On February 24, 2019, longtime Syracuse resident, Tom Francis, passed away at his home in Utica, NY with his wife, Laurie, by his side. His passing was the result of a valiant 10 year battle with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.
Tom was born on February 3, 1947 in Rutland, Vermont to the late Harold Francis and Beulah Walker Francis. On October 31, 1969, he married Lorelei (Laurie) Wetsig at her family's home in Utica. He graduated from Utica College of Syracuse University with a degree in Contracting and Construction in 1970.
In 1969, Tom began his lifelong commitment to housing and community development with his first job as Zoning Administrator/Chief Inspector for the City of Utica, Department of Codes Enforcement. In 1974, he was hired by the City of Syracuse, first as a Senior Program Planner, Department of Community Development and then, in 1978, as Assistant Director, Syracuse Division of Buildings and Property Rehabilitation. In 1981, Tom was named Executive Director of Syracuse Neighborhood Services (SNHS). Six years later, he became the Executive Director of Syracuse Model Neighborhood Corporation (SMNC) where he remained until his retirement in June 2015.
Tom was proud of several accomplishments while with SMNC including the management of 244 apartments in 104 buildings, and the construction and sale of 135 new single family homes to moderate-income families. During that same period, SMNC developed over $8 million in residential rehabilitation projects utilizing private financing and directed the restoration of 4 historic buildings in a National Register Historic District with a total investment of $1.080 million for which they received an award from the Preservation Association of Central New York.
When not working, Tom loved to travel, especially to New Orleans or boating with his wife and friends in the Finger Lakes, Lake Champlain and in Canada with Old Port Montreal being his favorite boating destination. He was always happy, interested in others, and a friend to all. In recent years, Tom and Laurie added RVing to their activities with summers in Orwell, VT and fall trips to Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida and the eastern coastline.
When asked what his best accomplishment was and what made him happiest, Tom always said being the parent of two successful and happy children, his daughter, Stephanie and his son, Jeremy. And if that wasn't enough, eight years ago Tom became "Tommy" to his two beautiful grandchildren, Isla Susan Francis and Kian Adams Francis. His family made him the happiest man in the world. In addition to his immediate family, Tom is also survived by two sisters, Martha Clifford and her husband, Jack; and Virginia Jackson; two brothers, Rick Francis and his wife, Janis; and Michael Francis and his wife, Marianne as well as 10 nieces and nephews and their offspring. In addition to his parents, Tom was predeceased by his parents, and infant brother, Peter, and his mother and father-in-law, Irene and Chester Wetsig.
A special thank you is extended to Dr. Komgrit Chukiert and his devoted pulmonary staff in Utica, NY and to Hospice & Palliative Care, Inc. based in New Hartford, NY. These providers made it possible for Tom to live the remainder of his life comfortably in the warmth of his home with his loving family attending to his care.
A celebration of Tom's life is planned for Thursday, March 21 with visitation from 2 – 4PM immediately followed by a Celebration of Life service at the Burns-Garfield Funeral Home at 3175 E. Genesee Street Syracuse, NY. Please join us to share your stories about Tom.
If you would like to make a contribution in Tom's memory, please consider the Pulmonary Fibrosis Fund at the HealthWell Foundation. When sending your gift, please include the name of the fund (Pulmonary Fibrosis Fund) as well as Tom's name. Checks may be made out and mailed to:
HealthWell Foundation Headquarters
20440 Century Blvd., Suite 250
Germantown, MD 20874
If you would prefer to make your gift electronically, please go to support@HealthWellFoundation.org
Your gift to the HealthWell Foundation Pulmonary Fibrosis Fund will fill a critical need. Four out of 10 Americans with health insurance coverage cannot afford their copays, premiums and deductibles. Your donation helps the Foundation fulfill its mission — to reduce financial barriers to care for underinsured patients with chronic or life-altering diseases.