"There are no
ordinary people..."
C. S. Lewis

John P. Francis

Born: 
Monday, October 7, 1940
Died: 
Thursday, April 20, 2023
Birthplace: 
Grand Rapids, MI

John P. Francis passed away peacefully on April 20th, 2023 at age 82 following an eight-year struggle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was surrounded by his loving family, wife Janet, daughter Joanna and son in-law Mark Wilson. 

Born October 7, 1940 in Grand Rapids MI in a Lithuanian community, he graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in chemistry.  In July 1967 he was hired by United Airlines as a pilot, initially based in Detroit as a flight engineer on the DC-6.  He soon relocated to Chicago, where he met the love of his life, Janet, then a Pan Am flight attendant who had recently moved from the UK.  The couple married in April 1971 and enjoyed a happy marriage with many adventures over the years, welcoming daughter Joanna in 1980.  The highlight of John's career was a three month temporary assignment in London where he flew 727s around Europe, and where 11 year old Joanna attended a local school.   

John was known for his calm demeanor, dry sense of humor, love of learning, travel, and ability to fix just about anything around the house.  He renovated two bathrooms, a kitchen, and built a three level deck at the family home in Mount Prospect, Illinois, as well as taking on many unique woodworking projects.  

Perhaps the moment that most summed up John’s personality was when he was seen relaxing on a cruise ship deck chair reading a calculus textbook.  He never stopped learning.  John is lovingly and gratefully remembered by his sister Marcie Francis for his patient mentorship through her educational years.  Because of him she became a chemist and met her husband while attending the University of Michigan with John's encouragement and support. 

John retired in October 2000 as a Boeing 777 Captain in Chicago, having enjoyed his career immensely.  He was very proud that both Joanna and son-in-law Mark are also pilots with United.  They are both grateful to have had such an example to follow in the profession and for the many enjoyable opportunities to swap flying stories.  

In retirement John and Jan moved west to Bellingham WA for a better climate and for John to fulfill his wish of returning to school.  John attended Western Washington University to study math, physics, and astronomy. He did well in all his courses.  He loved to golf until his problems with Parkinson’s prevented him from having a game he could enjoy.  Through his golf and studies, Jan and John met their very closest friends Dick and Sylvia Gerry and Arlie and Diane Norman.   

Jan and John loved to travel. They participated in over 20 Road Scholar courses, ocean and river cruises, as well as many trips back to the UK to see Jan’s family and friends.  The couple were also frequent volunteers at the Whatcom Museum, WWU, and at community meals.  

John is survived by his wife of 52 years, Janet, daughter Joanna and son-in-law Mark, sister Marcie and brother-in-law Fred Arnold.  
 

Guestbook Entries

Submitted by Scott Young on

We never met but we knew you well from Mark and Joanna. The stories were wonderful!

Submitted by Joan Clowes on

What an outstanding man he was! Smart, capable, and kind, we will always remember him as our friend.

Submitted by CJ Nathon on

Margaret and I will truly miss this fine and gentle man with our only regret being that we were only able to know for the last 18 years of his life.  Our love to Jan and Joanna.

Submitted by Rita Gibbon on

John, my lovely brother-in-law....Kind, witty, so clever, a wonderful family man... you will be missed by all who knew you....

Submitted by Rita Gibbon on

John, my lovely brother-in-law.  Kind....witty....a wonderful family man.  You will be missed by everyone that knew you....

Submitted by Angela Almond on

We never met, but I felt I knew you through my Internet friendship with Jan. You were a good and loving man, generous, thoughtful, and a true friend to many. You will be greatly missed - may those who mourn be comforted by the good memories of the love, life and laughter you shared.

 

Submitted by Mary Ann Master... on

“A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out” George Bernard Shaw
That quote describes John perfectly. He was a true gentleman and a man of honor. We are better for knowing him.
I, (Mary Ann), was his first cousin. I always thought of him throughout life as someone who had a deep respect for others opinions, beliefs and aspirations. He was extremely intelligent, non-judgemental, quiet and unobtrusive, and he had an insatiable thirst for knowledge. He loved his wife, Jan, deeply. He also was so very proud of his daughter, Joanna, especially when they could share the title of "Pilot" together. He gave more than he took and left all richer for knowing him.
We will miss him. Love, Mary Ann and Sharon

Submitted by Eva Teichmann on

Wer im Gedächtnis seiner Lieben lebt, der ist nicht tot, der ist nur fern; tot ist nur, wer vergessen wird. Immanuel Kant

My mother was a friend of Janet and that's how I got in touch with Janet and John.
In 2017 we were able to meet in Cologne and spent a very nice afternoon together. Beautiful memories
He will be missed. Our thoughts are with his loved ones

Submitted by Vicky Brearley on

I never met John but knew of him from my online friendship with Jan. I loved my updates on their life together, tales of their travels, neighbourhood adventures and the work done on their home and garden. John battled with Parkinson's heroically and it never seemed to stop him enjoying life. Sending my sincere condolences to Jan, Joanna, Mark, Marcie and Fred.I shall raise a glass later to a life well lived.

