Frances Hoover was over the Atlantic in a 1950s aircraft -- she had left behind her firstborn son to find her husband on a Navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea -- when the plane's engine gave out. Life vest on, she readied for the worst.
But it didn't come. Just in time, the engine restarted. The plane was able to land in Ireland, saving Mrs. Hoover's life and her trip to see the man she would be married to for the next 50 years.
At 23, her adventures had only just begun.
Mrs. Hoover died Thursday in her Cranberry home. She was 82. It was her adventurous spirit that carried Mrs. Hoover through a yearlong battle with leukemia, her family said.
"Even at the very end, she never ever complained," said Mrs. Hoover's daughter, Judith Hoover. "Her plan was to live well and for as long as possible, so she could keep enjoying her life and her family."
Born Frances E. Gavlik in 1930, Mrs. Hoover was raised in Beaver County, where she attended Ambridge High School. She then studied liberal arts at Penn Hall Junior College in Chambersburg.
In 1951, while working as a secretary at Penn State University, she met Lewis Hoover.
"I just thought she was beautiful and gracious," Mr. Hoover said. "I didn't know girls too much, but she was so nice and kind to me."
The couple was married within a year. Their initial bond was kept strong by a commitment to spending time with each other every day.
"Every day, after my dad got home from his construction work, mom and him would go into the living room and talk on the couch before dinner," their daughter Judith said. "It was such a sacred time for them and clearly, it was the reason their marriage was so strong."
In between raising four children in Saxonburg, the couple spent as much time as they could "having adventures." They traveled to Europe, South America, the Caribbean and Alaska.
"Each trip was better than the one before," Mr. Hoover said. "I will always remember the good times with her. Because there weren't any bad times.
"That doesn't seem to sound real, but it is."
Mrs. Hoover passed her liking for adventure on to her children and grandchildren, whom she always encouraged to try new things and be imaginative.
"Like, if one of her grandkids said 'you pretend to be Rose from Titanic,' mom would go to her closet and find dress-up clothes and hats," Judith Hoover said. "Then she would play out a whole scenario, where Rose and the kids have tea together."
When her children were grown, Mrs. Hoover channeled her creative energy into painting. She began taking art classes at the home of Storma French, a longtime family friend in Crescent Township. Mrs. Hoover became a regular at Ms. French's classes, where she developed an affinity for painting florals and landscapes.
"Fran was not only a great artist, she was generous," Ms. French said. "She once donated an entire bag of very expensive watercolors to the studio for those who couldn't afford to purchase them."
Judith Hoover hopes that her mother's generous and adventurous spirit will live on in her children and grandchildren. She said she sees it happening already.
"My daughter Sophia had planned to go on a road trip to Montana this week," Judith said. "She wasn't sure if she could go, considering the circumstances. But our entire family knew it.
"We said, 'Go. This is exactly what your grandmother would want for you.'"
In addition to her husband Lewis and daughter Judith, Mrs. Hoover is survived by her son Kip Hoover, daughter Lisa Hinchberger and three grandchildren.
Cremation arrangements are by Saul-Gabauer Funeral Home at Sylvania Hills Memorial Park in Rochester.
A service in celebration of her life is being planned for a later date to be held at Sherwood Oaks in Cranberry.
Jessica Contrera: email@example.com or 412-263-1458.