Memorial held Saturday for beloved educator, senior advocate Ellis Francis
A series of grass fires Tuesday and Wednesday resulted in at least one tragedy when a Storm Lake man was found dead at the site of a grass fire southwest of Linn Grove.
Ellis Francis, 77, of Storm Lake, was found at the scene of a blaze on his farm southwest of Linn Grove Tuesday afternoon.
According to Buena Vista County Sheriff Chuck Eddy, the Buena Vista County Communications Center received a report of a large grass fire at 4457 70th Ave., two miles southwest of Linn Grove, at about 3:40 p.m. The Sioux Rapids Fire Department and Ambulance, Peterson Fire Department and Ambulance, and the County Sheriff's Office responded.
Firefighters found a farm site with a large grass fire and a small storage shed also engulfed. Fire units extinguished the fires, and it was at that time the body of the victim was found in an area where the fire had passed. Eddy said the victim was discovered about 50 yards north of the storage shed, next to a lawn mower.
Assisting in the investigation are the Buena Vista County Medical Examiner's Office and the Iowa State Fire Marshal's Office. Autopsy results were expected late yesterday afternoon.
Francis was a lifelong educator, an active volunteer in his community, and a leader in local historical efforts. He was a veteran of World War II, and the father of five.
Memorial services for Ellis Francis will be held Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the United Methodist Church in Storm Lake. Visitation will be Friday, 6-8 p.m. at the Sliefert-Asmus Funeral Home, Storm Lake.
Francis is a native of the Linn Grove area. He attended Buena Vista College prior to serving as a gunner's mate on the ESSO Dartmouth in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the war, he received a Masters degree at the University of Northern Iowa.
He taught school at Arcadia and Lake Township (Terril), was superintendent of schools at Cornell, Bayard, Meridan-Cleghorn and Anthon-Oto, was principal in Manson, and business manager for Southwestern Community College. He also taught with the Job Corps.
Francis was a member of the historical and genealogical societies, as well as a representative on the Older Iowans Legislature. He also volunteered with Northwest Iowa Aging. He has served on numerous community boards.
In his free time, he enjoyed gardening, traveling and spending time with his family, according to his wife, Phyllis. He is survived by his children - Marilyn, Donna, Larry, Thomas and Mark.
* Other grass fires reported in the county on Tuesday included one by Alta, one near Newell, a fire southeast of Sioux Rapids, and two southwest of Linn Grove, including the scene of the fatality.
Additional fires were reported yesterday, one by Rembrandt near the Coon River and the other near Newell. No further injuries were reported.
According to Sheriff Eddy, most of the fires apparently were the result of either leaves, trash or brush burning gone out of control.
"Even though we got some rain here, it's still pretty dry out there," Eddy said. "The tall grass is just a cinder box out there."
Because of the round of fires on Tuesday, Eddy reminds citizens to be cautious when burning this spring.