Jean Davis Francis, 91, died on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, from complications of Parkinson's disease. She was born in Columbus, Ohio, on July 23, 1922, to Myrtle Morgan Davis and Charles "Charlie" Milton Davis, and was their only child.
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She is survived by her daughter, Carol F. Knight, and son-in-law, Peter F. Knight, M.D., of Austin; and by her granddaughter, Sarah Dickinson Little, of Chicago.
Jean was predeceased by her parents and by her grandparents, Marion W. Davis and Nanny Smiley Davis of Dublin, Ohio, and Mr. and Mrs. Johnston Corwin Morgan, of Lancaster, Ohio. She also was predeceased by her husband, Lewis (Lew) Francis, M.D., of Troy, Ohio; and by her daughters, Patricia Francis MacAshan and Joy Francis Seufert.
Jean's mother, Myrtle, died of pneumonia when Jean was 9 years old, after which she and her father moved to Upper Arlington, Ohio, where she said she lived a perfect childhood with friends, tennis and swimming, and where she graduated from Upper Arlington High School. She met her future husband, Lew, in their freshman French class at Ohio State University. When they told Jean's father they wanted to get married, he asked them to wait six months because he thought Lew was just a "young whippersnapper." Six months later they married and lived rent-free in one of Charlie's apartment buildings in exchange for collecting rents and shoveling coal.
Jean graduated from Ohio State University in 1942, after which she worked in the OSU dairy until Lew graduated from medical school in 1945. Just as they'd planned, their eldest daughter, Carol, was born that same year. The family moved to Ft. Worth, Texas, where Lew completed his internship at Herrmann Memorial Hospital, and then to Galveston, Texas, where he worked in the Public Health Service and where their second daughter, Patricia, was born. While in Galveston, two ships blew up in what was later called the "Texas City Disaster." Days after the explosion, Jean took clean clothes to the hospital for Lew because his clothes were covered with blood after treating so many patients.
Later, the family moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Lew completed his residency in anesthesia at Massachusetts General Hospital. Their third daughter, Joy, was born in Boston. Jean remembered her life in Cambridge with great fondness because lots of young families were just starting out and dozens of children played in the neighborhood.
The family moved to Piedmont, Calif., where Lew began his career in anesthesia while Jean cared for their daughters. Like her mother, Jean contracted pneumonia but the availability of antibiotics saved her life. In 1951, the family moved to Lexington, Ky., where Jean was active in the Second Presbyterian Church and started a Meals-on-Wheels program. In 1987, tragedy came into her life when her daughters, Patricia and Joy, died by their own hands.
After many years in Kentucky, Jean and Lew moved to Gadsden, where he served as chief of anesthesia. Jean was not pleased about the move but they went anyway and she enjoyed her life there and made good friends, in particular Betty Simpson and other members of her weekly lunch group. Jean was active in the local mental health association and volunteered in the Etowah County Mental Health Center. Lew died in 1995 and, in 2011, Jean moved to Austin to live with her daughter and son-in-law.
Jean devoted her life to her children, dogs and books, reading for many hours every day. When her daughters were young, she took them to the Lexington Public Library every two weeks, without fail. Jean was a quiet, supportive mother who never raised her voice. After her children were grown, she and Lew enjoyed traveling to many other countries.
The family would like to express its gratitude to Hospice Austin and to Jean's caregivers during the last two years of her life, in particular Jenny Norman, Chris Hanson, Nancy Gagnon and Maria Lightfoot.
At Jean's request, no ceremony will be held.
In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests donations to the National Mental Health Association, the National Parkinson's Foundation, the Multiple Sclerosis Society or Hospice Austin.
Published in The Gadsden Times on Mar. 2, 2014