"she is swift" [NOBL]
One of the most difficult tasks we undertake with this site is reporting on the deaths of fellow Sherlockians, and this one is no exception, as we knew her personally. Francine Morris Swift, BSI ("The Wigmore Street Post Office") has passed beyond the Reichenbach. She died this morning after a brief illness.
Those who knew Francine remember a woman who could be at times outgoing, at at other times quietly pensive. She was a true Sherlockian, being a long-time member of the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes ("Hatty Doran") and having received her investiture in the Baker Street Irregulars in 1994. I don't know about any of her local involvements - perhaps those who lived near her could fill in the gaps.
What I do know is that she found her perfect mate when she met Wayne Swift, BSI ("The Giant Rat of Sumatra"). The two made up one of those rarities in Sherlockian circles: a couple comprised of two individuals who equally enjoy the Canon. Wayne wrote about a great many subjects that he and Francine enjoyed, including trains, music, P.G. Wodehouse and horse racing, to name a few. In fact, he authored the 2000 Baker Street Journal Christmas Annual: History of the Silver Blaze, in which he recounted the first 50 years of the horse race associated the BSI. While Wayne himself was the historian behind the Annual, he noted in his Acknowledgements:
"Overall, my wife, Francine Swift, the real Swift family authority on horses as animals, has been a central bulwark throughout the effort."When Wayne passed away suddenly following the BSI Weekend in 2001, we remember how difficult it was for Francine. The following year, as we manned the table in the vendors' room, she came by the stacks of BSJ Christmas Annuals new and old and lovingly passed her fingers over Wayne's contribution. We could see the tears welling up in her eyes and her lip began to quiver before she quickly moved away. Clearly, Francine had lost the great love of her life.
Francine continued in her own right in the Sherlockian world, contributing to the Baker Street Journal from time to time, but in the end, it seemed as if her heart wasn't in it quite the same. I recently received a number of orders from her for the BSI's Manuscript Series and International Series, so I inferred that she was getting back into the game in full force.
It is my sincerest hope that she and Wayne are together again, eternally blissful and at peace.
If you have any personal memories of Francine, or if you can fill in any relevant details about her life, we invite you to share them in a comment below.
Photo credit: Dorothy Stix
Francine was a formidable Sherlockian and a sweet, lovely person, whom all of us admired and whose company we all enjoyed. Your comments, Scott, are spot on. She shall be missed in "the purlieus of the Sherlockian world."
Francine's joint interests with Wayne also extended to the books of Dorothy L. Sayers. They were both very active members of an on-line Sayers group and its companion off-topic chatter group.
They were both much-beloved members in both groups; Wayne's nom has already been retired and Francine's likely will be as well.
Francine had a trenchant wit and did not suffer fools, but she had a soft spot for puppy dogs and other misguided four- and two-legged beasts. She was always interested and interesting. Though the times seem sad, the memories are glad for the grace that has gone is the Swifts.
I always had a soft spot for both Wayne and Francine, and was sat next to Francine at the BSI dinner when Wayne's 'Stand with me on the Terrace' entry was read out. She was devastated, but controlled herself extremely well - apart from squeezing the juice out of my hand while it was all going on. We'll all miss her blustering manner and wit.
I never met Francine, but corresponded with her after Wayne's passing. I felt I got to know her a bit, but I've always regretted that we never had the chance to meet. Now, I won't have the chance, but I know that I was lucky to have at least shared some good notes and letters.
Going out to stand upon the terrace in the cold, rainy night for a moment or two...
I had known Wayne and Francine for many years. In fact Wayne was the computer guru for my business. They would come up to New Jersey often to visit us. Once they came, without telling us first that they were planning to bring their dog. At the time we had two dogs and two cats who did not take kindly to this idea. The ensuing chaos was memorable. I can't seem to think of Francine without thinking of Wayne as they were so well suited for each other. I will miss her as she always began her telephone calls with "hi chum." And she was a good chum.
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