Francis Tanner Jr.

Obituary of Francis Marion Tanner Jr.

Francis Tanner, of Moncks Corner and lately Summerville, passed away on August 14, days after reaching his 93rd birthday. His health was robust until the last few months when he experienced a decline, due to cancer. His family members attended to him in his last weeks and days at his retirement community, Summerville Estates, where he was very loved and appreciated for his humor and kindness to all.

Francis was born August 9, 1930 in Marion, S.C., the eldest child of Trudeth Huggins Tanner and Francis Marion Tanner, Sr. He graduated from Marion High School and attended the University of South Carolina studying electrical engineering. From there he was recruited by the U.S. Air Force for cadet training towards becoming a fighter pilot. Soon thereafter in 1953 he married Billie Elizabeth Lewis of Hemingway, and they were stationed at the Air Force Base in Presque Isle, Maine where their first daughter Gail was born. Francis was then sent to Thule, Greenland, as a fighter pilot in the Department of Defense and attained the rank of First Lieutenant. He was considered one of the best pilots of the 74th Squadron, the Flying Tigers. Flying jets was one of Francis’s great passions. He never lost his love of speed and intricate navigation, and flying in formation was one of his favorite piloting skills.

When Francis (and Billie) left the Air Force they settled in Dogwood Park, Charleston where other members of their family lived, and their second daughter Kaye was born. Francis worked as an electrician and refrigeration mechanic during this time. He had already developed a reputation for being able to fix anything from a bicycle to a car to a furnace and became known for helping friends and family with various repairs.

His goals took a turn towards the rural life, which Francis had experienced as a youth on his grandfather Jack Huggins’ farm, and he bought a 200-acre farm in Bamberg, S.C., where he grew a variety of crops and raised a herd of Angus cattle. Francis and Billie worked the farm by themselves, enlisting the help of Gail and Kaye when necessary. At Thanksgiving Francis devised jolly hayrides for extended family and friends. However, due to the difficulties of weather, his allergies, and intense physical labor, he gave up agricultural life after 10 years, whereupon the family moved back to Charleston.

For the remainder of his career, Francis worked as an advanced electrical technician for the U.S. Navy in Charleston, where his major duties were in design and repair of air conditioning and refrigeration systems on ships and submarines. Francis was employed by the Navy for 20 years and made a name for himself as an invaluable fixture there, being commended several times by the Department of Defense for his unparalleled work and contributions to improved, safer, and more efficient systems. Meanwhile during this time, Francis and Billie built a new home on the Isle of Palms, where they immersed themselves in a wonderful beach and boating lifestyle for ten years. Francis was an avid water skier and loved teaching this activity to others.

Upon retirement, Francis and Billie moved to Leicester, NC where they lived in a mountain-top home they adored. They greatly enjoyed 10 years there with many dear friends and considered those times to be some of the best of their lives. They particularly loved the wildlife, quietness, beauty of the land and especially the wild turkeys, which they eagerly looked for to return each year.

Feeling that they needed to relocate closer to home, Francis and Billie moved back to the Lowcountry, and built a lakeside home in Pimlico. They loved watching the birds, rabbits, alligators, fish, lizards and any animal that came into their yard. Here, again, they made many friends among their neighbors and reveled in the quietude and peace of being close to nature. This move also returned them to a waterside life which Francis loved, and he and Billie eagerly anticipated outings in their boat around the Lowcountry waterways.

Francis was always very physically active, enjoying bicycling, hiking, and watersports, and he continued to do most of the work on his own house, boat, truck and car until his last few years. He loved riding his lawnmower, using the weed-eater and was so proud of making the property in Pimlico look beautiful.

He had a great love of music throughout his life and he and Billie loved to join friends for an evening of dinner and dancing. Francis loved to sing along with Frank Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles, Neil Diamond, Sting, Andrea Bocelli and other opera stars, church choirs, Broadway tunes, and more. His mother taught him to play piano and trombone, which he played in marching bands in high school and at the University of South Carolina.

Francis is missed by his family and the many friends he left behind. He was predeceased by his parents, his wife Billie, his sister Lenora Tanner Kirkland of Charleston, and beloved aunts, uncles and cousins. Francis is survived by his two daughters, Elizabeth Gail Ross of Boulder, CO and Cheryl Kaye Maki (Mark) of San Diego, CA, along with many cousins, nieces and nephews in the Charleston, Hemingway and Marion areas. Francis was singing “Everything is Beautiful in Its Own Way” even in his last days.

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We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Simplicity LowCountry Cremation & Burial Services Inc | Summerville
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