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Merna I. Francis

Merna I. Francis, formerly of Comstock Township, died Friday afternoon, January 17, 2020 at Friendship Village in Kalamazoo. Merna was born in Cairo, IA on August 22, 1933 to Royce and Ruby (Main) Partington. She was a graduate of Wapello High School and attended Iowa State Teachers’ College.

Merna met Aden Francis while working as a secretary at the H.J. Heinz Company, Muscatine, IA and they were united in marriage on October 24, 1954 in Muscatine. They moved to this area in 1973.

While their children were growing up, Merna volunteered her secretarial skills at church and community organizations. Later she was employed as a secretary at the Upjohn Company, retiring as executive secretary to the president of Asgrow Seed in 1995. Merna became a member of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) when it was known as Professional Secretaries International. Her involvement with the organization was extensive, having served as Secretary and President of the local chapter. She especially enjoyed attending state, district, and national conventions with her colleagues. She was proud to attain the Certified Professional Secretary certification.

Merna was a member of the Gull Lake United Methodist Church, where she was active in the United Methodist Women, sang in the choir, and served on many committees. She enjoyed attending the West Michigan Annual Conference and served on the Commission on Archives and History for the North Central Jurisdiction of the UMC.  Merna also served on the Conference Journal Committee and the Conference Historical Society.

Surviving are her husband of 65 years, Aden; her daughter, the Rev. Dr. Tamara A. (Rev. Philip) Wilden of Delaware, OH; her son, Aden Eric (Dr. Tyra Wolfsberg) Francis of Vienna, VA; four grandchildren (Rebecca, Andrew, and Elizabeth Wilden and Nathaniel Francis) and a sister, Wilma Fosholt, of Muscatine, IA; as well as many beloved nieces and nephews. Merna was preceded in death by her parents; her brothers Russell, Merle, Melvin, Delbert, and Ronald Partington; her sisters Devine Frownfelter, Carol Stevens, Pauline Hixon, and Donna Partington.

Merna’s family will greet friends on Thursday, January 23 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Farley Estes Dowdle Funeral Home & Cremation Care, Richland Chapel, 9170 East D Avenue (M-89). The funeral will be held on Friday, January 24 at 11:00 a.m. at the Gull Lake United Methodist Church, 8640 Gull Road, Richland, MI 49083 with the Rev. Len R. Schoenherr and the Rev. Mike Tupper officiating. Interment will follow at 2:30 p.m. in Fort Custer National Cemetery, Augusta, MI.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to the Gull Lake United Methodist Church. Personal messages and/or favorite memories of Merna may be placed at

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