Almost 40 years after Susie Beatrice West Francis’ retirement as an educator, she still received visits from her students. They saw her as a mentor, and came to her for advice and tips on how they should carry themselves.
“She set a standard of elegance. poise and grace,” said DanySu F. Pritchett, Francis’ only daughter. “She taught me to keep a smile on my face.”
Francis was recognized as key founder of The Links Greater Miami Chapter, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and a dedicated member of St. James AME Church. She was known for working for the community, and for doing it in suits, pearls, gloves and adorned hats.
Francis died Tuesday in her sleep. She was 100.
She was born in Jacksonville, but was raised in Tampa along with seven siblings in an era or racism and segregation. Her father was a barber and her mother a seamstress, a skill that was passed down to Francis. With her mother she learned to sew garments and buttons, a talent Francis was later able to take to a classroom.
She met her husband of 51 years, Daniel Ricardo Francis, at Florida A&M University where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education. He was the editor of The Miami Tropical Dispatch, a weekly newspaper for the black community distributed in Overtown, and together they were role models for African Americans looking for equality.
They lived in Overtown until they acquired the funds to build their home in Liberty City. Daniel was involved in various civil rights organizations, while Francis was a quiet supporter who decided to do her work through education.
Their home hosted various social gatherings, holiday parties and ball gown dinners for other Liberty City residents where the Francises loved to dance.
“When they got on the dance floor, everyone backed up,’’ Pritchett said. “They twirled around like in ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ They were a power couple, very admired.”
Daniel Francis died in 1990.
Francis’ teaching career started at D.A. Dorsey Junior-Senior High where she taught home economics to African-American students. After desegregation, she taught at Westview Middle School.
Susie Francis, along with Maude K. Reid and Mayme E. Williams, established The Links Greater Miami Chapter, a volunteer organization that helps in civic, corporate and community initiatives. She raised funds for charity, helped establish scholarships for students, took care of the homeless and even helped provide for mothers in need in other countries.
“Even at 100-years-old she was always concerned about other people,” said Geneza Woodard, who worked with her in The Links and in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. “It’s amazing that she was still thinking of others.”
Francis took leadership role in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, an African American sorority that remained in full force after college. She was part of various committees, and organized meetings in various churches in Overtown to find ways to help other young African American women. Woodard remembers the day she joined the sorority, Francis was the first person who embraced her and made her feel welcome.
“She was always very classy, but she was always approachable,” Pritchett said. “She was always willing to provide assistance give advice, pointers and tips.”
Francis continued to care for others until the day that she died. From her nursing home, she made various phone calls to ask friends about the health of others. She stopped wearing her gloves in the late 60s, but never lost her elegance.
“She was always impeccable,” Pritchett said. “She didn’t work hard at it, it was just her.”
There will be a viewing at Range Funeral Home from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday. The funeral will be at 11 a.m Monday at St. James AME Church, 1845 NW 65th Street, Miami, followed by burial at Memorial Plan Southern Memorial Park, 15000 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami.