Constance Louise Vincentini
July 19, 1940 – October 5, 2021
Preceded in death by parents, Edward and Viola Dick. Connie is survived by her husband, Jerry Vincentini, and brother, Randy L. Dick (Mary). Connie’s legacy includes daughters, Cindy L. Francis and Kelli Anne Francis, and her son, Scott E. Francis (Jen). She was blessed with seven grandchildren: Jason (Ashlee), Joshua, Jeremy (Taylor), Heather, Jeffrey, Ashley, and Libby. She was also blessed with niece, Melissa Cook (Tom), and grandnephews, Keaton and Owen.
The Family will receive friends on Friday, October 15th from 5pm to 7pm at the West Center Chapel. FUNERAL SERVICE: Saturday, October 16th at 10:30am, West Center Chapel, followed by Interment at Resurrection Cemetery and funeral luncheon at the mortuary. Memorials will be directed by the family.
To view live broadcasts of the Funeral and Graveside Services, please go to www.heafeyheafey.com and click the “View Live Cast” button on the home page.
Connie was raised in Clyde, Ohio. That’s Winesberg, Ohio, to Sherwood Anderson fans (she made me promise to put that in there). She attended Bowling Green State University where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Education in 1961 to pursue her passion of teaching. She married David C. Francis in August of 1962, and thereafter moved to Nebraska. She furthered her education with a Masters of Science in Education in 1969, and an additional Masters of Arts in Education, Secondary Administration in 1989. Both graduate degrees were earned at Kearney State College.
“Mrs. Francis,” or “Mother Francis” as she was known to her legions of students, began her career in June of 1965, at Kearney Public Schools. She first taught 9th grade English and speech at Kearney Junior High from 1965 to 1967. She then moved up to the high school where she taught Sophomore English and Gifted English, Junior and Senior English, and speech and drama from 1968 until 1997. During her career she managed to also get her children graduated from Kearney Senior High in 1982, 1985 and 1990 (she had that part specifically written down for me to put in here, too).
You could hear the echo of Connie’s infamous high heels as she walked down the Kearney High School halls with authority. Mr. McClure, and later Dr. Kenagy, were the principals but we ALL knew she ran the place. Her refuge was the teachers’ lounge where she would swill multiple cups of black coffee, enjoy a smoke (because that was a thing back then) and discuss school gossip or the “never enough time to class prep” with the other teachers.
Mom’s hands were her props in class. She actually would get tongue-tied if you held her hands down when she spoke. She was also known to fly the occasional bird at a student if she needed to make a point. You were expected to read aloud often in class, you would learn how to diagram a sentence, and you would definitely know why dangling a modifier was such a horrific mistake.
If I had more time, I would write this in iambic pentameter in homage to her favorite author, Shakespeare. Teaching students Elizabethan literature, Greek tragedies, composition and, of course, grammar is her hallmark. She’s enriched the lives of so very many. (I originally had the word “bettered” but she would have said, “you can do more with your word choice.”)
Connie was very active presiding as Senior class sponsor from 1972 through 1997. She was a member of National Honor Society Faculty Committee from 1990 to 1997, the Drama coach and Speech Team coach from 1968 through 1972, and an ACT Study Instructor.
Senior class activities included homecoming week, senior banquet, senior breakfast (followed by her being thrown in the pool), prom and graduation (insert Pomp & Circumstance graduation music here). If you don’t remember gluing things together for centerpieces, crafting themed decorations for prom, or twisting and stuffing huge boxes of multi-colored napkins into chicken-wire floats for homecoming, I truly feel sorry for you. As her children, we were enlisted into many and most of those adventures.
She loved that part of her “teaching” because it was where she really got to interact with the kids in a role other than English instructor. She made sure everyone had what they needed to please their parents and family: graduation invitations, mortar board (which had BETTER be FLAT), gown and tassel. And, of course, those THANK YOU notes.
Mom was an avid card and thank-you note sender. It was kind of her thing. I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that the appropriate time to send them is within 30 days, although up to 1 year is acceptable (insert her disapproving look on that last part) followed by, “but there really is no reason to wait.”
Connie was also heavily involved with the theater department. Us kids were also enlisted as captive actors in the many high school productions like Godspell, Music Man, Oklahoma, Hello Dolly and The King and I, to name a few. She would direct them and Fran Wilson would handle the music. She also handled the casting, acting, blocking, programs, and even the stage production behind the scenes. The smell of the greasepaint makeup still brings back many funny memories.
Her numerous honors and awards include: Who’s Who Among American Teachers; Omaha World Herald Favorite Teacher Award, 1994; Kearney Public Schools Foundation Staff Recognition, 1992-1993; Pratt-Heins Foundation Faculty Award, 1986; Grand Marshal KPS Homecoming; Golden Apple Award, KOLN-KGIN; and Alpha Delta Kappa member
After her tenure at Kearney Public Schools ended, she taught on the adjunct faculty at the University of Nebraska at Kearney from 1989 to 1999. She actually never taught my brother, Scott, as a student in high school so the joke was that she had to go teach there to be able to say she taught all three kids.
Connie also continued to judge speech and drama contests. Connie funded scholarships for KPS Seniors and helped fund the Speech trophy case for KPS lobby. She started the Lifetime of Learning Foundation Fund to encourage the preservation of KPS memorabilia, and worked with people to develop a plan for KPS Archives.
In June of 2014, Connie married Jerry Vincentini. They were very involved in various car club activities, Ford foundation events, and traveling back and forth to their winter refuge in Phoenix. She listed her hobbies as reading, writing, and antique car activities. I would add in entertaining, and worrying a lot (that’s two words) about her kids and grandkids.
Mom was a force to be reckoned with and as tempting as it was to end that sentence with a preposition, I’ve abstained. Rest in Peace, Mom. We’ll take care of things down here until we see you again.