At 12 years old, Fran Scholl knew she wanted to be in the military. What she didn’t know was how unusual that was for a young girl in 1968. As the oldest girl in a family with 11 kids, she grew up feeding and rocking her younger siblings. Mothering and nurturing were second nature to her. Her dad was a Navy veteran who served in World War II, and her family’s culture was well-suited to military culture. The children were expected to use manners and respect authority.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Scholl learned to shoot a gun early in life, taking lessons in shotguns and rifles, a skill she would utilize later in life when she took up hunting. Feminism was a new idea, and choosing a career path without regard to gender was a way for her to be independent and do things differently than expected.
After graduating from Maryville College with a two-year degree in nursing, Scholl joined the Air Force and entered pilot training with the third class of women students. She hoped to fly an aircraft, but Scholl was encouraged to take a different path after several rounds of test anxiety during check rides, a performance-based progress test.
“People say you can do anything you set your mind to. Well, yes and no,” Scholl says. “If something is not there or the timing is not right, it doesn’t work out. You only get so many tries, and you’re on to the next thing. If it’s not working, maybe there’s a reason.”
The door to becoming a pilot closed for Scholl, but the next door opened in 1978 after the mass murder-suicide of Peoples Temple cult leader Jim Jones and his followers. Already stationed in Delaware, the military needed someone to take charge of the crews delivering, unloading and identifying the dead bodies. Scholl stepped up to the plate and discovered leadership skills she didn’t know she had.
Scholl successfully progressed in rank and moved stations multiple times during her 20 years in service, living in Idaho, Louisiana, Arizona, North Carolina, Illinois and Delaware and serving in the Philippines, Germany and Azores while living abroad. After being diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 1994, Scholl retired from active duty as a lieutenant colonel the next year. Two years later, she married and established roots back in the Midwest.
“I am a Show-Me girl, and I still am, even after showing me a whole bunch of other places,” Scholl says. “Home is home; my favorite place is where I am right now.”
Currently, Scholl, her husband Lin, and their dog, Jake, live on a farm in Altenburg, Mo. They hunt turkey and deer across a span of 330 acres. They also fish for trout, bass and bluegill. Lin gardens and makes their canned goods. Fran enjoys needlework, cross stitching and Suduko when she can fit it in. Both love their small-town community and often pop in for coffee or lunch at the River Hills Grocery and Deli.
After two hip replacements, Scholl has slowed down a bit, but she’s never been one to shy away from hard work. Each day, she puts one foot in front of the other, looking for ways to lead and contribute. She greets the day with prayer and focuses on what needs to be done.
“I look at what I can do and what I can’t do,” Scholl says. “And learn to be OK with the things I can’t change.”