It is our sad duty to report the untimely passing of Frances â€œFrannieâ€ (nee Ronshausen) Dittmer, a giant in the world of art, philanthropy, and living life. Ms. Dittmer died when the airplane she was in went down over Puerta Vallarta, Mexico last week. Bad at Sports Co-Founder Richard Holland writes, “I had the pleasure to meet her several times, a long, long time ago and remember her as being a giant of both personality and intelligence.” Ms. Dittmer was 72 and will be missed by two daughters, a son and four grandchildren, among many other loyal family and friends.
An obituary for Ms. Dittmer can be read in full in The Aspen Times:
A longtime former resident of Chicago and latterly of Aspen, Colorado, Mrs.Dittmer was a philanthropist and collector admired in preeminent art circlesÂ and beloved by family and friends of all stripes. “She was a force behindÂ some of the most important institutions in this country,” said PhilippeÂ Vergne, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. “Frannie’sÂ impact on our museum and museums across the country has been profound,” saidÂ Aspen Art Museum Co-Presidents John Phelan and Paul Schoor. “We could countÂ on Frannie to speak her mind and make sure we took the right direction. HerÂ leadership, vision, and friendship will always be treasured, and we alreadyÂ miss her and her infectious laugh.” And said James Rondeau, Dittmer ChairÂ and Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, “She wasÂ incisive and discerning, generous and glamorous, a radiant personality withÂ a devilish sense of humor.” Blonde and statuesque, Frannie was stylishlyÂ self-possessed, plainspoken, and prone to call a spade a shovel. SheÂ talked and laughed with a lilting twang that she never tried to lose, but itÂ was the laugh that was her trademark. An exuberant and unmistakable chortle,Â it was audible from astonishing distances and once heard, was not forgotten.Â Born and raised in Port Arthur, Texas, she was a graduate of the UniversityÂ of Texas at Austin and a Kappa Kappa Gamma. From 1964 to 66 she worked onÂ Capitol Hill as personal secretary to Democratic Texas Senator “Smilin”Â Ralph Yarborough, an extraordinary responsibility for someone in her earlyÂ 20s. In Washington she caught the eye of Thomas Dittmer, a young lieutenantÂ in the fabled Third Infantry and a White House Social Aide. In 1966, FrannieÂ and Tom married and moved to Chicago, where they raised a family, built aÂ business, and collected art. When Tom and stepfather founded R.E. FriedmanÂ commodities firm Refco in 1969, Frannie became one of the company’s firstÂ five employees. Refco’s success grew exponentially, and Frannie cultivatedÂ her passion and keen eye for art. In 1979 she met Sotheby’s Vice ChairmanÂ Anthony Grant, then a young associate in contemporary art, and the two beganÂ a lifelong journey. Through the years the collection evolved and changedÂ from Modern masters such as Pablo Picasso and Fernand Leger, to post warÂ giants Willem DeKooning and Jackson Pollock, to the art of our time by CyÂ Twombly, Brice Marden, and Christoper Wool. Concurrently Frannie also builtÂ a world class portfolio at Refco, with Adam Brooks as curator. Grounded inÂ contemporary photography and in the works of master printmakers such asÂ Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, the collection was preserved after TomÂ sold the company to private shareholders in 1999. The Dittmers were involvedÂ in numerous Chicago civic and arts organizations, including the ChicagoÂ Lyric Opera and Providence St. Mel School, but Frannie’s heart lay mostÂ fondly with the visual arts. In addition to her AIC trusteeship, she and TomÂ endowed there the Frances and Thomas Dittmer Chair of Modern andÂ Contemporary Art. She was also a life trustee at the Museum of ContemporaryÂ Art Chicago where, together with Tom, she was one of six board membersÂ seminal to fundraising for that institution’s expansion in 1991, leading toÂ the first major museum building in Chicago in 65 years. Throughout her life,Â Frannie participated substantively in many of the nation’s most prestigiousÂ arts organizations, including in New York the Metropolitan Museum of Art,Â Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, the Drawing Center, Dia Art Foundation,Â the Menil collection in Houston, and the Aspen Art Museum. Her magnanimityÂ extended to animals, dogs in particular, and she supported a number ofÂ shelters and rescue organizations. Her cherished Chihuahuas once graced theÂ cover of the Aspen Animal Shelter calendar, which made her immensely proud.Â Generous as well in their spirited entertaining of friends and associates,Â the Dittmers hosted famously creative and occasionally lavish parties. HerÂ houses were always comfortable and beautifully designed, befitting herÂ longtime collaboration and friendship and with designer David Easton. NotÂ everyone knew she had her pilot’s license and played the piano by ear, butÂ her reputation as a football aficionada and Bears fan was well established.Â In the early days she and Tom played flag football with friends, and she wasÂ invariably the first one picked. “She was a master of the quick kick,” TomÂ boasts. “And hell, she could throw the ball 50 yards.” More recently herÂ children recall their fashionably clad mother loping across the lawn inÂ Hermes sandals, manicured nails rasping on the pigskin as she threwÂ perfectly spiraling passes to her grandsons. In 1994, as winds of businessÂ and finance shifted, the Dittmers left Chicago for New York, and after 33Â years of marriage the formidable couple went their separate ways, divorcingÂ amicably in 1999. Frannie moved permanently to Aspen, where they had longÂ had a second home and where she was, not surprisingly, active in theÂ community. The family nonetheless remained close and often spent holidaysÂ together. Surviving are son Jason and his wife Allison of Park City, Utah;Â grandsons Casey and Jesse; daughter Alexis Gaughan and her husband Chris ofÂ Santa Monica, California; and Chris’s daughters Casey and Peyton. A sister,Â Marilyn, and her husband Warren “Dutch” Holland, live in Durango, Colorado.Â Frannie also counted as family Matthew Morris, who for 25 years faithfullyÂ headed her household staff. The family respectfully suggests that gifts inÂ Frannie’s memory go to a charity of the giver’s choice. Afternoon servicesÂ will be held both in Aspen on Wednesday, February 19, in Aspen, and inÂ Chicago on Friday, February 21, details to be announced.
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