FRANCIS Joseph W. Francis, Jr. My Daddy. What can I say? He was a dedicated husband and father. Married to my mom for 38 years before his passing on December 29, 2019. He graduated in 1964 from Gonzaga High School. He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in October 1969. He worked for the Federal Government and prior to his retirement, he was promoted to Senior Intelligence Service (SIS). During his career he earned his master's degree at the Naval War College in Rhode Island. A lifelong learner, my father was a member of MENSA and attended college classes until the day of his passing. A true bibliophile, he surpassed his childhood goal of reading 10,000 books and was a member of Friends of Reston Regional Library. Joe was heavily involved in his local community and helped to save the lives of many men. He was an avid Jeopardy participant, having calls with his brother daily to discuss Final Jeopardy. Their daily banter was quite amusing to all of us in the family. He was a sports fan and supported his local teams - both Redskins and Georgetown Hoyas. During his final years Daddy's constant companion and loyal friend was his dog, Haze. Their daily walks aided in his recovery from a hip replacement and cardiac ailments. I miss him every day. I know our family does. My hope is by bringing this story forward, it will create a space for healing. Here's a window into my experience growing up with my father. I remember it was 8 a.m. on a Sunday after college graduation and I get a phone call. Ring ring! Ugh! My head hurts. Who is calling me this early? Don't they know we were partying last night? Ring ring! Ugh, stop it! Oh, its Daddy! Ok, quick. Do the "eh hem" so you don't sound like you were sleeping. "Hello?" I answered. "Hey, I'm outside," he said. "You're what?! How'd you get here this early?" I asked. "I drove thru the night," he stated plainly. "Um, okay. I'll be right down." So, I got dressed went to great him. We packed up four years of college stuff in a few hours and off we drove back to DC. And that was just like my dad. I think he liked to surprise you. He liked to have the upper hand. He knew he was smart. He wanted us to be smart too - his kids. I think I was in middle school or high school when I came home one time... "Daddy, look! I got an A!" I exclaimed. "94?" he questioned. "Should have studied harder." He was a perfectionist. Why shouldn't he expect great things from his kids? He took time to teach me, right? Imagine an eight-year-old little girl. And now imagine a stoic man rapping to his daughter as she learns her times tables. "Eight times four is?" he points to his daughter. "32!" I yelled proudly. Good times. Of course, not all times were good. I remember having a boy over to the house - we were in my room. My dad came home and was furious! Banging on the door. "Who's in there!?" Boy! Jimmy was so scared! He jumped out the window and ran as fast as he could. When I was 16 years old, my dad went thru a change in his life. And to give you an idea of the type of change, I remember my mom telling me, she said, "I'm falling in love with your dad all over again." My heart was filled with love and hope. From about 16-26 I started to build what would ultimately be the relationship I had with my dad in his passing. We would talk on the phone in short spurts. Daddy never talked for a long time. I would say something emotional. He would say, "Okay." I would say, "Daddy!?" and he would say, "Well, what do you want me to say, man!?" I would tell him his "lines" and he would repeat them back. I knew he was just copying me, but I felt like it meant he cared. And for years and years, we would have phone calls, I would always call him - he doesn't call. And for years I would say, "I love you" at the end of our conversation because I wanted him to know I loved him. You know, just in case he died - he talked about his mortality openly. "How are you doing daddy?" I'd call and ask. "Still pumping air," he'd reply. So, I wanted to make sure he knew I loved him. And I remember the day he said it back. "Love you too baby." I was so excited. It is forever marked in my memory. And my last story is this. We had a Skype call with my mom and my dad. Mom invited dad in - "I'm talking to the girls," she said. He walked slowly over to the computer and looked for the girls (my daughters) thru the camera. He then tried to relate to Lydia (she was 8 months old). He started patting his lap. She quickly copied him and started patting her lap. He just had the biggest smile on his face! And that is my last memory of my dad. Full of love and smiling. Rest in peace Daddy. I love you. "A life well lived is a precious gift, of hope and strength and grace, from someone who has made our world a brighter, better place. It's filled with moments, sweet and sad with smiles and sometimes tears, with friendships formed and good times shared and laughter through the years. A life well lived is a legacy, of joy and pride and pleasure, a living, lasting memory our grateful heart's will treasure.""A life well lived is a precious gift, of hope and strength and grace, from someone who has made our world a brighter, better place. It's filled with moments, sweet and sad with smiles and sometimes tears, with friendships formed and good times shared and laughter through the years. A life well lived is a legacy, of joy and pride and pleasure, a living, lasting memory our grateful heart's will treasure."
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Published by The Washington Post on Jun. 21, 2020.