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James Joseph Francis


James Joseph Francis
Born: June 10, 1946 in Jacksonville, Florida
Parents: Joe J. Francis and Dora Elizabeth Francis, nee Thompson
Brother: Charles Leo Francis
After graduation I enjoyed the summer months of 1964 and then joined the Air Force in September. Following basic training at Lackland AFB in Texas, I was assigned to Keesler AFB in Biloxi Mississippi to attend electronics tech school for a year. Once tech school was completed in October 1965, my next duty station was a satellite tracking/early warning radar site located in remote/outback Turkey, a place called Diyarbakir. The unit designation was TUSLOG Detachment 75. My 12-month Turkey assignment ended in October 1966 with a dream assignment to the 306th Bomb Wing A&E Squadron, McCoy AFB in Orlando where I was cross trained to maintain the ECM systems on B52s. It truly was a dream assignment for a Florida boy. After several months of stateside duty I volunteered to go to Southeast Asia and by May 1967 I was assigned to the 620th Tactical Control Squadron located at Monkey Mountain RVN on the Son Tra Peninsular approximately 12 miles East of DaNang. Rotated back to the states in May 1968 to finish my enlistment at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma. After some serious thought I decided to leave the Air Force in December 1968 and give school a try. I entered FJC in January 1969 graduated with honors and an Associate in Science degree in 1971. I was a very fortunate young man in 1971 as I was hired by Southern Bell as a manager in May, in August I married a very special young lady, Donna Jeanne Harris, who I met during the summer of '69 and joined the Florida Air National Guard as I really missed the military. I got the itch to go to school again in 1975 and began night classes at the University of North Florida. 1978 was another great year as our first son Jason was born and I graduated from UNF with a Bachelor of Technology degree. Donna, baby Jason and I moved to Orange Park late in 1978 to eventually take advantage of the school system. In 1982 our second son Adam was born and we continued to live a charmed life together. Throughout the years that followed we became the typical parents, enjoying family life, fully participating in the growth of our sons and enjoying life from moment to moment. I retired from the Florida Air Guard as a crusty Master Sergeant in 1994. I continued to be employed as a manager for the telephone company which is now known as AT&T. Our charmed life began to fade in July of 2009 when Donna was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer and despite the best treatment efforts of the medical professionals at the Mayo Clinic she passed away on December 17, 2009. After more than 38 years of bliss the music stopped so to speak.
I have very special family members who have all been very supportive.
Jason, Adam and I spoke at Donna's funeral service. The following is the narrative I composed and presented:

Donna Jeanne Francis was an unbelievable woman, wife, mother, sister, aunt as well as friend to so many. I had the good fortune that she chose me to be her soul mate for more than 38 years. She was very simply a special person who always wanted to make others feel special whether they were family or friends. Over the years she would be known by many labels so to speak... Wife, Sister, Dental Assistant, Team Mom, Den Mother, Secretary, etc. but her proudest title was just Mom. Her mission from her time as very young girl was driven towards family. Our two sons, Jason and Adam, are her proudest accomplishments and what she was will live on through them. She mentored and mothered them, instilling values which mirrored her own..... Be Kind To Others, Be Truthful and Trustworthy, Take Responsibility For your Actions, etc.. By any measure she surely succeeded.
As for me, Donna taught me to be a better person. She helped smooth my rough edges over the years. Our love for each other was unconditional. We were a team. We enjoyed each other, we enjoyed our family and friends...together. She was always and still is my inspiration.
We grew from a young couple dating to a commitment of marriage forming a family and ultimately shaping the future of our two sons. In this she never wavered.
Donna's struggle with cancer was cruel but she never lost her will. Through 6 different drug regimens, countless blood draws and infusions she continued to fight and maintain her positive attitude. In the end, the treatments wore down her body but not her spirit. Reflecting on her final moment with us I was blessed to have one last opportunity to look into her eyes and tell her again that I loved her and always would.
She passed very peacefully as we all hoped she would. I know in my heart that my angel here on earth is now in heaven. She was and continues to be an inspiration to me and I believe everyone she touched. She was my most trusted navigator in life. I know life goes on but it won't be the same without her. I miss my sweet angel and I always will.

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