Captain Jefferson Clifford Francis, known as Jeff, was the elder of two children by Marion Murray, whose father Sgt. Clifford Murray had served in the Italian and Northwest Europe theatres of WW2. Jeff’s father, Maj. Russell Francis, had a 30-year career with all three branches of the Canadian military, and Jeff’s paternal grandfather enlisted at 18 to fight with New Brunswick North Shore Infantry Regiment in WW2 before continuing on to soldier for another 25 years.

Jeff’s early childhood was a happy one; he was particularly close with his grandmother, Alma Murray, and the two of them bonded over the medals and certificates of his grandfather’s military career. His sister Mica, younger by five years, idolized Jeff; eventually, the two of them would become incredibly close (but not without some teasing on the way). Jeff never let anything stop him as a child; if he wanted to ignore his father’s orders to nap and walk to his grandmother’s house in heavy snow, that’s what he would do. Athletics were a passion; year round, he would play hockey, soccer, baseball, or lacrosse.

By his teen years, Jeff found himself less interested in his studies and more interested in heavy metal. The family’s constant moving from base to base was hard on him, and he would complete high school at the Adult High School in Ottawa at 20 years old, while working three part time jobs. Eventually he began working early morning shifts at the Ottawa airport. These shifts were a great blessing to him—they gave him the funds and the flexibility to begin attending classes at Carleton, and they lead to him meeting Sylvie Secours, the woman who would become his wife, and the mother to his son.

He enjoyed university, and immediately began his post-graduate degree in Canadian studies. Jeff didn’t neglect his athletic side at school; at Carleton he explored martial arts including kickboxing, Brazilian jui jitsu, grappling, boxing and tai chi. He discovered Buddhism while in academia, and found it inspirational. With his shaved head, Zen tattoo (of the kanji for ‘The Void’), and well-trained body, he looked every part the warrior monk. A glance at his bookshelf would only confirm it: books by Gwynne Dyer, John Keegan, Joseph Campbell, and Miyamoto Musashi. Philosophy guided his studies and his thesis, using the principles of Foucault to analyze the CBC’s role in generating a distinctly Canadian nationalism, earned him his M.A.

But working towards his doctorate in sociology, Jeff decided to enlist. The decision was supported by his family; not only did the decision make sense within the context of their family line, but it was peacetime. He’d be able to buy a car, have a little fun. He enlisted on Sept.4, 2001 and was sworn in Sept. 7. The attack on the World Trade Centre four days later changed everything. He trained for six years in all, going through basic before completing Artillery Officer Training. At first opportunity he took Parachute Training and was proud to join C Battery, the para battery with First Canadian Field Artillery Regiment at CFB Shilo in 2004. With further training over the next few years, including completing the daunting Mountain Man Competition in Edmonton in 2005, Jeff gained confidence in his abilities.

In February of 2007, Jeff deployed to Afghanistan as a Forward Observation Officer with Task Force 1-07, the 2 RCR Battle Group. Jeff was a popular soldier, known for his positive attitude, dedication to duty and dry sense of humour.

Sumari MacLeod

Portrait by Cindy Revell