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This 84-year-old knows more about technology than you do

Tinkering and curiosity fuel lifelong adventure for this St. Louis Hall of Famer

Author: Amy VanDeVelde/Thursday, February 23, 2017/Categories: Lifelong learning, Technology, Volunteering, National

Don Francois teaching students

Like many other techies, Don Francois (far left in photo) went into debt to finance his first technology purchase. “I was fourteen when I bought a short wave radio from the Sears Roebuck catalog,” Don says.  “It cost $39. I borrowed the money from my grandfather and repaid him one dollar per week by helping him as janitor at the high school.”

That purchase began Don’s decades long interest in tinkering with technology to help people and organizations and solve technology problems. As luck would have it, Don’s neighbor during high school was a radio ham who also repaired radios. This gave Don the opportunity to help people by repairing radio equipment. “When I wasn't playing music, I was always doing or fixing something electronic.”

Creating a meaningful retirement

You really could say much the same thing about Don these days. The octogenarian has been part of the Connections instructor team since the program began 16 years ago. During his post-retirement gig with Connections, he has taught nearly every course offered. His favorite class to teach was Fantastic Photos with Picasa because it blended his hobbies of photography and technology. “I must admit I was disappointed when the class was discontinued because Picasa was such a versatile and popular program with our students.”

True to form, Don volunteered to learn Google Photos earlier this year so he would be ready to teach classes. “I used Google Photos (italics) to find the pictures for this blog. Google Photos (italics) has a feature that shows a head shot of everyone you have photographed. You click on the person you are looking for and the program finds every picture that contains that face. It’s surprisingly accurate,” he says.

Don’s retirement has been full and rewarding. In addition to his volunteer service for Oasis and photography, he plays about thirty gigs per year in two bands. Don says, "I play in two bands, an eighteen piece big band, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey type band and also a five piece group, accordion, bass, guitar, keyboard and male vocalist."

Don Francois with his accordion

He enjoys spending time with his  wife, Terry, as well as his children, Ron and Mary, two grandchildren and three great- grandchildren. He is also a veteran of the United States Navy.

This April, Don  will be inducted into the St. Louis Media History Foundation’s Hall of Fame for his professional work as a pioneering TV engineer who helped launch one of the first stations in St. Louis. He later helped other local stations transition from black-and-white to color broadcasts.

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