Stephen M. Francois (Steve), age 73, 38-year resident of Sleepy Hollow, passed away on December 21, 2022, at St. Joseph Hospital in Elgin, IL. He was the beloved husband for 51 years of Sylvia (Detmer), and loving father of Sean Francois and daughter-in-law Ann Kelly. Other survivors include dear nieces and nephews, close cousins on both sides of the family, and countless special friends whom he considered family. He loved having his yellow lab, Bailey, always by his side.
Steve was born in Kokomo, Indiana on March 2, 1949, and was the son of the late Joseph E. and E. Celestine (nee Collins) Francois. Upon his father’s death, Steve and his mother moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where, in the 8th grade at St. John the Baptist School, he first met his future wife. Steve graduated from Bishop Luers High School, where he was active in Key Club, art, and working on the school newspaper. At some point during this time, he opted for a banjo over a bike as a birthday gift, and his musical career began. Steve attended Lewis College (University), majoring in Art. He joined the Army Reserves, where he served his six years as part of a psyops unit.
On July 31, 1971, Steve married Sylvia, his childhood sweetheart. They settled in Barrington, IL, where Steve began his woodworking and refinishing career by apprenticing under Charlie Schmidt of Schmidt Wood Products. He started out using his artistic skills for refinishing antiques. He grew his own business through the years, Francois Finishing and Furniture Restoration, where he eventually carved out his special niche of repairing and refinishing fine kitchen cabinetry. He was well-known for his excellent workmanship, artistic talent, and rapport with his customers.
Music was an enormous part of Steve’s life. He had a fantastic bass voice, a beautiful finger-picking guitar style, and played many different stringed instruments. Though he had no formal musical training, he had a real gift and an ear beyond compare. He sang with a few close friends in various folk groups in high school, and “Steve and Sylvia” played together as a duo from college on through life. Steve often accompanied Sylvia’s musical groups while she was teaching music, with fond memories of traveling with The Emancipation, a “Christy Minstrel”-type group of Junior High Students who still keep in contact today. For a period of about 9 wonderful years they hosted and Steve emcee’d the Masthouse (Don and the late Eunice Mast) in Woodstock, Illinois. During this time, they took the tour of their lives with others from the Masthouse to Russia, where they performed with other American and Russian performers to audiences in opera houses along the Volga River. Even later in life, when Steve was rehabilitating from one of his own many health issues, he led concerts and singalongs to cheer other residents of the facility.
Steve was so happy to be an active part of the Sleepy Hollow Community. He served his community in many ways, especially as a member of the Sleepy Hollow Service Club where he helped with community gatherings at Halloween, Easter, Christmas (Santa), and 4th of July (singing).
Steve loved to sail. He was able to do a lot of it, including his & Sylvia’s years of living and cruising on their ketch, Sebastian. In more recent years, he participated in weekly races at the Waukegan Yacht Club, with a crew of dear friends. He absolutely cherished the time that he spent sailing with his son, Sean.
Steve really enjoyed Indy Car Racing, and loved attending and/or watching the Indy 500 Races through the years. His annual Father’s Day request was always a day trip to the vintage car races at Blackhawk Farms, complete with a picnic of favorite foods, and the company of his wife, son and daughter-in-law, and a few other very special friends.
Probably the activity which brought Steve the most joy over the last twenty years was being Santa to hundreds of children. He took that job very seriously, and if you didn’t believe before, you certainly did after you met Santa Steve! Our pictures show the intimate conversations he had with little ones (and big ones!), urging them to be nice to their brothers and sisters, to be good people, and, of course, to leave him cookies and milk. His stories could make a book, from surprise proposals on his knees to young children asking Santa to bring Grandma back home for Christmas. Santa and his Mrs. Claus (Sylvia) visited the home of one family who displayed their 3 children’s annual pictures with Santa. There were at least 8-10 photos there, and all of them were with Santa Steve. He was the “real” Santa. Santa Steve had the opportunity to visit with children in Chicago’s Daley Plaza, the Museum of Science and Industry, Lincoln Park Zoo, and venues too many to mention, as well as in many Chicago suburbs, including Sleepy Hollow, St. Charles, and West Dundee during the Dickens in Dundee celebration every year. He was a part of Northern Illinois Santas, and proud to be a “real-bearded” Santa, at that.
Steve was a member of St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in West Dundee, where he was a member and served as Grand Knight of Siena Council Knights of Columbus #8596. He, at one time, served on the Parish Council, and was very active in the Music Ministry along with his wife, Sylvia.
Steve had many serious health issues in the last 10 years of his life, and he faced them all with courage and determination, and without a complaint. He was full of kindness, an inspiration to many, and was top-notch “friend” material. He loved God, his family, and his friends. He made a difference, and he will be sorely missed.
Visitation will be held at Miller Funeral Home, 504 W. Main St., West Dundee, IL 60118 on Friday, December 30, 2022, from 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm, and again on Saturday morning, December 31, 2022, at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, 845 W. Main St., West Dundee, IL 60118, from 10:00 am until the time of the funeral Mass at 11:00 am. The Mass will be officiated by the Rev. Rich Rosinski, former Pastor and dear friend. Burial will be private.
Memorials may be made to the American Diabetes Association (www.diabetes.org)
or to help cover medical and funeral expenses (https://gofund.me/c1bd3fd2)
. To leave an online condolence, please visit www.millerfuneralhomedundee.com. For information, please call 847-426-3436.