Francis Stahl's Story
ONEONTA - Francis had a love of Arizona and the Sonoran Desert since he was 8 years old. He and an older brother wanted to run away and live with the cowboys.
He finally got his wish as he and wife, Barbara, vacationed and wintered in Tucson, Arizona, a special place for both of them.
Fran loved life. He loves his family, friends, kids, animals and laughing. He handled a long illness with grace and optimism. He would always say, "Tomorrow will be a better day."
Francis passed away in Tucson, on March 4, 2017. He was born on June 29, 1928, in Roxbury, son of the late Carl and Fannie (Stahl) Hinkley.
He graduated from Roxbury Central School and owned a farm in the area until a devastating fire. He then worked as a carpenter.
When Director Fred Allen arrived in Stamford to interview for the opening of the NYS Division for Youth South Kortright Center for Boys, Francis became the first employee. He and Fred always joked it was because he had his own tools.
He was tasked with helping change this beautiful old estate, in a magnificent rural setting, into a 50 bed home for court-placed, delinquent teenage boys. This program was to be a new approach to rehabilitation as youth were placed in facilities with hundreds of other kids. Recidivism rates were very high.
This was the beginning of a career that was a labor of love for him. Fran had a special gift for relating tor troubled youth. Later, he started a program to see if kids got in trouble again in the year after they left. According to his contacts with the aftercare workers, 93 percent did not.
When boys arrived in the program, Fran taught carpentry skills, worked with the SOKO Drum Corps that participated in local parades and helped students learn life and job skills and attitudes.
A schoolhouse had been created from a previous farm building and students attended academic and vocational classes on the grounds. He and Barbara, whose fields were reading and language arts, had parallel careers there, as they taught, wrote curricula, and traveled to other New York State facilities to train teachers.
Fran went to college in the summers at Oswego for his bachelor's degree. When new positions were planned, he and Barbara took administration courses in Albany to qualify for them. They then became the academic and vocational administrative team.
Fran started an off-campus work program taking boys to jobs in the community. He mentored them and most very successfully completed their jobs. Additionally, he wrote a career readiness program that all students took.
After retirement, Francis worked at the Wyoming Conference Children's Home in Binghamton. This was a school for emotionally disturbed students who couldn't attend home schools. The youth were 4 to 19. He started a woodworking and horticulture program, and then served as the school director. He was loved by the students.
Francis had a variety of interests and activities. Volunteer activities included the Roxbury Fire Department; Oneonta Zoning Board; Iroquois Indian Museum, Howes Cave; Saguaro West National Park, Tucson; and the Society of the Blind and Low-Visioned, Tucson. He loved all kinds of music and theater. In Tucson, he and Barbara frequented the Gaslight Theater and the Gaslight Music Hall. They both loved learning and traveling. He and Barbara had a rich life together in spite of his illness.
Francis is survived by his wife of 40 years, Barbara (Baker Freed), of Oneonta; three sons, Donald (Gail) of Slidell, Louisiana, Richard (Agnes) of Bradenton, Florida, and Lawrence (Diana) Freed of Annapolis, Maryland; grandchildren, Tristan (Jennifer) of Annapolis, Maryland, Christine Loveless of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, Dan (Natalia) of Dallas, Texas; great-grandchildren, Lucas and Dominque Hinkley of Dallas, Texas; sister, Fern Hale of Downsville; sisters-in-law, Elna of Roxbury, Marion of Sidney, Betty Mroczek of Canastota, and Pat Akers of Missouri; several nieces and nephews.
He was predeceased by brothers, James, Edward and Carl Jr.
The family suffered a second loss when Fran's son, Donald, passed away unexpectedly on March 22, 2017.
Francis was a lifelong member of the Masonic Lodge, serving as master as a young man in Roxbury. Last year he was presented with a certificate and an apron for 50 years of membership.
A memorial service/celebration of his life will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Masonic Lodge at 322 Main St., Oneonta.
All are invited to attend and to share a memory if desired. Parking is available in the surrounding parking lot. For more information, call Barbara's cell phone at 520-603-0788.
Memorial donations may be made to the Masonic Lodge at the above address or the Casa de la Luz Hospice at 7740 No. Oracle Road, Tucson, AZ 85704.
Published on August 18, 2017