Jane K. Francis


1929  –  2021


Es wird etwas sein, später,
das füllt sich mit dir…

(Paul Celan)

At rest at last after a long decline with dementia, Jane Krefft Francis (née Jane Illenah Carlota Krefft) died October 29 a few days short of her 92nd birthday.

Born in Berlin Germany in 1929, she lived through WWII, enduring the bombing of the family’s house flat in the city in 1944 and subsequent relocation to Rottweil near Stuttgart during the postwar Marshall Plan reconstruction. In 1947 she left Rottweil to join family in Chile where the Kreffts had established themselves as German language schoolteachers as early as 1840. Her survival during the War depended on her father, Hermann E. Krefft, a scientist and inventor of certain light bulb improvements; he stockpiled light bulbs to trade for bread during the family’s soujourn in Rottweil.  Her creativity, adventurous spirit, and resilience in the face of difficulty would characterize her ever after, as she remade her life several times over in both South and North America. Guided by a gift for language, literature, and art that she probably inherited from her mother, English-born Jane E. Johnson.  Her joie-de-vivre and love of nature provided a wonderful ground to raise her two children and brought her many long-lasting friendships.

Arrival in the New World at Rio de Janeiro, summer 1947.

Fortunate to be able to leave Germany, Jane and her family (her parents,  younger sister Gerda, and older brother Walter stayed behind and subsequently became estranged) crossed the Atlantic aboard the ocean liner Algenlib, landing at Rio de Janeiro in the summer of 1947 to join immediate family in Valparaiso, Chile, and eventually establishing themselves in Buenos Aires, Argentina from 1948 until the mid 1950s.

In 1952,  Jane went to New York City and found work in marketing before accepting a chance dinner-invitation from a fellow bus rider where she met her eventual husband David W. Francis, a young biologist working as a post doc at Princeton.  Married in 1963, they moved to Vancouver, British Columbia until 1969 where her son and daughter were born (David Francis, 1965  and Hanneli Francis, 1967 – 2007). Relocating with her husband’s academic career to Newark, Delaware, she returned to school to earn a Masters in German Language and Literature in 1972 from the University of Delaware.

Jane with grandchildren Reed and Chiska in 2009.

Fluent in three languages since her late teens, she taught German at nearby colleges Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr and traveled with the family to sabbaticals in Spain, Holland, Germany, and Switzerland before later adventures in Oregon and Nova Scotia, where the family bought land and built cabins, living off-grid in 1974 and 1978.

Jane and David’s 1981 divorce sent a shock-wave through the family and cast a shadow over her just as her sister Gerda, a PhD Physicist at Los Alamos, battled cancer, and her father died. By 1982, she relocated with her daughter to the bay area and taught at Defense Language Institute (DLI), moving to the institute’s Monterey branch, buying a house in Pacific Grove where she continued to teach until 1989-1990.  The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 shifted the focus at DLI and lead to her decision to take early retirement, sell her house, and relocate to the Pacific Northwest, where her children had both gravitated in a return to the family’s 1960s roots in Vancouver. Jane bought a house in Bellingham and lived there until the death of her daughter Hanneli in 2007, when she sold her house and moved to a series of homes in the north Seattle and Shoreline area.

Preceded in death by her parents, her brother Walter, sister Gerda (2008), and daughter Hanneli (2007), she is survived by grandchildren Chiska and Reed Francis, son David T. Francis and daughter-in-law Lesley J. Zavar all of Seattle.

One Response to “Jane K. Francis”

  • David Francis says:

    Additional research shows that Jane’s arrival in New York was later than 1952 as stated. She returned to Germany during the mid 50s and enjoyed additional educational pursuits in Hamburg before then arriving in New York closer to 1959 when her parents bought a house in Mattawan, New Jersey. Her marriage to David W. Francis in 1963 was thus not a long courtship over a span of years but a shorter interval.

    (With thanks for adding this to Jane’s record.)

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