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Kathleen Jean Francis

Kathleen Jean Francis of Alma, Michigan, passed away on Sunday afternoon, July 7, 2019 at Mid-Michigan Medical Center Gratiot in Alma at the age of 64 years.  Kathy suffered a massive stroke on May 2, 2019.  Her death was due to complications related to the stroke.


Kathy’s parents, James Robert Whitman and Shirley Jean Root Whitman of Ithaca welcomed her into their lives on October 5, 1954.  Kathy married George Francis on March 14, 1987 in Sea Bright, New Jersey.  Their son Sean James came into their lives on June 18, 1988.


Kathy was a loving wife, mother, sister, niece, aunt, dance professional, dance instructor, friend and mentor.  She graduated from Alma High School in 1972 and Delta College in 1974 with an Associate’s Degree in Architectural Drafting.  She studied dance in Chicago first at the Gus Giordano Studio, and then studied and taught at the Lou Conte Dance Studio in 1976 – 1981 while performing in Conte’s Hubbard Street Dance Company.  Kathy then worked for Creative Establishment, a staging production company from 1981 - 1986.  She then was an Administrative Assistant for the architectural firm Hambrecht Terrell International in New York City from 1986 to 1988. Returning to Alma in 1993, she established the Francis Academy of Performing Arts in downtown Alma, and recently celebrated the studio’s 25th year.  She was an adjunct professor of Dance at Alma College and choreographer for Alma College Dance Company for many years.  Kathy was a businesswoman, leader, and supporter of the arts in her community, and was awarded Friend of the Foundation Award in 2015 by the Gratiot County Community Foundation.


Dancing was the passion of Kathy’s life.  She was influential and devoted in the life, growth and development of each student as she worked with them from their early classes to their graduation and and beyond.  She believed in her teachers and students, sometimes more than they believed in themselves.


During rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed in Grand Rapids and Masonic Pathways in Alma, Kathy considered her caregivers and therapists to be “rock stars”.  Kathy inspired them and continued to teach throughout her therapy journey.

She is survived by her husband George Francis of Alma and their son Sean James Francis of Grand Rapids, Michigan; her younger sisters Janet Eileen Pool and Mary Jo (Ronald) Vibbert all of Alma; her nephew Jared (Carolina) Vibbert and their daughter Alexandria of Phoenix, Arizona; her Aunt, Mary Alice Whitman of Saginaw; and cousins in Michigan, Arizona and Washington.


Kathy was predeceased in death by her parents, her grandparents Don and Catherine Root and Glenn and Jessie Whitman, all of Ithaca, Michigan.


Visitation will be at the First Church of God in Alma on Friday afternoon July 12, 2019 from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. in the evening.  Her memorial service will be Saturday July, 13, 2019 at the Doig Chapel in Masonic Pathways at 2 p.m. with visitation one hour prior to the service.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Kathy’s memory to Gratiot County Community Foundation.  Please make your check payable to GCCF in memory of Kathy Francis and mail to PO #248, Ithaca MI 48847 or at their website:

The family is being served by the Barden Funeral Home in Ithaca. Condolences may be left for the family online at



Reader Comments (13)

Kathy was such a light in the world, especially in her devotion to her art of dancing and dancing instruction. She was the first person to help me start my voice studio in Alma. God bless her soul and her family.
July 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara Burdick
This breaks my heart. The work is a little bit dimmer now.
July 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNicole Studebaker
No matter when or where, I knew Kathy to always have a radiant, infectious smile, positive attitude and the ability to see the brighter side with laughter through the most challenging of situations. A dear friend of my youth and forever friend in my heart. God's blessing to you and your family.
July 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce Ward Babic
Thank you for teaching me dance. I will miss you very much.
July 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLexi Madden
As we drove many times from MN to see Kathy's dancers, I was so inspired with how she encouraged and taught so many young (and older, too!) people to be the best they could be!. God bless her memory.
July 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAlice and Paul Holm
I'm so very sorry to hear of Kathy's passing. She was an incredible teacher, and her guidance helped me achieve my dream of performing on Broadway. I think of her often, and am so thankful that I had the opportunity to study with her. My thoughts and love are with her family - I hope they can take some comfort in knowing that her memory will live on in the many, many lives that she touched.
July 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAbby Church
I am so sorry to hear this news. Sending my love and prayers to Mary Jo and all of Kathy's family.
July 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMarilee J Mouser
Kathy was a wonderful dance instructor! I will miss her dearly! I am sad that I will not be able to be at her service. My heart and thoughts are with Sean and the rest of the family!
July 11, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersara oman
Our community has been fortunate for many years to have had Kathy’s fine talent shared with so many talented dancers. Thank you Kathy.
July 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDonna Kolar
So heartbreaking to lose Kathy. I will miss her so much. She was such a bright light with a heart of gold. Sending prayers for George, Sean, and the rest of her dear family.
July 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterHeather Conn
Sean, my deepest sympathy in your Mom’s passing.
Sincerely, Mrs. Nagtzaam
July 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCindy Nagtzaam
Gone but never forgotten.
Our deepest condolences.
July 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne Gilbert
So saddened to hear of Kathy's passing. She was an incredible dance teacher and member of the community and will be missed. Deepest condolences to the family.
July 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGrace McIntosh

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