Constance L. Vincentini

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.

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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.

 

27 Comments

  • Jeff Norblade Posted October 10, 2021 7:44 am

    I think the integrity and respect of a person are revealed when so many people share their warmest regards. Connie, you touched a lot of lives! You will be missed, but your memories will live on! Bless you for all your work with kids!

  • Bob and Polly Zetterman Posted October 10, 2021 2:01 pm

    Jerry, We were dismayed to hear about Connie. Always enjoyed talking with her about Shakespeare and old cars. Hope to see you soon in Arizona for a big hug. Fondly and with sympathy, Bob and Polly

  • Nancy McCammon-Hansen Posted October 10, 2021 3:23 pm

    When I served as a reader for Fr. Bob Park’s funeral, someone came up to me at the reception and remarked on how well I can read out loud. I took the person over to Connie and said, “Tell her that. She’s the one who taught me.” Thanks for teaching me how to “speak up”. There are some who probably aren’t amused with that but I SO enjoyed having her as a teacher. She was among the best!

  • Jim Salestrom Posted October 11, 2021 9:17 am

    I Loved my education at Kearney High and Mrs. Francis was a huge influence in my English studies. Thank-you for being intense and funny and a little bit scary- WE LOVE YOU- Hugs to your Family – Jim

    • Kelli Anne Francis Posted October 12, 2021 3:39 pm

      Connie saved the album you autographed for her. And several newspaper articles about you.

  • Patricia Richards Posted October 11, 2021 10:27 am

    Her lessons from high school were life lessons that remain with me today. I am blessed to have known her. A comment from her daughter made me laugh: the “clicking of the heels”. So much truth to that. A knack for flair is an understatement; she taught far more than English!

  • Mark Hartman Posted October 11, 2021 12:42 pm

    I enjoyed Mrs. Francis English class at Kearney High and later a night class at UNK. She was my favorite English teacher and will be greatly missed.

  • Bruce Whitacre Posted October 11, 2021 2:06 pm

    Connie was my English teacher and sponsor of our senior class in 1974. She was a detailed and conscientious task master in a let it all hang out era, and she got us through graduation and reunions with a touch of class. High heels, gogo boots, and a tongue that could clip hedges, she was generous, astute, and you could tell that beneath the nail polish she really cared. I’ll always be grateful to Connie. I was also her paper boy and she made my collecting rounds a real thrill.

  • Mike and Tracy Quinlan Posted October 11, 2021 3:07 pm

    Our hearts broke when we got word of Connie’s passing. We immensely enjoyed spending time with Jerry and Connie at car shows and their home and ours in Arizona. Connie and I shared a love of teaching, the English language, and commiserating over our need of hearing aids. Connie could give as good as she took. Her barbed quips were always delivered with love and affection. We will miss her banter, her company, and her friendship. Hugs.

  • Scott Kulhanek Posted October 11, 2021 4:24 pm

    Best wishes to your family. Mrs. Francis was a treasure!

  • Larry and Jeannie Crosby Posted October 11, 2021 4:37 pm

    Jerry and Connie are two of the nicest, most since and fun couple. We are devastated at Connie’s passing.’ Jerry do not hesitate to call on us for support. Jesus please power this family to glory, peace and tranquility.

  • Chris Bancroft Posted October 11, 2021 5:03 pm

    Very influential which and broad based life changer. Anyone who had ‘Mrs. Francis’ remembers her and her class. Great, fun memories – R.I.P.

  • Susan Howe Anderson Posted October 11, 2021 5:04 pm

    Not only was Connie my teacher at Kearney,,I believe Jerry purchased a Model A from my father, Russell Howe. Prayers to the family as they say goodbye to this special woman.

  • David Vannier Posted October 11, 2021 7:25 pm

    I graduated from KHS in 1971. Our class just had our 50th class reunion. Mrs. Francis was the topic of many conversations at our reunion. She gave all of her students a lifetime of memories. She was remembered by all as one of the best teachers at KHS. I have always considered teaching as a calling much like that of a church pastor or nurse. She was one of the people who helped me be prepared for life. Reading Mrs. Francis obituary left me with a smile and perhaps a tear or two. I owe a great deal to all of the teachers at KHS as they helped prepare to be a success at college and later graduate school. I am an engineer by profession and have been told by many colleagues that my report writing skill is very good for an engineer. I thank teachers like Mrs. Francis for that. Old habits die hard. I find it very hard to refer to any of teachers by their first name only. That is part of the respect that I have for those that gave me the tools to succeed in this thing we call life.

  • Steve Mccormick Posted October 11, 2021 7:48 pm

    The world is better place because of Connie ,she was a great lady.
    I also gained a little more knowledge about my 1969 Mustang Mach1 because of Jerry.

