One of our dearest friends passed away on the 4th of July, at approximately 6 p.m. A long-time supporter of our work keeping traditional and classic country music alive, Francis was also a songwriter working under contract to the House of Cash Music Publishing Company, which was owned by Johnny Cash. He wrote a number of songs that were published by House of Cash, and enjoyed performing them, one of his favorites "Hidden Valley." He was one of the original Board Members of the National Traditional Country Music Association, and continually helped promote, and keep alive, the country music of the past. He did not like so-called country music of today. The NTCMA is a 501(c)3 non-profit devoted to keeping 'country' music 'country.'
Francis did indeed help us do that. He conducted his own festival "Timber Ridge Country Music Fest" that stayed true to that objective. He booked many 'true' country acts in the Rio Grande Valley, including ourselves, Terry Smith, and the Kenastons. He enjoyed doing that, but he didn't care for it when it lost money, and sometimes it did.
He had a brilliant military career, beginning as an enlisted man, then going to Officers Training School, eventually becoming a Major in the United States Army. He served in the military during the Viet Nam war. When the United States decided to leave Viet Nam, Francis was in charge of the last small outpost that was leaving. He had to get rid of a lot of documents, as well as saving some of them, which took some time. The helicopter sent to retrieve him and what was left of his staff, was waiting. As he finally closed down the outpost, he saw some Viet Cong taking the American flag down and stuffing it into a garbage heap. He shoved them rudely aside, grabbed the flag and raced to the helicopter that was already lifting off. The national television coverage of this last flight out, included Francis going up the steps to the huge plane that took them away to the United States. As he was going through the military re-entry, he was asked if he had anything to declare. He told the officer in charge about the flag, and his wish to keep it. The officer smiled, knowing that might be against regulations, but he just nodded yes, and passed Francis through.
Francis eventually wound up in the Pentagon, with Special Services, the flag still with him. Then they transferred him to an office in the basement of the White House when Nixon was President. The flag was still with him. Then they assigned him to work with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), until his retirement, the flag still with him. Francis kept the flag throughout the rest of his life, bringing it out for special occasions. He brought it to us many many times, especially when we were doing our festival in LeMars. He even brought it out for special shows at our little Oak Tree theater. When we told the story about how he had saved the last American flag that flew over Vietnam, it inevitably brought tears to many eyes. He was a brave man. For us, he was an authentic hero. We love him still. He is now in his beloved 'hidden valley.'