BURLINGTON- Harry McDonald “Don” Francis, Jr. 86, went home to be with the Lord on Wednesday, January 29, 2020. He was a native of Mercer County West Virginia and the husband of 60 years to Margaret Thompson Thornton Francis who survives. He was the son of the late Harry McDonald Francis, Sr. and Dorothy Shrewsbury Francis.
Don was a man of many talents, hobbies and convictions. He lived a life of service to his family, church and community. He was kind and generous, had a quick wit and was respected and admired by those who knew him. He was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, son and brother. He was a proud “Hokie” to the core and loved his alma mater Virginia Tech even when his mind was failing him. He was in the Corps of Cadets and played the trombone in the Highty-Tighties. He often spoke of marching in President Eisenhower’s inaugural parade. Don exhibited a tireless work ethic and wrote and talked about hitch-hiking to and from college, then working long hours after his classes in “Sutphin’s Store” and “Spangler and Gore, the Working Man’s Store” before doing his homework. He graduated in 1955 with a degree in Public Administration, but was also drawn to the ministry.
Don went to the Candler School of Theology at Emory University after graduation from V.P.I. In 1958 he came home to West Virginia to work as a youth director/assistant pastor at the Methodist Temple in Beckley and there he met his future wife, Margaret Thornton. Margaret was a school teacher and played the piano. Don was looking for a pianist and she was recommended to him. They started dating and were married in 1959 in the Methodist Temple. Their first daughter, Beth was born in 1960 in Beckley and their second daughter, Becky was born in 1961 in Alexandria, Va. when Don was a student at Wesley Theological Seminary at American University in Washington, DC. He also worked full time as an associate pastor at Trinity Methodist Church while going to school full-time and being a husband and father.
Don served in a small three-point Methodist circuit in Pittsylvania County, Va. and spent a year teaching in junior high before returning to his business roots. He took a job as a banker in Narrows, Va, which led to a permanent career as a banker in southwest Virginia. The family moved to Marion, Va. in 1970 where Don was manager and senior vice president of Dominion Bank until 1994. While in Marion, Don was a leader in the community serving on numerous boards: Smyth County Community Hospital, First United Methodist Church, American Cancer Society (Virginia Crusade Chairman in 1985), Chamber of Commerce, Smyth County Historical Museum and Society, Smyth County Educational Foundation, Inc., and Wytheville Community College. Don was a member and past president of the Kiwanis Club, and he co-founded the Smyth County Industrial Council to bring industry and business to the area. He was honored by Emory and Henry College in 1988 on their Charter Day and was a member of the local Mensa International. He holds a diploma for both the Virginia School of Bank Management at UVA and Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Rutgers.
His love for books led him to an interest in a renowned American author, Sherwood Anderson, who owned two Marion newspapers in the 1930s. Don co-founded the Sherwood Anderson Association and started the annual Sherwood Anderson Short Story Contest in 1976. As a young boy, Don collected books and he never outgrew it. To this day, he has an extensive library of rare books. He also loved collecting coins, stamps, fountain pens and unique antiques. Don was also a Civil War History buff and enjoyed attending history related events.
Don was a cancer survivor and had 3 heart surgeries in the past 20 years. Sadly, he developed dementia in his early 80s and passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease. The family will gladly accept donations to the Alzheimer’s Association in Don’s memory.
Survivors include his wife, Margaret Francis of the home; daughters, Margaret Elizabeth Francis (Alicia McMahan) of Woodbridge, Virginia and Rebecca Francis (Robert) Springer of Chapel Hill, NC; grandchildren, Maggie Springer, Grant Springer, Perry Francis and Riley Francis; brother, Bob (Elaine) Francis of Louisville, Kentucky; sister, Mary Ella Francis (Jerry) Noel of Princeton, West Virginia.
A service celebrating his life will be held at Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church in Greensboro at 3:00pm Saturday, February 8, 2020 by Rev. Andrew Brown. The family will have a reception for family and friends following the service in the fellowship hall of the church. The family will receive friends from 5-7pm on Friday, February 7, 2020 at Lowe Funeral Home and Crematory. A graveside(chapel) service will be held at 2:00pm on Sunday, February 9, 2020 at Sunset Memorial Gardens, Beckley, West Virginia by Rev. Steve Hamrick.
You may sign the online register book at www.lowefuneralhome.com.
To send flowers to Harry's family, please visit our floral section.