Frances Fortner ‘Mimi’ Knowles, 83, beloved mentor and confidant

Frances Fortner ‘Mimi’ Knowles

WILMINGTON — Frances Fortner “Mimi” Knowles, 83, peacefully passed away Monday, April 26, 2021, while at home surrounded by loved ones.

Frances was born Nov. 8, 1937, in Bakersville, North Carolina. She was the daughter of the late Elizabeth Hensley Fortner and James Ewing Fortner. Frances grew up in Asheville, graduated from Lee H. Edwards High School in 1956 and Greensboro College in 1960. Upon graduation from college, she started her career as a home service representative for Carolina Power and Light Company in New Bern. She was transferred to Wilmington, where she met and married Robert Gail “Vic” Knowles. They were together for 51 years until his passing in 2013.

After starting a family, Frances chose to stay home to raise her children and be actively involved in their lives. Later, she became a substitute teacher at John T. Hoggard High School, where she was inducted into the Order of the Viking. Frances was a longtime member of the Wrightsville United Methodist Church, where her joy was teaching the Senior High Sunday School for over 60 years. She was a beloved mentor and confidant for many whose lives she touched. She was affectionately called Mimi, not only by her children and grandchildren, but also by their friends. Family and establishing meaningful traditions was her first priority. For over 45 years, annual trips to Bald Head Island have been a treasured family gathering. Frances and Vic enjoyed both domestic and foreign travel, experiencing new food and cultures. She had a special passion for Native American culture.

Frances is survived by her son, Brett Carlton Knowles, and his wife, Amy, of Wilmington; daughters, Laren Knowles Rutland, and her husband, Bill, of Waxhaw and Shannon Knowles Luhrsen, and her husband, Mike, of Wilmington; grandchildren, Brittain Knowles Young, and husband, Danny, of Raleigh, Savanah Gray Knowles of Charlotte, Matthew Jack Luhrsen and Cole Ewing Luhrsen, both of Wilmington; and twins, Cade Jackson Rutland and Kyle Arundel Rutland of Waxhaw; and dear sister, Mrs. Clyde Strange ( Sylvia) of Chester, South Carolina.

The family would like to thank her dedicated physicians and staff along with the loving and compassionate caregivers of “Team Mimi,” Debbie, Catherine, Risa, Jess, Charlene, Morgan and Cathy.

A graveside service will be held at noon, Monday, May 3, at Oleander Memorial Gardens, 306 Bradley Drive, Wilmington.

In lieu of flowers , donations may be made to the Duke Raleigh Cancer Center, in care of Alumni and Development Records, Box 90581, Durham, NC 27708.

Share online condolences with the family at Wilmington Funeral & Cremation.

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