COLUMBUS — “Thank you for your kindness.”
If he was alive today, that’s what Thomas V. Francis, of Russia, would have said after being inducted in the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame Thursday morning. Shirley Shenk, of Minster, accepted the honor for her father, who passed away in 2013.
“I think he would have shed a few tears,” said Shenk of the honor. “He would have been proud and humbled on being honored. He would have enjoyed being with the people at the events in Columbus.”
At a dinner Wednesday evening, Shenk spoke about her dad and why he was chosen to be in the hall. The dinner was sponsored by the Veterans Hall of Fame Foundation.
“I feel proud, grateful and humble to be the nominator for my dad and for him to be chosen,” said Shenk. “I have come to appreciate the effort the individual time the people have put forth to help their fellow veteran.”
Francis was the co-founder of Francis Manufacturing Company and co-owner and president of Superior Aluminum Products, both in Russia.
“The foundry used to make ice cream spoons,” said Shenk. “Dad used to carry the aluminum ice cream spoons in the trunk of his car. When he was out and about, he would give them to people. If the car valet parked his car, then he’d give him one. When he’d visit the doctor, he might give him one.
“So I’ve gathered 19 ice cream spoons and put them in a mesh bag, tied with a red, white and blue ribbon to give to each of the inductees at the dinner,” she said.
Shenk was accompanied by six to eight family members to the dinner. Five family members attended the induction ceremony Thursday at the Lincoln Theater in Columbus. Twenty Ohio veterans were inducted into the Veterans Hall of Fame.
“There was a small group of veterans from Russia who came to the ceremony Thursday,” said Shenk Thursday afternoon. “I thought that was a very nice gesture on their part to pay tribute not only to my dad, but all veterans in general.
“The entire ceremony wasn’t just a tribute to my dad and the other inductees, but to all veterans who have served their country,” she said. “I was very proud, humbled and grateful to be able to accept this award in my dad’s honor.”
The process of becoming a member of the Hall of Fame began with an email from one of Shenk’s brothers.
“My brother received information that dad might be a good candidate for the Hall,” said Shenk. “He sent out emails to all our siblings and asked who would like to take the lead. I volunteered to do it.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it,” she said. “It gave me time to reflect about both Mom and Dad. Dad kept a lot of documents from his service in the U.S. Nanvy. He also had newspaper clippings from the Sidney Daily News.”
Shenk’s sister, Renee Purpus, of Minster, is the family historian.
“After mom (Corrine) and dad died, Renee took everything and organized it and stored it,” said Shenk. “I knew a few things about dad from listening to him talk while I was growing up. Going through everything reinforced things so I could be 100 percent accurate on the application form.”
The two sisters created a chronology of their dad’s life — both in and out of the military — for the application process for the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.
“I had to submit a narrative as to why he should be inducted,” said Shenk. “It ended up being 3 1/2 pages long.”
Shenk also had to include his honorable discharge papers from the Navy — or as it said on the actual papers — notice of separation from the U.S. Navy.
The application also had a summary of his education and training he received.
“Dad was a 1940 graduate from Russia High School,” said Shenk. “He did some machine trade skill training at the Air City Institute in Dayton. He worked at NCR in Dayton and Lear in Piqua.
“After the war broke out in 1946, he decided to enlist in the Navy,” she continued. “Because of his machining skills, he was a Naval Aviation Machinist Mate and served in the South Pacifi during World War II.”
The next section sums up the veteran’s profession history.
“He started baling hay for 25 cents an hour,” said Shenk of her dad’s first job. “Then he was sand blasting at Stolle for 40 cents an hour. He worked at Lear and NCR until he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served from 1942 to 1946.”
When he was discharged, he came back to Russia and was the founder of Francis Manufacturing. Twenty years late he purchased Superior Aluminum Products. He served as president of Francis Manufacturing until his retirement in 1991. He was president of Superior Aluminum from 1966 to 1993.
The application also called for the veterans advocacy contributions.
“I had to list, as high school students would call it, all of his extra curricular activities,” said Shenk. “He was part of the veterans history project completed by Sidney High School, ‘We Will Not Forget.’ He was one of eight veterans interviewed in 2008.”
The next section dealt with his civic activities, which includes working with the village through the Civic Association. He was a member of the Russia Volunteer Fire Department for 30 years and served on the Board of Trustees at Wilson Memorial Hospital Foundation.
“He helped bring a doctor’s office to the village,” said Shenk. “He also helped bring natural gas lines and a bank to the village.”
Shenk also had to include any civic awards he received such as the Zenith Award from the Sidney-Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, the St. Remy Humanitarian Award and was grand marshal of the 2007 Applefest.
In the narrative portion of the application, Shenk talked about how her dad was the eighth of nine children born to Felix and Anna Francis. She wrote of his love of God, his love of family, his love of his fellow man and his love of his country.
“When he was in the Navy, those characteristics stayed with him,” she said. “He loved Russia and he helped it prosper and develop. That’s why he served.
“I had a knowledge of things that he discussed in a casual conversation,” said Shenk. “When you go into his life and formulate it into a chonology, it puts all the pieces of his life together. I knew he was president of the Civic Association, but did I have the knowledge of things that were developed through his leadership.”
Shenk said it took several months to put the application together.
“It was a labor of love,” said Shenk. “I had the time to reminisce and was able to take the time to reflect on who they (mom and dad) were and how they became who they were.”
Her mother, said Shenk, with seven children carried the rewards and tasks on the home front “so dad could go out and doe work and his volunteerism. Both of their lives were intertwined together.”
Shenk said the story she gathered about her parents will be shared with her siblings.
“Any time you do research, you put it down on paper,” said Shenk. “It’s nice to have it all together. We had a bin of newspapers and items from the Navy. Everything was piecemeal but now it’s all together.
“We have 118 family members — siblings, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” she said. “They will be able to have this three-page chronology of grandpa’s life. With the application, you had to follow it step-by-step and put it together. Now I can forward it to my siblings, who can forward it to their children, who can forward it to their children.”
Shenk said the entire process has been very rewarding for her.
“I wrote this from a daughter’s perspective and also from my family’s perspective,” said Shenk. “I had to put in the application how important this was to me and my siblings. I also included quotations of what other people said in articles in the Sidney Daily News.
“He was a pillar in the community and Shelby County,” she said. “He deserved these accolades. It’s remarkable who he was as a man. He loved God and lived an exemplary life. He had a unique gift of making people feel special.
“He loved veterans and would have loved the camaraderie of these two days. He had such a love for his fellow man,” she said.
In a nook at the foundry, said Shenk, there’s a tribute to her dad and his military service. There’s a mannequin with Francis’s Navy uniform on it. Other memorabilia from the Navy is also on display.
A letter from Sen. Keith Faber honoring Francis on the induction into the Hall of Fame will be on display with the other items.
“The display is a tribute to him and his service in the U.S. Navy and all the other veterans,” she said.
When someone fills out an application at the foundry, they have to walk though the office and by the display.
“He had hoped it would provide inspiration to someone else,” she said. “Dad loved the display. It has the mannequin, his pea coat and duffel bag on display along with paperwork from the Navy, the Rosary and prayer book the Navy gave him and a letter to his mom. There’s also a handmade P38 airplane made from brass shells.”
Shenk said she hopes other family and friends of veterans will nominate them for future hall of fame inductions.
“There are so many other people deserving of this too,” said Shenk. “They don’t the process to do it. This award honors the veteran’s contributions to the community after they get out of the service.”
For information about the application process, visit dvs.ohio.gov and click on Veterans Hall of Fame.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.