PRAIRIE CENTER – Funeral service for William E. ‘Bill’ Francis were at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, at Niobrara County Fairgrounds in Lusk. Interment was at 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21, 2019, at Willow Grove Cemetery in Buffalo. He passed away Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, at his home in Prairie Center.
William Elmer ‘Bill’ Francis was born in Buffalo, June 18, 1930, to Lawrence and Bessie May (Foreman) Francis, joining his two-year-old brother, Ivan.
When Bill was two years old, his mother Bessie died, leaving Lawrence to raise the two young boys. Lawrence worked hard to provide for his family and was unable to be home most of the time, so aunts, uncle, and relatives near Big Trails helped raise the boys. Bill had memories of being cared for by his Aunt Marge and riding with his Uncle Harry on horse-drawn hay equipment.
Work took Lawrence to West Virginia and the boys joined him there. They spent several years there, all working together. Even at their young ages, the boys were kept busy with various jobs while attending school. While in West Virginia, their dad met and married Bernice Young, who then became a mother to the boys.
The family returned to Wyoming when Bill was 13. Lawrence took a job with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department and was a Deputy for a time before becoming sheriff. Bill spent his teen years in and around Buffalo working and going to school. At 18, Bill was living with his grandparents. His grandfather was an officer on the Buffalo Police Force, and his uncle and aunt lived on the Ogallala Ranch north of Douglas. Bill began working on the ranch for the family of Mr. and Mrs. Leroy Moore. Eddie Moore asked Bill’s Uncle Chuck if he knew of anyone he could hire to live there for the winter and take care of 200 cattle and about 2500 sheep, and Bill agreed to go. Now 19 years old, Bill worked alone throughout the terrible winter of 1949 on the Finley Place north of Douglas. He managed to get by with minimal stock losses, losing only one cow. He never saw another living human during that entire winter.
After that, Bill went to work for Taylor Ranch Company, and in 1951 married Della Jean Gibbany of Midwest. Later that year he joined the U.S. Army and was stationed at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas, where he received medals in driving and sharpshooting. He then went into the Reserves as a Corporal and was honorably discharged, returning to work at Taylor Ranch Company.
Bill and Della had three children, Doris (who died in infancy), Sandy, and Kelly.
Bill attended the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy and was in the first graduating class in 1964. He then took a job with the Wyoming Highway Patrol, where he served for approximately six years all over the state.
After leaving the WHP he began working as a security guard for The Boeing Corporation and quickly rose to the rank of Lieutenant, guarding missile silos in southeastern Wyoming and western Nebraska.
Bill put together rental properties and went into business for himself with Bill’s Fixit Shop in Cheyenne. In the winter of 1976, he went to work for Teton Construction Company and became a truck foreman. He married Christine Lummis in 1980 and went into cattle ranching. In the late 1980’s the couple moved to the Hat Creek community and formed the Francis Hat Creek Ranch, north of Lusk.
After divorcing Chris, a move was made to the Prairie Center Community in Goshen County, where Bill and his son Kelly ranched and did dirt work throughout the area. Bill was on crutches with a bad knee for several years, and lost his left eye in an accident, but was extremely persistent and always found a way to get the job done and get it done right.
Bill was a Master Mason, initiated at Castle Rock Lodge No. 45 in Edgerton. He was the Master of Harmony Lodge No. 24 in Lusk from 2008-2009.
He is survived by his daughter Sandra and her husband, Hall Puckett, of Houston, Texas, and his son Kelly Francis of Prairie Center; three granddaughters, Jessica, Audra, and Sara; and six great-grandchildren. Preceding him in death were his parents; brother Ivan; half-siblings Jack, Eddie, Velma, and Thelma; former wife Della; and infant daughter, Doris.
Bill was a unique person and will be greatly missed by many friends and relatives.
Kelly and Sandy would like to express their deepest appreciation to Regional West Hospice of Scottsbluff, Neb., as well as their many friends and neighbors.
Pier Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.