Frances Raven Sieman

A photo of Lillian Raven, taken in Russia before she came to America

Frances Raven Sieman was born in a house on West Federal Street in Youngstown, 1921. Her parents, Morris and Lillian Raven, had emigrated from Odessa on the Black Sea, coming first to Canada in 1914 where they attempted to homestead in the province of Alberta. They brought with them their three little girls, Clara, Anne, and Min, all born in Russia. Farming was impossible on the rocky land with its poor soil. Relatives who had settled previously in Youngstown suggested that they come there.

After the birth of their son, Jay, in 1915, the family moved to Ohio. Morris started selling scrap metal, then after some success he established an auto wrecking yard on West Federal Street, just down the street from the Civil War era house he later bought for his family. The house, it was reputed, had been a stop on the Underground Railroad before the war. When Frances was a little girl, a tunnel ran from the basement of the house down to the river. Later, a few years after another son, Bert, was born in 1926, the family moved to a house on Goleta Avenue on Youngstown’s north side.

Frances Raven attended Jefferson School, Hayes Junior High School, and graduated in 1938 from The Rayen School. She worked as a lab technician in the office of Dr. Morris Rosenbloom located the Home Savings building in downtown Youngstown. During World War II, she lived and worked briefly in Los Angeles. Years later she remembered being there when she heard the news of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. After the war, she came back to Youngstown, married Alan, a businessman, and moved to New Castle, Pennsylvania, where they had two sons, David and Marc.

A photo of Frances, taken before World War II

Marc was born with Fragile X Syndrome, a condition which rendered him mentally retarded. At that time, there were few programs in the area to help the retarded. Special education classes in public schools were something new, and they were often unsatisfactory. Seeing the lack of attention they received, and concerned for Marc, Frances became involved in developing programs to aid the retarded.  The family to Canton, Ohio in 1960, where Frances stepped up her efforts. First, she formed a special Cub Scout den. She was active in the community, pressing for better treatment for the retarded. As time went on, she became a respected advocate for the retarded in Ohio, organizing groups, visiting Columbus to encourage legislators to press for help for those who could not help themselves.

She remarried in 1973 and moved to Warren, Ohio, where her new husband, David Sieman, was an attorney. Once there, she immediately became involved in promoting better conditions for the retarded. She formed a youth group, H.A.R.P. (Helping All Retarded People). Many of the members who were teenagers at the time still remember her fondly. After her husband died in 1985, Frances Raven Sieman stayed in Warren until her recent move to Heritage Manor, a wonderful nursing home in Youngstown, a few blocks from where she was born and where she grew up.

In 1987, her brother Bert Raven came to Warren to visit. He played a guitar as both of them sang some of the Yiddish and

Frances and her siblings: (left to right) Anne Raven Epstein, Bert Raven, wearing a black tie, Frances, Min Raven Winter, Jay Raven , and Dr. Clara Raven

Russian songs their mother had brought from Russia in 1914. Someone had given Bert a little cassette deck, and they used it to record their singing. That tape resurfaced in 2010, and with assistance from the multimedia office at UCLA, it was restored and transferred to CD. Among the songs on the CD is a Yiddish version of “My Darling Clementine.”

Listen to Fran and Bert, and learn more about the Yiddish songs they recorded.

Frances Raven Sieman today. at Heritage Manor in Youngstown

9 Responses to “Frances Raven Sieman”

  1. Joel Cohen says:

    Though I left comments about Fran on the other website where she sang I felt compelled to say it here, again — what a wonderful and unexpected joy to hear her and see her in the picture, after so many years. David, it was a mitzvah to pass this on. Best regards to you and Marc.

  2. Debra Fabrizio-Griggs says:

    My husband and I have loved Mrs. Sieman, David, & Marc for years. It is incredible the number of people that they have touched through their thoughtfulness and love. Mrs. Sieman has always been a beautiful representation of what a good heart can accomplish. It is wonderful to see the history and heritage that she has had. She continues to brighten many people’s day with her smile and positive attitude. I have been very fortunate to have known her and Marc for the past 19 years. With Love, Debra

  3. Carol Sherman says:

    How absolutely wonderful! What a fine tribute to Fran. I am forwarding this to Ronna Marlin, program director at Levy Gardens Assisted Living. Hopefully, Ronna will be able to share this with the tennants. Most of them know Fran and will enjoy the music. Thank you for your fine job in research and presentation.

  4. Gary Winter says:

    What a wonderful biography of Frances! And, as I listened to Fran singing beautifully, I could also “hear” my grandmother and my mother’s voices (Fran’s mother and sister). Thanks David, Bert, and of course Fran.

  5. Lisa Lefkort says:

    I knew Fran’s voice was clear and beautiful from hearing her sing at Shabbat Services. But hearing her sing these songs for pleasure with Bert has been exciting, and just delightful! Not all of the sound links worked, and 2 are My Clementine, but MY OH MY! To have the lyrics AND their translations available as well? I’m thrilled at the thought of being able to go and sing with her!

    I hope she is able to see (and hear) this page on someone’s computer at Heritage. I think she’d be very proud. And rightfully so. The story, the photographs and their singing are tremendous. What a wonderful thing YSU has done to make this available! Thanks to everyone involved in bringing this to fruition!

  6. Sandy Cohen Traugott says:

    What a pleasant surprise. I was stunned by Fran’s beautiful , melodious voice. What a wonderful tribute to a beautiful lady.

  7. Louise Lefkort says:

    I loved reading abt this wonderful family and their history. I’m still
    working on finding the sound but that will happen. I’ve heard Frances
    sing and loved every moment.

  8. Neal Samuels says:

    A beautiful lady singing beautifully. Throughout some difficult times, she has exhibited a richness of character which nobody can exceed (nor deny – to quote a phrase from a famous song)! Not only is David a cultural icon; he is clearly the best friend in the universe!

  9. jeanne tucker says:

    This is absolutely wonderful – what a treasure! I especially enjoyed listening to the joy in Fran’s voice as she sang Clementine with her brother. Thanks, David!

Leave a Comment