Francine Mary McKenzie, 72, of Punta Gorda, Fla., passed away Friday, March 7, 2014, at her home.
She was born Dec. 16, 1941, in Oakland, Calif., to Dwight Eugene Welch and Francine Mildred Stapleton.
Francine graduated from high school in San Francisco, Calif., and attended Berkeley for several years. At age 21, she took a freighter to Europe. Her first job was in Frankfurt, Germany, where she worked for General Development Corp., which was selling lots in Punta Gorda, Fla., to GIs stationed in Germany. Francine went to Spain, where she had modeling jobs, small parts in American films, and a song and dance act in Spanish nightclubs.
She went to work for the U.S. Army and Air Force Exchange at Torrejón Air Base in Madrid, Spain. She became Supervisor of the data-reporting section that managed stock control for the base exchanges in Spain. Francine met her future husband, James G. McKenzie, in Madrid. He was the In-Country Manager over a contract with JPL to build a deep-space tracking station outside Madrid. They returned to Dallas, Texas, where they were married after the project was completed.
Francine became the Supervisor of a children’s clothing showroom in the Apparel Mart in Dallas, until it went out of business. She then accompanied her husband to Iran, where he was the In-Country Manager for construction of facilities for the Iranian Air Force. They had to leave Iran in 1979 because of the Revolution. She accompanied her husband to build a new site in Gwinnett County, Ga.
When the project was complete, they moved to Palmdale, Calif., to design and construct facilities for the final assembly of the B-1B bomber. On both of these projects, she was very active in both racing and cruising sailboats, as well as being active in the yacht clubs of both places. She accompanied her husband to Fairfax County, Va., where he managed the design and construction of the headquarters for the NRO. In 1996, they sold their home, put their household goods in storage, and moved aboard their 41-foot sailboat. They lived aboard for about 14 months, until they completed their new house in Punta Gorda.
Francine and her husband joined the Isles Yacht Club, where they have been active members for the last 16 years. In 2000, they took their new powerboat, Dancing Dragon, on the Great Loop trip. Francine worked the lines through 102 locks, but at the end of this 5,200-mile trip and six months, she could not walk down the dock without support. At this point, she found out she had MS. Francine was very talented at interior decoration, and got lots of practice, since she lived in so many places. Her hobby was making silk flower arrangements, and she enjoyed making these for friends. Francine was also an avid mahjong player, and use to host a weekly game, before illness forced her to stop. She has had a long, hard fight against the effects of MS, but could battle no more.
Francine is survived by her husband of 40 years, James; and two children, Garrett Jackson McKenzie of Bloomfield, N.J., and Lynda Gardner Gardocki of Suffield, Conn.
A Celebration of Life Service will be held at 11:30 a.m. Friday, April 4, 2014, at the Isles Yacht Club, 1780 W. Marion Ave., Punta Gorda, Fla. The Yacht Club requests an RSVP at 941-639-7551 if you will attend. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the National MS Society, 2701 Maitland Center Parkway, Suite 100, Maitland, FL 32751. Please visit www.kays-ponger.com to leave the family your thoughts, memories and condolences on the online guestbook.
Arrangements are by Kays-Ponger & Uselton Funeral Home and Cremation Services.