Obituary: Frances Gemma

Sat, 06/18/2011 - 6:42pm

Frances Estelle (Tinker) Gemma, age 90, of Durham, Connecticut, passed away on Wednesday, June 8, at the Madison House in Madison, Connecticut, after a short illness.

She was born at the home of her aunt in Apponaug in November of 1920 to Mary Olive (Mitchell) Tinker and Francis Mather Tinker of Block Island. She grew up on Block Island, graduating from the Block Island High School in 1937 as valedictorian. At her mother’s urging she left Block Island to attend nursing school at Butler Hospital in Providence, earning her Registered Nurse designation with a specialty in mental health and psychiatric nursing care. She happily spent the majority of her career at Connecticut Valley Hospital, Middletown, Connecticut, serving for many years as nursing supervisor.

Fran, as she was called, had a great love of animals and cared for a horse, more than a dozen dogs, and multiple cats over her lifetime. She also had a knack for rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned raccoons, possums, squirrels and even the occasional skunk.

She was pre-deceased by her son, Jonathan Gemma of Bethany Beach, Delaware, in 2005. She is survived by her sister Thelma Murphy of Denville, New Jersey. She also leaves her nephews: Michael (Margaret) Murphy of Needham, Massachusetts, James (Stephanie) Murphy of Melbourne, Florida, and William (Virginia) Murphy of Chester, New Jersey, as well as grand nieces and nephews, Amy, David, Marianne, and Matthew Murphy, all of Massachusetts, and Christopher Murphy of New Jersey. She is also survived by her daughter-in-law Judy Gemma and grandchildren Jennifer and Joseph of Bethany Beach, Delaware. Lastly, she leaves behind her beloved pet cocker spaniel, Yody.

The family thanks her very special neighbors and friends from Durham, Connecticut, who helped make her life complete and allowed her to remain independent.

Funeral services and burial are private. There are no calling hours. Biega Funeral Home, Middletown, Connecticut, has care of the arrangements.

You may honor her love of animals by making contributions in her memory to either the Northshore Animal League, 25 Davis Avenue, Port Washington, NY 11050 ( or to the Ironwood Pig Sanctuary, Post Office Box 35490, Tucson, AZ 85740 ( To share memories or express condolences online please visit