James Taurence “JT” Francis, retired disability support services coordinator, died Dec. 15, 2013, in Payson, Ariz., after a long illness. He was 75.
Mr. Francis was born to Terence and Mae (Myers) Francis of Pittsburgh. He received a bachelor’s degree in biology and elementary education and a master’s in geology and geography from Hofstra University. Mr. Francis started his career as an elementary teacher in Barstow, Calif., before accepting a position at Northern Arizona University in 1986. He worked for 15 years with NAU’s Student Support Services as a recruitment and retention specialist and retired from NAU as a disability support services coordinator in 2003.
Mr. Francis never let his physical challenges in life define who he was. He was a caring, civic and community-minded person. Mr. Francis assisted others his entire life and was dedicated to helping students succeed. As president of the Flagstaff Stingrays Swim Team, he enrolled the largest number of minority swimmers in the state of Arizona and hired the first paraplegic coach in the United States. Mr. Francis also worked with USA Swimming to change the rulebook regarding coaches with disabilities. He owned three retail businesses and was passionate about his music.
Mr. Francis is survived by his daughter, Holly Francis-Merritt; grandchildren Noelle, Bianca, Christian, Aaron and Zoe of New York; cousins, extended family and longtime friends. He was preceded in death by his parents.
Donations in Mr. Francis’s honor may be made online to the NAU Foundation, Susanna Maxwell Award for Community Connections, or via mail to: NAU Foundation, Fund 01340, PO Box 4094, Flagstaff, AZ 86011.