KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – It’s only fitting on International Women’s Day that we kick off our salute to the finalists in our Remarkable Women campaign. WATE 6 put out the announcement for nominations back in the fall, and thanks to so many of you, we received more than 100.
Now, we’re down to our top four.
Linda Francis is a former teacher and grandmother with a true heart for service in many ways. There’s nothing like a swirling bin full of colorful markers to ignite a child’s excitement for creativity.
Linda is always ready for her loving group of grandchildren who affectionately call her , as they told us in unison, “Grandmama.”
Whether it’s craft time, or the weekly Sunday dinners for her three adult children and all fifteen grandkids, the big welcoming table and the close-knit comfortable group around it is a testament to the importance of family in the Francis home.
Linda’s husband Chris nominated her for our Remarkable Women campaign. He read some of the words he submitted, as Linda looked on.
“She is a remarkable wife, mother, grandmother, church member, teacher, and community servant. There’s no one that I know more deserving of recognition than she is,” Chris wrote.
It was the first time Linda heard the words Chris wrote.
“When he saw the news about Remarkable Women – nominate a remarkable woman – he just sat down at the computer. I said you didn’t save it. He said ‘no, I just sat down and composed it,’ Linda said. “And so that tells me it’s from his heart.”
Chris wanted us to know about Linda’s longtime career as a French and English teacher at Gibbs High School, and so much more. She volunteers during times of disaster including the Waverly, Tennessee floods, and there are her hobbies.
Chris continued, “in addition to all of these time-consuming activities, she finds time to search out and photograph some of the rarest wildflowers in the Southern Appalachians. She is a member of the Tennessee Native Plant Society and the Georgia Botanical Society.”
Linda’s photographs are on display at two local libraries and churches. She also organized a clown troupe during her teaching days to share an anti-drug message with other students.
“We were actually trained by Barnum and Bailey clowns,” Linda shared.
Looking over photographs in a scrapbook, Linda said, “these kids that are now adults with kids of their own are what I call my little celebrities.”
Her own children say Mom is the real deal. A truly remarkable woman.
“The love that she shows to those students, or those ladies in her Sunday School class, or just the neighbors, it’s the exact same love she shares to her family,” said her son, Matthew.
Linda Francis is a woman who is more at home behind the scenes, as we see her wipe away a tear as she quietly takes in the well-deserved recognition.
Here’s Chris’ nomination:
“Linda Francis is a Remarkable Woman because of what she has done and is doing for her children, her community, and her church. Linda has three children who are successful in their own right, along with 15 grandchildren who all live in Knox County. She is actively involved with all of them, feeding them almost every Sunday, child sitting, and homeschooling them whenever called upon. Linda has been involved in many community activities including teaching high school for more than 32 years in Memphis, Cordova, and Knox County, Tennessee. From 1987 until her retirement seven years ago, she taught French and English classes at Gibbs High School. While teaching she organized and sponsored French Clubs, a Geocaching club, and during the Just Say No drug and alcohol prevention program, she organized a student clown troupe who traveled to various schools to perform skits related to the program. She has performed herself as a clown or an eccentric character at churches, community clubs, and nursing homes. Her last few years teaching, she was chosen by her principal to serve as a Lead Teacher and to evaluate several of her colleagues. Linda also volunteers with Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief. In 2018, she spent a week in Crawfordville, Florida helping to feed thousands of people affected by the devastating hurricane that swept across the Florida panhandle. In 2019, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, she got up every other morning at 3:00 or 4:00 for more than six weeks to go cook meals with a team of volunteers for the homeless in Knoxville. In 2021, she spent a week in Waverly, Tennessee, cooking and distributing meals to hundreds of residents and volunteers who were affected by catastrophic flooding. And she is presently cooking and serving meals in Samburg, Tennessee, to those affected by destructive tornados. At her church, she teaches a Sunday school class of about 20 older women, she is the leader of the drama team, provides meals for grieving families, and has served on the nominating committee. Every year, her Sunday school class collects and delivers paper products and personal hygiene items to a group home for special adults in Jacksboro, Tennessee. In addition to all of these time-consuming activities, she finds time to search out and photograph some of the rarest wildflowers in the Southern Appalachians. She is a member of the Tennessee Native Plant Society and the Georgia Botanical Society. She has been asked to display several of her flower photos at two local libraries and two different churches. She also finds time to go camping and to hike with her husband and others to remote places in our beautiful mountains. She is a remarkable wife, mother, grandmother, church member, teacher, and community servant. There is no one that I know more deserving of recognition than she is.”
Meet the 2022 Remarkable Women nominees
Remarkable Women airs on WATE 6 in the 5 p.m. news each Tuesday in the month of March. Stories can be found online at WATE.com after they air.