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Joseph Francis (Joe/Joychen) was born in Punalur, Kerala State, India, as the second oldest among nine siblings in a devoted Catholic family. Initially the only boy among five sisters, his brother became part of the family when Joe/Joychen was 13. Adored by his family, he experienced a childhood filled with care and affection. Joe/Joychen attended the neighboring Catholic school, frequented the church daily, and served as an altar boy during his early years.
Following his high school graduation, Joe enrolled in a Catholic University, where his elder sister was already studying. It was during this period that Joe cultivated socialist ideals, leading to his dismissal from the university for quoting Karl Marx in his religion class. Undeterred, he later earned his B.Com from a Hindu University in 1961.
After completing his degree, Joe attended the Commerce Institute in his hometown; during a typing course, he met his lifelong friend and eventual life partner, Jan, who had just completed high school. Their connection endured even when Jan embarked on a nursing fellowship in Bombay State, a two-day train journey away. Over the course of 11 years, Joe and Jan corresponded through letters and phone calls before finally marrying in 1972. During this time, Jan completed her nursing and midwifery degrees, and relocated from Delhi to Hazelton, B.C.
Joe started his career as an Accountant in a District Cooperative Bank in his home state of Kerala, gradually ascending to the position of Manager. His commitment to social justice and equality was demonstrated through his leadership in establishing a Bank Employees Union, a move that clashed with his banking management background and stirred controversy for the remainder of his time in India.
In 1972, Joe arrived in Hazelton, seeking an accounting position. While waiting, he tried piling lumber at a local mill. Eventually, he found a role in the admitting office at Wrinch Memorial Hospital, allowing him to familiarize himself with all aspects of hospital operations. Subsequently, he became the Accountant and Business Manager, and completed a Health Administration and Management Program. Over the next 30 years, Joe successfully managed the finances of Wrinch Memorial, forming a formidable team with Dr. Muir, the Administrator and Chief of Staff.
Upon immigrating to Canada, Joe joined the NDP, earning a Lifetime Membership in 2015. An advocate for social justice, Joe was an early supporter of Amnesty International in Hazelton. He played a pivotal role in founding the Wrinch Foundation and actively participated in various community endeavors, such as Rocheview Lodge, the Boy Scouts in Hazelton, Upper Skeena sponsorship Group, Elder College, Three Rivers Housing project and the Hazelton Pastoral Charge of the United Church. For over 51 years, he remained a devoted member of Mountainview United Church.
Joe's life was enriched by extensive travel, avid reading of world politics, woodworking in retirement, sports watching, gardening, and spending time with friends. His children, Usha and Ray, brought immeasurable joy, and his role as 'Opa' to Elena and Elias in 2016 and 2018 became the most rewarding and fulfilling aspect of his life. Joe developed a deep bond with his son-in-law, Andreas Scholz, whom he cherished dearly.
Remembered as a kind and loving husband, father, brother, brother-in-law, and friend, Joe's legacy encompasses his unwavering commitment to faith, community, social justice, strong work ethic, infectious smile, and sense of humor. Intelligent, kind, gentle, passionate, and honest, Joe's enormous heart left a lasting impact on Hazelton and beyond.
Joe peacefully passed away with his two children by his side after a brief stay at Wrinch Memorial —a week filled with family, friends, support, and love. He is survived by his wife Jan, daughter Usha, son Ray, son-in-law Andy, and grandchildren Elena and Elias.
The family would like to thank the Cancer Care Team at the BVDH, and Dr Weins and the staff of Wrinch Memorial’s Doctors Clinic and Hospital for their excellent and compassionate care.
A Memorial Service to celebrate Joe’s life will be held at the Mountainview United Church on December 19, 2023, at 1:00 pm in Hazelton followed by refreshments at the Three Rivers Common House, 5115 Swannell Drive. Family and friends are invited to join, honouring Joe, and sharing stories.
The family welcomes donations to Wrinch Foundation or Community Cancer Care Team at BVDH Smithers in lieu of flowers.
“Fly away on Eagles wings Joe. You will be forever loved and deeply missed.”
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