Jennifer Ryan became close to Bob Hughes after the death of her husband, Chuck Ryan. Chuck knew that he was dying and made his med-school buddy, Bob Hughes, promise to look after his family. Bob kept his promise and soon he and Jennifer fell in love and made plans to marry. Though Jennifer's sweet teenage daughter, Barbara, was very happy for her mother, a big obstacle in Jennifer and Bob's wedding plans was her son, Rick. Rick was very close with his father and resented Bob's relationship with his mother. Rick made no secret of his dislike of Bob and even refused to attend the wedding. What should have been a happy marriage was further strained because of Rick. Rick was studying to become a doctor and Jennifer and Bob had many arguments about him. While Jennifer felt that Bob should go easy on her son and forgive his mistakes, Bob was unwilling to cut his stepson any slack for what he considered shoddy work. Soon they started to drift apart.
Just when the marriage seemed over, Jennifer found herself pregnant. At the same time, she discovered that her sister, Kim, was also pregnant with Bob's child! Realizing that she'd driven Bob away by putting her feelings before his, she forgave them both and vowed to put her marriage first. Jennifer soon gave birth to a baby girl who she named Frances, after her mother. Unfortunately, the marriage continued to be strained not only because of Rick but also Bob's wish that Jennifer be a stay at home mom. Tragically, not long after Rick left Oakdale to "find himself" Jennifer lost her life in a car crash, leaving behind her infant daughter, Frannie.
Five years after Jennifer’s death, Kim, while putting flowers on Jennifer's grave, was approached by a young woman named Melinda Grey who claimed to be Jennifer's daughter. Though Melinda produced a locket that had a picture of a young Jennifer in it, Kim was obviously still skeptical and went to the family pastor, Rev. Booth. Reverend Booth confirmed that Jennifer had indeed gotten pregnant and given her child up, something she never forgave herself for. Since Booth also knew about the locket that Jennifer left for her baby, Kim was sure Melinda was telling the truth and accepted the girl. Tragically, Melinda died in a drowning a few years later.
Over twenty years after her death, Jennifer appeared to a comatose Kim in a dream. While Kim was recovering from heart surgery, Jennifer showed her all the people who cared about her and urged her to hang onto her life.