The Daily News’ and Galveston’s resident diva, Frances Powell, is retiring her society column, a regular item in the Features section for more than 30 years.
Powell was hired in 1986 or 1987 by former Managing Editor Richard Fogaley. Neither she nor he could pinpoint the date, but agreed it was a long time ago.
Powell worked for now defunct In Between magazine, selling ads. Fogaley recalls that Powell approached the paper about a column built on her unique skill of knowing and celebrating the ins and outs of her community.
Powell recalls the paper approached her.
Either way, Fogaley was sold from the beginning.
“Frances’ bubbly personality and constant smile have served her well as the ‘Diva’ in Galveston,” Fogaley said. “She knows everyone, or is quick to meet them, and is at home in any situation.
“Those skills and traits were the selling points when she first approached me about writing for The News. I’m so happy to know that she has succeeded so well at her craft.”
A native Galvestonian and a graduate of Ursuline Academy, Powell is the parent of four adult children — Mel Jr., Stephanie, Andrew and Kathryn — and three stepchildren — Paige, Drew and Shawnne — with her husband, Don, former director of medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch, perhaps better known to readers of her unique vernacular as “Docshop Medhead.”
Over the many years, Powell has been filling her social calendar with events to cover — weddings, anniversaries, theatrical productions, fundraisers, birthdays, galas, christenings, benefits, other people’s vacations and her own — and developed some pet phrases that might confuse new readers but are familiar to fans’ ears.
‘Our Sunny Sandbar’ is Galveston Island. ‘Docshop’ is the medical branch. ‘The Little Apple’ is Galveston. ‘The Jewel of the Little Apple’ is The 1894 Grand Opera House. ‘Divacuz’ is a cousin. You get the picture.
Powell faithfully attended the events that supported the city’s social structure from school benefits to ribbon cuttings to grand galas across the decades, gathering names and details or “deets” along the way to paint a picture for the reader and a history of sorts of the city’s social underpinnings.
She will miss it, she said.
“I loved knowing what was going on around town and being able to make people happy,” she said. “People loved being in my column.”
These days, the social scene in Galveston is not so different than it was 32 years ago, Powell said.
“The parties are the same and many of the people are the same, but their children are entering the scene now,” she said.
Powell said she received a notice on Wednesday from someone about an upcoming wedding and felt bad having to say she couldn’t put it in her column.
“I’m gonna miss knowing what everyone’s doing,” she said. “You can’t help but miss something you’ve done for more than 30 years.”