Leonard Francis, a local World War II veteran, has died at 101. The World War II Navy veteran, who was fondly remembered for his infectious smile and laugh, passed peacefully in his sleep just days after celebrating his 101st birthday.
KGET caught up with Francis when he celebrated his 100th birthday last year at the Bakersfield’s monthly honor flight breakfast on Dec. 14, 2017. When asked what gift he wanted to mark the special occasion, Francis jokingly said, “Nothing. I got everything I wanted.”
Leonard’s positivity marked his legacy among those who knew him, including Dick Taylor, Kern County Veterans Service Department volunteer coordinator.
“Mr. Francis will be missed,” Taylor said, adding Francis was “just one of those guys that had it together. [He] used some self-effacing humor, and was a fun guy to be around.”
Francis lived in Bakersfield since he was one year old. He went on to serve as a first-class Navy seaman during WWII, and was one of 276 men stationed on the U.S.S. Ludlow.
“I think it’s great to know that, not only did he serve his country honorably, but he developed those relationships with those members of the armed forces that he served with, served his community faithfully, and brought honor to our community,” Taylor continued.
Francis was also remembered for his laughter, sometimes at himself, like when he poked fun of his age, noting he was too old to drive.
“They made me quit driving a couple of months ago,” Leonard said at his 100th birthday celebration in December 2017. “Everybody got out of my way.”
“His service in the military was not what defined him. It certainly was a great thing, but he was a great guy because he was a great man,” Taylor said.
A rosary service is planned next Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 9:30 a.m. Services are set for Christ the King Church in Oildale. The funeral follows at 10 a.m. A second service at 12:30 p.M. with full military honors is scheduled for Bakersfield National Cemetery.