“It’s the end of an era in Gardner, Kan.”
That is how former Mayor Carol Lehman started her eulogy for the late Kenny Francis, long-time Gardner police chief.
“It was a privilege and an honor to serve with the Chief for 20 years,” Lehman said. “In a few minutes, how do I summarize someone who has helped shape who we are as a community?
“Kenny Francis was larger than life, and he is already a legend.”
Lehman was one of several persons to speak at Francis’s funeral Sept. 21 at College Church of the Nazarene in Olathe.
Francis, 66, passed away on Sept. 14 at Olathe Medical Center.
Capt. James Moore, of the Gardner Police Department, said he considered Francis a teacher and mentor.
He also said Francis was a man of character.
“Be a person of integrity, and you’ll go far,” Moore said. “That was Chief Francis in a nutshell.”
Glenn Ladd, North Kansas City police chief, said Francis had an inner strength that got him through difficult health problems.
Defeat was never an option.
“I never heard him complain,” Ladd said. “ …“I don’t think he gave up this time. I think he just decided to accept his reward from God.
“It really isn’t goodbye. It’s see you later.”
Ladd then told Francis’s widow, Patty, “Our prayer for you is that the sweet memories of Kenny that cause you to mourn right now will be very soon be sweet memories that cause you to smile.”
Larry Welch, retired director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, said Francis “always had the air of a southern gentleman.”
“I am fairly certain I never heard him say a bad word about anyone, and I really don’t think I ever heard him utter a profane word,” he said. “I usually handled that for both of us.”
Welch commended Francis on his professionalism, wisdom, modesty, street smarts, charm, perpetual cheerfulness, dedication, vision and “seriousness, when needed.”
“Kenny Francis, with his vast array of personal qualities, could have served very effectively and successfully in New York City and Mayberry,” he said. “And they would have loved him and respected him.”
Ellen Hanson, Lenexa police chief, called Francis a “leader and a mentor.”
She said when she considered applying for the Lenexa chiefs job, several of her colleagues tried to talk her out of it.
They said it would be too difficult to follow the legacy of former Lenexa Chief John Foster.
However, Francis encouraged her to pursue the opportunity.
Francis told her, “John Foster and I both think you can do it. And, I will be very disappointed if you don’t (apply). If you don’t get it I’ll be here to help you. If you get it, I will be here to help you.”
Hanson said she also admired Francis the family man.
“He loved having a family and he got a so much joy from all of them,” she said.
Lehman said Francis also considered his officers family.
“He thought of them as sons and daughters,” she said.
Lehman said Francis, on particularly difficult days, would often tell her, “It is a wonderful world if you don’t weaken.”
She added, “If you have been lucky, like I have been, to call Kenny ‘friend,’ then you know there is a little piece of your heart missing. That’s because Kenny took it with him.
“Yes, it is the end of an era in Gardner, Kan. We will never be the same, but we are better for it.”
The service concluded with a “Ringing of the Bell” by Johnson County Fire District No. 1, and a “Last Call” for Francis by the Johnson County Sheriff’s dispatch.
Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” was played during the recessional.
The funeral procession made its way to Gardner Cemetery where Francis was laid to rest following a 21-Gun Salute and the playing of “Taps.”