Fran Held in her kitchen

Fran Held in her kitchen at her Bellevue home. She was known as "Every Pan Fran" at the Stephen Center homeless shelter. 

No one ever complained about any of the meals “Every Pan Fran” put on the table at the Stephen Center homeless shelter.

Fran Held began working at the shelter near 27th and Q Streets when it opened in 1992 and was in the kitchen when former director Del Bomberger arrived in 2002. She was still there when he retired in 2015.

In 2012, the shelter’s cafeteria was named “Fran’s Diner” in her honor. She also received the “Heart and Soul” award from the Stephen Center Guild that same year.

“They called her ‘Every Pan Fran’ because she used every pan in the kitchen and cooked amazing meals,” Bomberger said from his home in Arizona. “Fran was a volunteer, but she was really a full-time (employee) because she was there every day lining up the kitchen help, telling them what meals to cook and what she was cooking.”

Held, a longtime Bellevue resident, died Friday at age 95 with her family by her side. Her body was donated to the Nebraska Medical Center. A celebration of life will be held this summer.

Born in Coleman, Wisconsin, in 1923, Held graduated from high school at age 16, said daughter Liz Stromath of Manhattan Beach, California. She leaves behind seven children, 17 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and a recipe box that everyone she knew covets.

“Her whole life was about volunteering and service to the community, including cooking for the troops at Offutt (Air Force Base),” Stromath said. “Besides the Stephen Center, she spent a lot of time helping out at the base chapel.”

Bomberger said he and Held “would butt heads for the longest time” at the Stephen Center over some of the shelter’s rules, but they eventually became good friends. Held, he said, was known for doing things her way, including taking some homeless people into her house, a practice that worried the staff.

“I will say, though, that she had a very, very good sense of judgment about people,” Bomberger said. “She got to be as much of a part of the Stephen Center as anyone ever will be. She was the original volunteer.”

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