  • Michele Trampe Denton Posted October 11, 2021 9:11 pm

    Mrs Francis was so instrumental in my creative development! My fellow students and I spent years ( in the 70’s) painting musical sets, decorating floats, staging banquet tables and backdrops, homecoming windows ,etc….any endeavor she set us to! Besides learning English along the way I became inventive and resourceful under her tutelage. Her drive was only exceeded by her love for her students. Heaven is blessed by her arrival.

  • Russell Morris Posted October 12, 2021 6:43 am

    Mrs Francis was the best teacher I ever had. I looked forward to her class every day. She made learning and pushing limits fun. She wasn’t just a teacher for the gifted students, she made a big impact on all of us..

    I’ll keep her dear family in my thoughts and hope the treasured memories will give them only peace and joy. RIP

  • Mike Herring Posted October 12, 2021 6:56 am

    Connie Francis was both an inspiration in our Sophomore English classroom & for me personally as the Francis family were our neighbors down 14th Ave. I will never forget her passion for teaching, reaching out to every student including those who struggled with learning literature & sentence structure (like myself). I specifically remember her standing on a chair flapping her arms like a chicken to get her point across (she was so much fun!) She made you WANT to work hard in her class because you knew it was important for the future. RIP Connie…hope to see you later.

  • Charles and Nancy Peek Posted October 12, 2021 9:30 am

    The fact that so many of the comments are from students tells its own story. She was a dear and loyal friend and somehow I couldn’t be surrised that I received a birthday card from here even after she had died. She always prepare ahead!

  • Bob Hansen Posted October 12, 2021 5:17 pm

    This tribute was so beautifully written and made me smile a lot. I will forever be thankful for having had Mrs. Francis as a teacher and as a part of my life. I take her lessons with me every day. My sincere condolences to the family. I hope that you’re comforted knowing how many lives she touched and how much she made the world a better place.

  • Jack & Nancy Kennedy Posted October 12, 2021 7:15 pm

    We send our condolences to Jerry V. and to all the Family of Connie Vincentini…..
    Yes We will TRULY miss Connie and her spot-on sense of humor, her gracious hospitality, her motherly ways to insure everyone is comfortable and taken care of, her loving friendship and her pretty smile and smiling eyes; Yes We Love and miss our dear friend Mrs. Connie Vincentini;
    “Rest in Peace Dear Friend”

  • Bob and Bonnie Brehmer Posted October 12, 2021 8:23 pm

    We are so sorry to hear this news. We met Connie and Jerry through the V8 Ford Club in Arizona. We enjoyed some great adventures along Route 66 and in Tubac. We received such a gracious welcome to their home when we traveled through Nebraska one summer.
    So blessed to have known such an amazing woman!

  • Carla Brooke Posted October 13, 2021 8:54 am

    In our earlier years, ,memories of staying up very late until the wee hours of the morning smoking and drinking coffee and solving all of the world’s problems was sometimes how we thrived in our lives and our children’s lives. It never occurred to me that Connie had to get up early to teach the next day. That was the kind of person she was. We joked about her being president, and I would be her counselor, and the world would be saved It matters that all three of my children had her for their English teacher. And it matters that my children know how important she was to me and many others.

  • Barbara Parker Posted October 14, 2021 8:27 am

    Connie Francis (Vincentini) was a force of nature. I was a devoted KHS theatre student. I can still see (and hear) her standing at the back of the auditorium shouting, “PROJECT!!! ENUNCIATE!!!” It is because of her, that I (and subsequently my own children) do NOT say “kin, fir or git” instead of ” can, for or get”.
    She took trash from no one, and many students lived in fear of her razor sharp tongue. She had a dry and witty sense of humor, which was so smart that I suspect not everyone understood it. As I said before, she was indeed a force of nature, and a role model for me.

    She gave me confidence when mine was lacking, she pushed me when I needed it, and was a shoulder to cry on when I needed that too. The world is a poorer place without her.
    Thanks, Connie, “Mrs. Francis”, for everything you mean to me. Thanks.

  • SCOTT ANDERSON Posted October 14, 2021 9:03 am

    The impact that one person can have on so many others defines the heart of a teacher and the caring she gave to all of her students. We had several discussions, through my high school years, that had a great impact on my life. She was truly a talented educator and mentor for so many.

  • Diane Checchin Posted October 14, 2021 9:27 am

    Frank and I were so saddened to hear of Connie’s passing We took many car trips with Connie and Jerry We always had such a fun time She had such a sharp wit and was positive under some very difficult health issues She was always so easy to talk to about anything She was devoted to Jerry and her family
    She always remembered my birthday with a card To say she will be missed is an understatement God bless and keep you

  • Bernadette Engels Posted October 15, 2021 9:34 am

    I feel honoured to have known your mom. She was a gift to this world. A legend at Kearney High School. Her life weaved a story, laced with wisdom and love in her heart. Thank you Mrs. Francis for your positive influence. You have passed on invaluable instruction and wisdom and created memorable moments. (I sure hope I didn’t misspell anything. Lol)

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