'A family man,' 'a firm 20th-century leader,' 'a decisive chairman' and 'a noble son of St Thomas' were just four of the many phrases used to describe Keith Stafford Francis, retired chairman of Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), on October 5 as they celebrated his life.
Two thanksgiving services were held in his honour.
One was held at the St Andrew Parish Church in Kingston. The other followed at St Barnabas Anglican Church in Port Morant, St Thomas, where he was buried.
Earl Jarrett, general manager, JNBS, was first amongst mourners gathered at the first service to offer tribute to the former chairman.
According to Jarrett, Francis was a firm chairman of the 20th century who wore many hats.
"In his time, Keith wore many hats. He was a noble son of St Thomas, born in an era when farming was the bread and butter of this country. And, as a dedicated agriculturist, his estate at Albion provided a livelihood for men and women. Francis brightened our lives. He made the 'good life' possible for many persons. He served his country well and will long be remembered as a stalwart Jamaican citizen," Jarrett said.
Jarrett added that through leaders such as Francis, JNBS blossomed into the developed financial institution it now is.
"My recollection of Mr Francis was that he was a firm and decisive chairman, whose vibrant leadership set the pace for the steady growth of Jamaica National, at the turn of the century. I was personally in awe of Mr Francis's calm, yet assertive chairmanship, and his ability to achieve consensus around a table with persons of varying views and positions. With a quiet passion, he presided over the dynamic expansion of our Society, locally and overseas, as we opened new branches in Jamaica and offices in the United Kingdom and the United States of America," Jarrett said.
"His long list of achievements included being chairman of the All-Island Banana Growers Association, chairman of the Banana Board and deputy chairman of the St Thomas Mutual Building Society. On the merger of that building society with JNBS in 1976, he was appointed to the JN Board and subsequently elected Chairman in 1997," Jarrett further stated.
It was under his watch that Jamaica Savings & Loans Building Society merged with JNBS and acquired three additional subsidiaries, all of which have grown and continue to make significant contributions to the overall performance of the JN Group.
During his tenure as chairman, the financial performance of JNBS doubled from $14.4 billion in 1998 to $28.7 billion in 2002 upon his retirement.
"I do not want to mourn his death but to celebrate his life. I never had anyone outside of my family who pushed me so hard to excel. He always pushed me. He always cut out the over achievers in the newspaper and told me I could be just as good as them," Francis's granddaughter, Karelia Francis, said.
"We had a very good relationship. He was an amazing grandfather and mentor to me. What he believed in was hard work, courage and determination. He would always end his conversations with a God bless you, so I know he is with the Lord," she added.
Francis also served as a justice of the peace and his seal and signature certified thousands of documents on behalf of his parishioners. Additionally, he served as Custos of St Thomas.
Francis was also an avid cricketer who once captained the St Thomas Parish Cricket Team.
Keith Francis is survived by his children Stafford, Kaye and Jacqueline and a host of other relatives and associates.