.

With her boys winning, Mrs. Frison went to sleep and never woke up.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8857.


Mae Alice Frison

Born: March 24, 1908.

Died: Oct. 17, 2008.

'Mama Frison' filled her life with love for kids, the Rays 10/18/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 23, 2008 6:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Cubs down Dodgers 3-2; force NLCS Game 5 Thursday


    CHICAGO — Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, former Ray Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

  2. One of the best places for investing in a rental house is in Tampa Bay

    Real Estate

    Two Tampa Bay ZIP Codes are drawing national attention.

    . If you're looking to invest in a house to rent out, few places are better than  ZIP Code 34607 in Hernando County's Spring Hill area, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.
 file photo]

  3. Bucs' Vernon Hargreaves: 'I'm not making any plays'


    TAMPA — Eli Manning gathered his receivers together on the sideline during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and told them he planned to target the weakest link of the secondary all afternoon.

    Patriots receiver Chris Hogan gets position in front of Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves for a 5-yard touchdown pass in New England’s win on Oct. 5.
  4. Suspect in Maryland office park shooting is apprehended


    EDGEWOOD, Md. — A man with a lengthy criminal past who was fired from a job earlier this year for punching a colleague showed up for work at a countertop company on Wednesday and shot five of his co-workers has been arrested, authorities said. Three of them were killed and two critically wounded.

    Harford County, Md., Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler shows a picture of Radee Labeeb Prince, the suspect in the workplace shootings.
  5. Lightning's J.T. Brown to stop anthem protest, focus on community involvement

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lightning wing J.T. Brown will no longer raise his first as a protest during the national anthem before games.

    J.T. Brown says he will work more with the Tampa police and groups that serve at-risk young people.