Noel M Francis was my mother’s older half-brother and my God-Father
Died: March 2005
Parents: Noel Francis, Francis (Lyon) Castillo
Siblings: Carmen (Castillo) Schultz, Ralph G Castillo
Married To: Wilma Francis
Children: Michael Francis, Lynn (Francis) Rashleigh, Bradly Francis
Noel M Francis
My Godfather is my mother’s older brother Noel Francis. When I was growing up in Detroit, his family lived about 60 miles north, in Fenton. I can remember loving to go visit them because they lived next to the family graveyard and had a cabin-cruiser boat at the lake. I also remember thinking how cool it was that they had a bar in the basement and the floor was a shuffleboard court.
My Uncle Noel has always been a fun loving party monster; I seldom remember seeing him without a cold drink in one hand, a smoldering Camel in the other, and a big smile on his face.
When I was about 13, my brother Doug and I took our first plane trip from NYC to Detroit to stay with them for the summer. I am sure he paid for it, as there was no way in Hell my family could have. While we were visiting, a friend of theirs who lived on the lake, went out of town for a few weeks — so we house-sat his lake house. It was then I knew I would need to live on a lake when I grew up. I also remember that while we were there the very last episode of “The Fugitive” ran. It was a very big deal.
It was on this trip that I noticed that his family had much nicer stuff than we did, they were less stressed out than we were, he always had a new car (while when we had a car it often would break down somewhere), and that Uncle Noel had a lot of friends that visited often. Now sometimes a kid’s interpretation is not exactly what reality is — but it sure seemed like they were having a better time than we were. It was then that I realized that he was making good money because he had worked hard to move up the corporate ladder for the same company his entire working career. He was a manager at General Motors (retired maybe 20 years ago) and would leave for work at 5AM each morning.
A few years later, he moved his family to Lake Fenton and we would visit every couple of years as our vacation. Some of the best times of my life were staying with them and going out on his pontoon boat. My cousins Mike, Lynn and Brad are some of the best people you will ever meet.
He and my Aunt Wilma moved to a lake in Hot Springs Village after they retired. My wife, kids, and I would visit them about once a year for those pontoon boat rides and excellent dinners. They have since moved back to Michigan to be closer to Lynn and Brad.
My Uncle Noel is a good and generous man. He is very Catholic, reads from the Bible first thing each morning, and goes to church a couple times a week. They have always supported the church with a fat weekly envelope. From him I have learn that you help family that are less fortunate than you, and that hard work (with a plan), dedication, and company loyalty will pay off.
I am happy to report that my uncle has completely given up drinking and smoking so he can extend his time with his family — but that he still always has that smile on his face. I hope he makes it to a hundred!
Note: I originally wrote the above back in 1996. Sadly, I need to report that my Godfather lost his battle with cancer in March 2005, less than six months after his eldest son Michael had died.
I am thankful to have been able to visit with him a week before he died, and to let him know that I loved him and that he was my biggest hero.
I have an ancestry web site, which quite honestly has been neglected in the last few years. I hope to be able to convince the people who were closest to him, and knew him best (his wife, brother, sister, cousin, and children), will document their memories of Uncle Noel so that future generations of my family will know of him.
Noel M Francis
By Carmen Schultz
Noel Michael Francis was born to Frances Mary (Lyon) Francis and Noel Michael Francis Sr. on July 2nd. He is seven years older than I am and so although he never was a playmate, he has always been an outstanding brother. For as long as I can remember Noel has been my hero and for good reason. I consider him one of the most generous loving people I know and smart as well as he married a wonderful girl named Wilma (Willie to her friends).
From the time I was small, if ever I needed help in any way, there was Noel waiting to give a helping hand. I remember riding on his bicycle handlebars when he was 15 or 16. In later years he would take me to school in his old jalopy. His car was always parked out on the street under the pear tree so it could be pushed easily to get it started. He needed someone to ride with him in his car, to sit in the back seat and brace his or her legs up against the drivers seat so it wouldn’t fall back.
When he went into the Navy during WWII, it was an important day for the entire family. We knew we’d miss him, we were frightened that something would happen to our loving brother, but also we were so very proud of him looking so handsome in his uniform with the bell bottoms and the many buttons. His white sailor cap made him look just outstanding. My mother and dad had put the blue silk cloth banner with an embroidered gold star in our window, which is what every family did when one of their members went into the service. There were families who had several in the service and so they had a gold star for each member. If one member died in the service, the gold star was changed to silver, which was very sad. I remember mom preparing a box every other week with goodies (cakes, crackers, cheeses, etc.) in it to send to Noel. Noel laughed about sharing a slice of cake with a mate only to have said mate pull out of his mouth, one of the very long hairpins that Mom used to hold up her hair. Did she get teased about the “dangerous hairpin episode.” Noel was always sending Bud and me boxes of candy bars and packs of cigarettes for the folks. This was special since it was hard to get either on the home front. Gosh we missed him and you can’t believe the letters that went back and forth.
When Noel got out of the service, he went back to school to get his diploma and this is where he met Willie (the sister I always prayed for). They married shortly there after and I was overjoyed. I had been the only girl with three brothers and I felt quite the loner but now that Noel had brought Willie into the family I was no longer the only girl and I was overjoyed. Willie was always doing things for me that made me feel really grown up. She gave me a bathing suit that she had made and like WOW! It was so “adult looking” as it was a two-piece and the bottom piece laced up the sides. I’ll tell you, did I think I was hot stuff. You couldn’t get me out of that suit. When I was 12 I belonged to a dance group that traveled to another town and I wore a formal for this trip. Noel and Willie bought me my first corsage for that dance. It took my breath away because I was so thrilled.
This was the way things were. Throughout my life my brother Noel and his wife Willie were always there to make me feel special and loved. Duane and I had some pretty hard times and were not able to afford many things or do many things early in our marriage. Some of our most enjoyable “Vacations” were weekends when we were invited to Noel and Willies house on the lake. The children really got to run around in the fresh air and swim and boat and enjoy themselves while Noel and Willie spent their time making sure that we were pampered silly and fed until we burst. The kids still talk about Noels “garbage can dinners”, which consisted of sausages, corn, potatoes etc. cooked outside in a brand new garbage can. This meal was cooked when there were tons of people invited over. I know that all my children have a very, very special place in their hearts for my brother Noel and my sister Willie, as they were the perfect aunt and uncle. Even now, my kids do many of the things that they were taught through example by my brother. They remember how they felt when he did these things for them. My grandchildren couldn’t have better aunts and uncles because, they were taught by experts.
When Duane and I divorced, it was very difficult for the children and for me, emotionally, financially and every other way you can imagine. It was at a very low time in my life, and I wasn’t much interested in living. I did so only because I knew the kids needed me. I felt very much alone and I hated the world for doing this to me. It was at this time that Noel and Willie called me, and got me going again. They had plane tickets for me, and my many children to come visit them. That visit pulled me out of my depression and helped me to go on. I will forever be grateful for their encouragement, and the love they showed me and mine especially at that time in my life. This love has been carried on to my now, adult children who always feel most welcomed at Uncle Noel and Aunt Willies and who hold their aunt and uncle in such high esteem. My brother and his precious wife are such great people. Thank you Noel and Willie for being YOU. We all love you very much.