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Alumni Happenings - September 2006
Grand County High School

 

Zeke Francis, GCHS Class of 1965
by Jeff Richards

Zeke Francis, 58, a 1965 graduate of Grand County High School, remembers going to the state playoffs three years in a row as a player in the early 1960s, only to lose twice in the championship game and once in the semifinals.

Zeke Francis

“We were winless my freshman year, but we never lost a game on our new field in the fall of 1962, when I was a sophomore,” said Zeke, referring to the field still currently in use by the Red Devils. Grand ended up losing the state championship game to American Fork that year. The next season, they lost in the semifinals to eventual champ Judge Memorial. Then, in the fall of 1964, Zeke’s senior year, the Red Devils made it to the finals yet again, only to lose the Class B title game to North Summit.

It wasn’t until 2005, more than 40 years after his high school graduation, that Zeke, now an assistant coach for the Red Devils, finally got to see his beloved Red Devils win the state football championship, the first such trophy in Moab’s history.

Despite losing 18 seniors to graduation earlier this spring, the Red Devils have already started strong this fall, winning their first two games (over San Juan and Monticello) in decisive fashion. This is Zeke’s fourth year helping head coach Dennis Wells. Zeke also assisted for a couple of years when Ron Dolphin was coaching and Zeke’s son Sam was playing football at GCHS.

Zeke, his wife Maralee, and their children have been heavily involved in GCHS activities over the years. Maralee, a native of Wyoming, graduated from BYU and taught briefly in Colorado before coming to Moab to teach English at GCHS during the 1975-76 school year. Known as Miss Roberts in those days, she also was the drama and debate coach.

In September of 1979, Maralee and Zeke were married. Maralee then taught for one more year, filling in for a special education teacher before quitting teaching to raise a family. She and Zeke are the parents of eight children: Bart, 26, Charles, 24, Samual, 22, Rebecca, 21, Geneava, 19, Leonard, 16, Sarah, 14, and Jacob, 10. The oldest five are all graduates of GCHS, and Sam, Rebecca, and Geneava were all class valedictorians. The younger three Francis children are still in school. Leonard is a junior and Sarah is a freshman at GCHS, while youngest child Jake is a 5th-grader at Helen M. Knight Intermediate School.

Zeke and Maralee are also expecting their first grandchild sometime this month, as oldest son Bart and his wife Rebecca are expecting a baby girl in September. Bart recently started teaching art at Mountain View High School in Orem. Charles and his wife Heather (a Blanding native) live in Ogden, where Charles attends Weber State. Sam and Geneava both attend the University of Utah. Rebecca, who married Chris Summerhays earlier this summer, lives in St. George and is finishing up her studies at Southern Utah University.

Zeke was born in Vernal, Utah but his family moved to Moab when he was 6 months old. He has two siblings, both of whom are GCHS alumni. His sister Debbie and her husband Lee Sjoblom live at Dead Horse Point, where Lee is the state park’s superintendent. Meantime, brother Dennis Francis works in the petroleum industry in Houston, Texas.

Zeke Francis 1965Zeke remembers attending classes in what is now the Moab City Center before moving to the new high school (currently Grand County Middle School) his sophomore year. He counts wrestling coach Gene Leonard and football coach Glen Richeson as his most memorable teachers. “But it really was (assistant football coach) Frank Carbajal who really got everyone fired up,” recalled Zeke of the team’s mid-sixties turnaround, when they only lost three games in three years. “We had always had the potential, but everything just sort of jelled and clicked into place,” recalled Zeke.

Zeke did various activities in high school, including football (playing guard and long snapper on special teams), wrestling (placing sixth in state in the 138 lb. category), baseball (playing pitcher and third base). He also played in the school band and was president of the lettermen’s club.

Zeke was one of the youngest graduates in his high school class (he didn’t turn 18 until the October after graduation). He attended Dixie College and CEU for awhile before being drafted into service in the Army in Vietnam. He served as a helicopter crew chief during the war, accumulating around 1,300 hours of flying time. After his stint in Vietnam ended, he returned stateside and served in Savannah, Ga. for a time.

After leaving the Army, Zeke then attended Ricks College in Idaho and Brigham Young University in Provo, studying art design. He made it close to graduation, but never finished, returning to Moab instead to help his father with his drilling business.

Shortly after he and Maralee were married, they moved out to their current property south of town. They have owned and operated Four Corners Design Center at 2130 South Highway 191 (adjacent to their home) for the past 26 years. The shop creates and sells custom-made T-shirts, hats, and other clothing items decorated in a variety of ways, including iron-on designs, silk-screening, and embroidery. They also do picture framing.
In addition to working at the T-shirt shop, Zeke has also been employed as a truck driver and construction worker over the years, primarily for Crowley Construction. He also does jobs for Key Construction.

After a 17-year hiatus, Maralee returned to teaching at GCHS in the fall of 1997 (the first year of the new high school), and continues to teach there, part time. Maralee is the drama teacher, and she and her drama students produce a school play each fall. This November’s production will be “Annie Get Your Gun,” she noted. Maralee also serves as the student government adviser.

Over the years, the Francis children have participated in various GCHS activities, including soccer, wrestling, track, football, cross-country, debate, drama, and student government.

Zeke said he enjoys helping out the Red Devil football squad. “I’m basically the equipment manager and trainer,” he noted. “I do anything that needs to be done, so that the coach doesn’t have to, and so he can focus on coaching the kids.”

“This year’s team is really going to be fun to watch,” he said. “We’re small, but we’re fast, just like the team I was on back in the 1960s.”

Zeke also is a certified track official, and has served as meet director for several UHSAA meets. He attended the state track meet at BYU this spring, when the Lady Devils won the school’s first-ever girls track championship.

Zeke isn’t about to let a recent knee operation slow him down. He keeps busy at football practices, working hard to make sure the Red Devils are ready to go every game.

What does Zeke like most about living in Moab? “It’s just home. It’s always been home,” he said. “I know people here and they know me.”

 
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