At 100, Francis Hiscocks is still an educator.

February 19, 2019

Francis Hiscocks

At 100, Francis Hiscocks is still an educator.


By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — Francis Hiscocks recently celebrated his 100th birthday. The lifelong educator resides at Ludington Woods Assisted Living and Specialized Memory Care and has spent his 100th year teaching his fellow residents about two special missionary trips he and his wife participated in back in the ‘80s.

After Francis and his wife Elizabeth retired from education, they traveled to central Africa. Francis had been communicating with a missionary there who needed someone with woodworking skills.

Francis teaching woodworking in Africa

“They had wood but they didn’t have a way to cut it,” Francis says. “The first trip I brought a chainsaw to help them cut the wood. Then I came back with a planer.” The first project Francis helped with was to build a coffin for a child. He later helped to build furniture, such as chairs and tables. Elizabeth, who passed away two years ago at the age of 94, was a home economics teacher and helped the village women learn cooking skills. Francis describes the trips as some of the highlights of his life. His

Francis was born in Climax, Kalamazoo County, on the family farm, in the middle of a major Spanish flu epidemic in 1919, his daughter, Anne Soles of Pentwater says. His family was Methodist and he has lived his life as a devout Christian Methodist. 

He graduated in 1937 from Lakeview High School in Battle Creek and decided to become a farmer. During that time, he met Elizabeth, who convinced him to seek higher education. Francis joined the Navy and became an aviation mechanic. After his honorable discharge, he enrolled at Western Michigan College of Education (now Western Michigan University) earning a bachelor’s degree in industrial arts education.

Francis building a chair in Africa

After graduation in 1946, he and Elizabeth then moved Cadillac where he taught industrial arts. One of his students was Guy Vander Jagt who served as a Michigan State Senator for one year and as a Republican congressman from 1966 to 1993.

After five years in Cadillac, the Hiscocks moved to Portage where Francis again taught industrial arts. Elizabeth raised the family’s three children, Anne, Thomas, and Elaine (Conyha) and also earned a teaching degree.

Francis then left secondary education and taught at the newly formed Soutwestern Michigan College in Dowagiac. He helped set up several of the college’s vocational education programs including welding and nursing. Francis eventually earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Michigan. He spent a time as interim president of the college.

Anne says Francis was always a “hands on” person who had a heart for those seeking vocational work.

Like many stories of those who land in Mason and Oceana counties, the Hiscocks came to Pentwater after spending vacations at the areas state parks. Anne says the family would vacation at Ludington State Park after school got out for the summer. “One summer, we decided to go to the Charles Mears State Park instead,” Anne says. “We all fell in love with it and it’s where we ended up.”

Francis, in hat, helping distribute supplies in Africa.

Much of Francis’ woodworking skills can be found at Centenary United Methodist Church in Pentwater.

Francis recently presented a slide presentation to his fellow residents at Ludington Woods talking about his trips to Africa. He can easily recall the subject of each of the dozens of slides, presented like a true educator.

Ludington Woods Assisted Living and Memory Care, 502 N. Sherman St., Ludington, MI 49431; 231-845-6100;

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