Humanities & Cultural
Dale Francis was a passionate man.
He certainly was passionate in his Christian faith. His lasting imprint was his passion for communicating; for telling stories, whether it was as a 14-year-old writing sports for a small Ohio daily newspaper, or as a columnist reaching out to a million American Catholics through his commentary as executive editor of Our Sunday Visitor.
Francis showed his passion for the Huntington community in the last 10 years of his life through his “Our Town” newspaper column, with his local vignettes painting a vivid tapestry of his adopted hometown.
Born in Newark, Ohio, in 1917, Dale Lyman Francis began his 60-year journalism career as a teenager covering sports for the Troy Daily News in 1932. He also wrote for newspapers in Lima and Dayton before enrolling in Bluffton (Ohio) College, graduating in 1941. At that same time he also served as pastor of the First Methodist Church in Fort Recovery, Ohio.
Francis served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He converted to Catholicism and, in 1943, married Barbara Hoole. They would have two children.
Following the war, Francis settled in North Carolina, where in 1946 he founded the North Carolina Catholic, a publication serving the dioceses of Charlotte and Raleigh.
Francis entered the University of Notre Dame in South Bend to pursue postgraduate work, and while there he founded the University of Notre Dame Press. In 1952, he was named director of the Bureau of Information for the National Catholic Conference in Washington, D.C.
He was on the move again in 1955, serving as a lay missionary in Cuba. Francis had started writing a weekly column for the Huntington-based Catholic newspaper “Our Sunday Visitor,” and he used financial aid from his readers to build a school in Cuba. Along with his column in “Our Sunday Visitor,” Francis wrote a syndicated column “To Talk of Many Things,” that ran in 23 newspapers across the country. His commentary provided one of the most prolific and influential voices on issues of importance to the Catholic Church.
Back in the United States, Francis was founding editor of the Lone Star Catholic in Austin, Tex. In 1959, he was the first recipient of the Catholic Press Association’s St. Francis de Sales Award for distinguished service to Catholic journalism.
Francis returned to his Ohio roots in 1961 when he became editor of the Troy Daily News where he had started his journalism career 30 years earlier. While there, Barbara died. A year later, Francis married Margaret Alexander, and they had a daughter.
Francis arrived in Huntington in 1964 when he was named executive editor of Our Sunday Visitor. He served two, four-year stints with OSV. In between, he spent four years as publisher of the National Catholic Register. From 1978 to 1983, Francis was the first lay editor of the Catholic Standard, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. He also authored three books, “Kneeling in the Bean Patch,” “A Catholic Prayerbook,” and “Caring is Living.”
Francis retired to Huntington, but never lost his passion for storytelling. He continued to produce columns for Our Sunday Visitor, and served as administrator of the OSV Institute, the charitable arm of the company.
He also began writing his popular “Our Town” columns for the Huntington Herald-Press. In each one he focused on a snippet of Huntington’s past, but in his distinct style he made it about more than just history, bringing to life what it meant to be from the town, both then and now. Dale Francis died on March 24, 1992, at the age of 75.
“I don’t know if I will ever know a greater man of faith,” said Robert Lockwood, who was president of OSV at the time of Francis’s death. “Dale lived his Catholicism every second of the day with every action he took, every word he said or wrote. He centered his life on a deep love for the church and its people.”