The Revd Arthur Walter Francis: 1913-2014
Believed to be the oldest surviving Baptist minister on the accredited list until his death last month (October 2014)
Arthur was born 13 June 1913 in West Ham, the son of Charles, an engine driver, and Emma Francis. He was dedicated at West Ham Strict Baptist Church and attended this church with his parents and younger sister, Gladys, until 1927 when the family moved to Goodmayes, Ilford. Goodmayes Baptist church became their place of worship and Arthur was baptised there by Rev. George Hicks in 1929.
Arthur was a pupil at West Ham Grammar school and matriculated with distinction at age sixteen, going on to work as a clerk for five years in Ilford Town Hall.
In 1934 Arthur entered Regents Park College to train for the Baptist ministry, graduating in London with a Bachelor of Divinity in 1937. He then moved with the college to Oxford where he completed a Bachelor of Arts in Theology in 1939. He was part of the first cohort of students to study at the college in Oxford where attending Sunday afternoon tea with Dr. Wheeler Robinson was part of the weekly requirement!
His Baptist Church pastorates were: 1940-1942 Lyndhurst; 1942-1947 Uppingham Road, Leicester; 1947-1953 Grange Road, Darlington and Secretary of the Northern Baptist association; 1953-1956 Queens Park, Glasgow; 1956-1962 Princes End, Tipton (part time).
Arthur elected to go into education in 1956, becoming Head of Religious Education at Willenhall Comprehensive School until 1963 and then moving to Brentwood College of Education, Essex, again leading the Religious Studies Department until his retirement.
Arthur married Theresa (Terry) Fitzgerald in 1940 and their two children, Linda and John, brought them much happiness. John was tragically killed in a climbing accident in Snowdonia in 1971 aged 21.
In 1972 Arthur and Terry moved to Frinton on Sea and for a while Arthur was the associate minister with special responsibility for the new Homelands church. In 1976 Terry, who suffered from heart problems, died after a critical heart operation in the London Hospital.
In 1978 Arthur married Thea Jones, widow of Rev. Norman Jones. Bourton on the Water became their home base and Arthur served twice as Moderator of the Baptist church. He was an Association secretary for a second time, on this occasion for Oxford and East Gloucestershire. In 1987, Arthur and Thea moved to Solihull, joining Shirley Baptist Church in time to be among the founder members of Olton Baptist Church when it was planted in 1989. Thea died in 2009.
Arthur died peacefully at the great age of 101, in Heartlands hospital, Birmingham, after an extremely short illness.
He counted it a great blessing that he enjoyed two long happy marriages and had two wonderfully supportive wives in all he did. He leaves his daughter Linda and her husband Brian, and his grandson Paul and wife Wendy, and his great granddaughter Amy.