A tailor's daughter, Gordon (born Fanya Sherewshewsky), was an only child born in Bialystock. The family changed its name to Shear in an effort to evade the Nazis during World War II; eventually, they fled to Montreal, though the rest of Gordon's family perished in the Holocaust.
She met her late husband, Milton, a Philadelphia native, at a Jewish singles event in upstate New York, according to daughter Eve Gordon, who said that the two enjoyed "a whirlwind, six-month romance," before marrying and settling in Philadelphia.
They raised their three children in Elkins Park, where the family belonged to the Conservative Congregation Adath Jeshurun. After her husband's death in 2002 — which occurred six months before their 50th wedding anniversary — Gordon became actively involved with Young Israel of Elkins Park.
"My mother grew up with all of the restrictions, but none of the joys of Jewish observance," said her son, Dan Gordon, an internist living in Baltimore.
He noted that during her upbringing, her family perceived Jewish observance as being at an end, "so they weren't going to give it up," because Jewish ritual is what a Jewish person does.
He pointed out, however, that as she got older, she saw via his own family's "meticulous Jewish observance" that Jewish life "wasn't dead at all; it was very much alive. And that gave her so much joy to see and to learn that her grandchildren were learning Torah the same way her zayda did — with tzitzit and tefillin."
In addition to a love of Judaism, Gordon was a voracious reader, said her daughter, with a deep interest in the works of Sylvia Plath and Jane Austen, among others. She also read any book she could find on the Holocaust, said Eve Gordon. Another big interest was taking dance lessons at Center City's Academy of Social Dance.
She had a close relationship with her grandchildren, often visiting them in Baltimore or in the Philadelphia area.
Eve Gordon recalled that some of the grandchildren recently visited Montreal in the company of their grandmother, and returned home referring to her as "Iron Legs" because she'd made them walk everywhere, and they had struggled to keep up with her — evidence of her indomitable spirit, explained her daughter.
Her son reported that Cheltenham police officers he'd spoken with recently thought there was a good chance that the driver would eventually be caught, although they told him it could take months.
"How the case proceeds is not so important to me," he said. "My mother is not here; for whatever reason, she was destined to go on that day, and she did. I would like to see an unsafe driver not endanger any other people, but in terms of anything like closure or animosity, I don't feel those things."
In addition to her above-mentioned children, Frances Gordon is survived by daughter Judith Gordon and 12 grandchildren.