J. Thomas Francis, 89, passed away peacefully at home in his sleep from recently diagnosed cancer on March 1, 2014 in Naples, Fla.
He was born on Dec. 29, 1924 in Canton to James C. Francis and Maxine Firestone Francis. Tom, a long time resident of Madison, Ohio, lived almost his entire life in northeastern Ohio and he had his winter home in Naples, Florida.
Tom will be warmly remembered as a great father, a loving husband, and a successful professional architect. He was a talented golfer who won many club championships, a strong overall athlete, and a proud veteran as a domestic pilot in the U. S. Army Air Corps. He was a steadfast friend to all and truly enjoyed his life. His philosophy was "make it look easy," which he did throughout his life and even in his death.
Tom was very fortunate to have two long marriages and was widowed twice. His first marriage from 1945 until 1987 was to his high school sweetheart, Beverly Jane Aho, who predeceased him in 1987. Several years after the death of Beverly, Tom then married Fay Green Atkin of Madison in 1989 and they had a 22 year marriage until Fay died in 2011.
Tom graduated from Ashtabula Harbor High School in 1942. After one year at Ohio State University, where he was a member of the freshman basketball team, Tom left to join the U. S. Army Air Corps. For the duration of World War II, he served as a domestic pilot and achieved the rank of Second Lieutenant. After World War II finished in 1945, Tom received his honorable discharge from the U. S. Army Air Corps. He then returned to college and attended the University of Cincinnati where he received a bachelor of science in architecture in 1950. Tom earned 7 varsity letters in college (3 in golf as number one man and team captain and 4 in track and field, where he was a pole vaulter.) Interestingly both are intercollegiate sports that have their competitive seasons in the spring.
He began his professional career in 1950 with the architectural firm of Green, Smith and Associates, in Painesville, which later became Green, Smith, Francis Associates. After 20 years with the firm, he then formed his own firm to pursue golf course architecture in addition to his existing architectural business. A number of the buildings he designed during his career received local awards and one golf course was used as a site for an LPGA tournament for many years. Tom had a low key demeanor and he had a very creative mind.
In addition to his architectural career, he applied for and received several United States patents, including a patent for the Ready-Seat golf cart, which was a commercial success sold at golf courses mainly in Ohio. He was also always interested in new ideas, such as solar power and solar heating, water desalination plants and other related developments. Tom was an active member of Madison Golf and Country Club for 60 years, where he won many golf club championships, and senior club championships. He successfully maintained his golf game throughout the years as he shot his age in golf every year from age 70 to age 85. He truly enjoyed spending many days at the club with all of his close friends.
Tom was predeceased by both his parents; his brother Jerry, of Phoenix, Ariz. and by both his spouses.
He is survived by all of his extended family. Tom was quite close to and very proud of J. Stuart Francis and Thomas John Francis, his two sons from his marriage to Beverly. Additionally, his survivors include four grandchildren, Andrea Francis,
Emily Francis, Mick Francis and Lucy Francis; three stepchildren, Linda Morley, Roger Atkin and Richard Atkin; three step grandchildren, Kacy Morley, Abby Morley DeMarco and Daniel Atkin; and his one step great-grandchild Bella Fay Walters.
A memorial service to honor Tom's life will be scheduled in late April or May. A public announcement will follow. And final interment will be at Dock Road Cemetery, Madison. While a low key personal remembrance by those who knew him is all Tom would desire, in lieu of flowers, feel free to remember him by making a donation to The First Tee of Cleveland, 3841 Washington Park Blvd., Newburgh Heights, OH, 44105 or to The United States Golf Association, P.O. Box 708 Far Hills, N.J., 07931--each for the support of children's involvement in the great game of golf.
The Francis family is being served by The Behm Family Funeral Home, 26 River St., Madison, Ohio, 44057.
Behm Family Funeral Home & Crematory
26 River Street Madison, OH 44057
Published in www.News-Herald.com on Mar. 16, 2014