Submitted by Robyn Faulkner on

We were very privileged to have met John and Janet on our cruise to Alaska, and to have an internet connection since.  We send our condolences to Janet, Joanna and Mark, and wish them comfort in the knowledge that everyone has a very high opinion of them both as a couple, and admiration for their stoic dedication throughout the Parkinson journey.

Submitted by Diana Bennett on

I haven't seen John for many years but he was a very loving husband and father. I am sure he will be greatly missed by you all and anyone who knew him.

Submitted by Charm and Dan on

We were so sad to hear the news.  Although we've only been in touch through Jan's emails for the last few years, he's been in our thoughts as he carried on.  He was a kind an loving man and we enjoyed his friendship very much.  He will be missed by everyone who knew him.  

Submitted by Diana Boekema on

I reconnected with Jan, a friend from high school,, about 15 years ago. From that time, there was no doubt how much Jan and John meant to each other. They especially enjoyed volunteering, taking walks, cruising, learning, and loving each other. Jan, you will cherish those memories.
Our deepest sympathies to you, Joanna and Mark.

Submitted by Robyn Curtis on

What a privilege it was to meet John. He embodies what I strive to be, which is gentle, intelligent, and kind. Just witnessing the love between you all is inspirational and I'm so grateful to have met your lovely family, Jan and Joanna. 

Submitted by Clive Beardsmore on

I have known Jan all my life, and was lucky enough to first meet John over 50 years ago. I have already recorded my memory of John's patience and kindness. His practicality and knowledge of technology put me to shame. I have fond memories of staying with Jan and John in their lovely home in Bellingham some years ago. 

Submitted by George Clowes on

We got to know Jan & John and Joanna when they lived in Mount Prospect with a white pet rabbit in their backyard. John had such an optimistic embrace of life that he was always a pleasure to be with, and he had such a wide range of interests and knowledge that he was always interesting to talk with. He will be missed, but he will long be remembered, and his infectious positivity will live on in the many people he influenced to share his outlook on life.

Submitted by Lee Willis on

Dear Jan, this is a beautiful tribute to John and the remarkable life you created together! I wish I had known him, I see that he was an exceptional man and that the world was blessed by his life. I love seeing all the great photos !

My heart goes out to you.  Let me know if you'd like to meet for a cup of tea or wine or? Take care, my friend.

 

Submitted by Jim Quigley on

Here is what I wrote today to Jan when I learned about John passing away from my older sister:  Dear Jan, I learned from Harriet that your beloved John passed away. Please accept my condolences. May the empty places his passing no doubt must leave within you fill up with the many happy memories he also no doubt left in abundance. I have happy memories of that good man. So many social occasions with my parents, dining with you both, having laughter with you both. More than a few times I joined Dad and John for a round of golf. Man, could that guy drive a golf ball. He was always the good sport too complimenting me when I occasionally managed to hit a good shot... offering encouragement when he could clearly see my pain at my less than good ones. I may have told you this story, but I was on a United Airlines flight once from Cleveland to Chicago. As I left the airplane I poked my head into the cockpit to offer my compliments to the flight crew and asked if anyone was acquainted with one John Francis. One of them immediately replied to the affirmative and with the affirmation of John's skill as a pilot and charm as a person. I seem to remember him saying something about John's daughter also being an aviator? Anyway, I'll remember that handsome face and kind smile... a true gentleman. My parents were both fond of him... and you too. Yours in sympathy, Jim  (Jan is aware that my mother Wilma passed away in February at the age of 104. My ftaher, Harold, passed away in 2005... they became friends with John and Jan when they resided in Libertyville, IL for over 20 years)... death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.

Submitted by Suzanne Appel F... on

A fortuitous meeting at Wendy's restaurant in Bellingham two years ago led my husband, John, and me to meet John and Janet, his lovely wife of 52 years for regular monthly lunches around town. It was obvious that Janet and John were absolutely devoted to each other and the loss of John to Parkinson's was difficult for all to witness. We feel privileged to have known John for the short time we were allowed. His gentle nature and sense of humor and intellect allowed us to see what an exceptional person, husband and father he was. Sincere condolences to Janet, daughter, Joanne and son-in-law Marc. 

Submitted by Doris Esslinger on

Janet, thanks for the beautiful tribute to John. We first met you and Mum on a cruise. Later met you and John stayed with us at Csrver House while you were looking over the Lehigh Valley as a possible retirement home.  Instead you chose WA.  You have my sympathy on the passing of your beloved John. 

Submitted by Nancy on

John was extraordinarily brilliant, honest & very funny! I had the great honor of spending time with him as part of his caregiving team. I wish I had more time to share & I wish I had told him how special he truly was & how much he meant to me. He 

Submitted by Nancy on

John will never be forgoten and will forever live in our hearts. He has left an incredible legacy with his brilliant, talented  daughter Joanna whom just like him is an accomplished pilot & with his lovely wife Jan, with whom he shared a beautiful life. To witness their love was something so magical! A love & bond that strong never ends- it lives on forever more. 
It was clear to see that Dear John Francis lived a truly remarkable life! Filled with good friends, a loving family, & so much joy. He will be missed. Love you John 

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