Trio to be inducted into Légion d’honneur

RUSSIA — The village of Russia will welcome Delbert Francis, Clair C. Naveau, and Leo Francis into the Légion d’honneur during the program’s ceremony on Sunday, March 10, at 1 p.m. This is the program’s second class of members. The ceremony – which is open to the public – will be held inside Clair C. Naveau Gymnasium at Russia Local School.

The program is funded by the Russia Wellness Foundation and serves as a recognition platform to memorialize deserving individuals from the community, school, and church who have bestowed upon the Russia community and Russia Local School a positive image.

The event will include a slide shows of each inductee, along with introduction and acceptance speeches from each recipient’s family. A public reception will follow in the school commons. ‘

Delbert “Doc” Francis Jr. was the co-owner and president of the Francis Schulze Company. He played a role in the economic development of the village. His leadership and perseverance to the business were not only instrumental in its success but also contributed significantly to the prosperity of the Russia area.

Delbert Francis’s service in the United States Army from 1951 to 1954 reflects his deep sense of duty and sacrifice for the nation.

His active involvement in surrounding organizations such as the St. Remy Parish Council, the Russia Civic Association, the Catholic War Veterans, the American Legion, the Knights of Columbus, and the Shelby County AAA Motor Club highlights his loyalty to the betterment of the local area. Serving as a board member of the AAA Motor Club personifies his dedication to improving the safety and well-being of county residents.

Delbert Francis was a USPS Rural Mail Carrier from 1953 to 1979. He not only delivered mail but also building relationships with the residents of Russia and the surrounding areas.

The philanthropic contributions of Mr. and Mrs. Francis through the Doc & Hilda Francis Family Foundation and Scholarship Fund have had an impact on various aspects of the community. Their support for the Russia Activity Center, Russia Village Park, Pavilion & Splash Pad, Wilson Memorial Hospital Foundation & Hospice Care, Spiritual Center of Maria Stein Retreat House, Russia Wellness Foundation, St. Remy Parish and Community Center, Russia Local School, and the facilities for softball, baseball, and running track has enriched the lives of local residents.

Leo Francis was born and raised in Russia, Ohio. He attended Russia Local School only through the eighth grade due to the Great Depression. At that time, he helped out in the family store. Continuing the tradition of living in this small town, he married his wife Mary Boerger and they raised their five children within the community.

As the co-founder of Francis Manufacturing Company and founder of Francis Products, later sold to Clopay Corporation, Leo Francis exemplified the entrepreneurial spirit that has fueled economic growth in the community. His innovative ventures have not only contributed to local industry but have also played a crucial role in shaping the economic landscape of our region.

Leo Francis’s commitment to service extended beyond the business realm. Serving as a World War II veteran in the United States Marine Corps from 1941 to 1945, his bravery was evident in the Battle of Guam, where he earned the Purple Heart. This selfless sacrifice demonstrated his dedication to the principles of honor and duty.

A community leader and a man of principles, Leo Francis was a charter member of the Catholic War Veterans Post 661 and the Knights of Columbus since 1954. As the first mayor of Russia from 1969 to 1994, he provided leadership and governance, steering the town through decades of growth and change. His volunteer service with the Russia Fire Department as a charter member further underscored his commitment to the safety and well-being of the community.

Leo Francis’s vision for Russia was evident in his role as a leader in incorporating Russia with the state of Ohio in 1967. This pivotal moment in the village’s history has allowed the community to access resources and opportunities that have been instrumental in our growth and development.

Additionally, Leo Francis’s civic contributions extended to the physical infrastructure of the town. His instrumental role in paving Borchers St. and Voisard St. enhanced the accessibility and functionality of our community, creating a lasting impact on the quality of life for residents.

Leo Francis’s generosity is reflected in his role as a key contributor to the establishment of the Russia Park, providing a space for recreation, community gatherings, and the enjoyment of nature for generations to come.

Clair C. Naveau’s dedication to education and community development left an enduring legacy in the hearts of many. He was born raised in Paulding County. Upon graduation, he attended Defiance College and Miami University. Receiving his teachers license brought him to Shelby County at neighboring Fort Loramie High School as a science teacher. While there he met his wife, Jeanne Wannemacher. In 1950, they married and moved to the Russia district to raise their family.

Serving as the superintendent of Russia Local School from 1950 to 1984, Naveau’s leadership played a pivotal role in shaping the educational landscape of the community. His unwavering commitment as both the principal and athletic director from 1950 to 1977 demonstrated not only his administrative prowess but also his genuine concern for the holistic development of the students under his care.

Naveau’s visionary leadership led the way in three significant school building projects, contributing to the enhancement of educational facilities and ensuring a conducive environment for student learning. His foresight to preserving the local educational institution was evident in his efforts to save the school from consolidation, which exemplified his dedication to maintaining the integrity and identity of our community.

One of Naveau’s contributions was the establishment of the Russia Local School Band, a testament to his belief in the importance of arts and culture in the education of well-rounded individuals. Through this initiative, he provided students with opportunities for personal growth and expression, fostering a sense of community pride.

Beyond his role in education, Naveau was an advocate for students’ pursuits of higher education. His encouragement and guidance inspired countless young minds to aim for academic excellence and aspire to achieve their fullest potential.

In addition to his professional endeavors, Naveau’s philanthropic contributions have had a lasting impact on the community. The Clair and Jeanne Naveau Family Scholarship stands as a tribute to his commitment to supporting the educational aspirations of future generations, ensuring that financial barriers do not hinder the pursuit of knowledge and excellence.