Francis Robert Tibbetts

12/29/1936 - 10/13/2022


Obituary For Francis Robert Tibbetts

Francis Tibbetts reached the end of his journey at age 85 after living life to the fullest until he was diagnosed with lymphoma earlier this year.

He was a one-of-a-kind character with many passions: sailing, boat building, storytelling, the water, driving commercial trucks and buses, motorcycling, and his eclectic mix of friends.

Francis was Nova Scotian to the core and couldn’t contemplate living anywhere other than the paradise of his home province. He spent what he described as a “blessed” childhood in Brighton, a small community on the rocky shore of St. Mary’s Bay in Digby County. He lost his mother, Ivy, to tuberculosis the day after his fourth birthday and was raised by his father, Willis. Neighbor’s unlocked doors were always open to Francis, who felt welcome with an assuredness that required no knocking.

During the Second World War, he was sent to live briefly with his aunt in Ontario. It was an experience that helped foster an independence that he highly valued.

Francis developed an enduring love of learning during his early education in a one-room schoolhouse. He later became the first high-school graduate from Brighton, made possible through new bus service to Digby Regional High School when he started Grade 7. He moved to Montreal after graduation and then joined the navy, which took him to Pensacola, Florida for naval air training. He served aboard HMCS Quebec and travelled extensively, often as the admiral’s “doggie,” carrying his camera gear.

Francis settled in Halifax in the late 1950s, where he married his first wife, Bernice, and had three children. He joined the Naval Fleet School at CFB Stadacona, becoming an accomplished electronics instructor. It was a career rooted in a fascination with electricity, a passion that inspired him as a teenager to install the first light bulb and socket in his father’s home. (His father wanted electricity so his son could study but Francis had an ulterior motive of building a radio). Francis retired from the fleet school at 56 and decided his next job would be outdoors after a career spent in the classroom. He obtained a commercial trucking license and became a long-distance driver for 15 years. But he worked to live rather than lived to work.

Francis was an avid sailor who built four wooden racing boats. His first, Little Sister, was constructed in his backyard in the 1960s. He was so determined to own a boat that he toppled a tree with a hacksaw to craft the mast and boom. Butterfly and Apocalypse followed in the ’70s. His final masterpiece was Apocalypse 2, designed by his son, Andrew. The 40-footer garnered a newspaper headline as the star of the famed Chester Race Week soon after its 1983 launch. With Francis at the helm, Apocalypse 2 was one of the fastest racers in Nova Scotia during its heyday. Its mast has a resting place of honor as the flagpole at Francis’s beloved Armdale Yacht Club, his home away from home for more than five decades. He sailed in the club’s Wednesday night races until age 84 and still kept two sailboats: Wednesday Knight and MOA. Francis would have been thrilled to learn that a new trophy for Armdale’s top junior Sailor is named after him. His proudest racing victories included many AYC club championships and the prestigious Prince of Wales offshore race in 1999 on a day that it was blowing a gale.

Francis was just as much at home in the water as on it. He swam on the high-school team and would do daily laps through much of his adulthood at the Waegwoltic Club or the former Halifax YWCA, where he was a longtime volunteer swimming instructor. His volunteerism extended through his life and he was awarded a certificate for 100 blood and plasma donations.

Francis was nothing if not quirky. He had encyclopedic knowledge and could chat at length about a vast array of subjects. And he sure loved his stories. He was often fondly mocked for his incredible capacity to tell the same ones over and over again. Francis rejected pretension and extravagance. He was a clothing thrifter long before it became fashionable. He would boast about his pre-loved acquisitions and his signature outfit was an untucked long-sleeve shirt and jeans. He never owned a new car and he prided himself in driving “beaters.” His final vehicle was a 30-year-old Ford truck. He was always happy behind the wheel. He navigated a double-decker tour bus through the hilly streets of downtown Halifax into his eighties. He drove a motorcycle locally and around the Maritimes, selling his last one at age 81. He renewed his Class 1 semi & tractor designation on his license just before his 85th birthday.

He and his wife, Everetta, were snowbirds for two decades, spending winters in a camper trailer in Florida. They hit the road every Boxing Day, stormy or not, returning in March. One of their memorable trips was a seven-week expedition up the U.S. Intracoastal Waterway aboard a 30-foot C&C that Francis bought in Florida.

In a surprising life twist, DNA testing revealed in 2020 that Francis was adopted as an infant and had five living siblings, an aunt, and more than 20 nieces and nephews. He was delighted to meet many of them in person or on Facebook.

Francis was predeceased by his parents, Willis Tibbetts in 1975 and Ivy Tibbetts in 1940. He is survived by his wife, Everetta MacKinnon, and three children, Andrew, Janice (Mike Roper) and Cheryl (Lonsdale Holland); and three grandchildren, Meredith Holland, Oscar Holland and Anna Roper.

A celebration of life will be held at Armdale Yacht Club at 2 p.m. on October 29. Donations to Feed Nova Scotia are welcome.

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  • 11/22/2022

    Dear Andrew and Family I am so sorry for your loss. I remember Frances well from the YWCA and having crossed paths on the water sailling.He was so well known to all of us who were regulars at the pool. I loved his stories and hearing about his adventures. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Joanna Zed

  • 10/23/2022

    23Oct 2022 Gord Curry There will never be another! Had the pleasure of sharing an office with Francis at the Fleet School for two years. It was fun being at work because of his unique personality and his take on life. People who knew Francis wanted a life just like his. He enjoyed work, sailing , nite-life, and people. A person of great principles, he touched many lives in a very positive way. I spent many hours with both he and Andrew and I enjoyed every minute. All my best to Everetta and the family.

  • 10/23/2022

    Dear Everetta, Andrew, Cheryl and Janice, I am truly sorry for your loss and extend my deepest sympathy. I was very sorry to hear of Francis passing. I have so many wonderful memories of daily office antics and interesting stories anchored by Francis during the 1980s at Fleet School Halifax. I loved sailing with him on Wed afternoon "sports days" and was always amazed at his incredible sailing skills with Apocalypse I and II. Many of my family members were also fortunate to meet and sail with Francis during visits to Halifax. He was a unique character, a great friend and a man who I admired for his brilliance, common sense, practicality and fashion sense. I was so fortunate to meet him. He sure had a great run at life, but will be missed. May you Rest In Peace Francis. Doug Myers and family Ottawa

  • 10/20/2022

    Cheryl, Janice and Andrew. I am so for your loss. Never easy to lose a loved one, especially a parent. I remember visiting you when you lived on Bridges and I lived on Atlantic. May your memories comfort you during this difficult time.

  • 10/19/2022

    So sorry to hear of Francis's passing. A true sailing visionary who rocked the sailing establishment with a collection of boats sailed by an eclectic crew. Loved racing against Francis and the 'Apocalypse' crew. Condolences to Andrew and the family.

  • 10/19/2022

    I am sorry to hear of his passing, a great sailor who built and sailed his own boats. It was my pleasure to know him and to consider him a friend. One of a kind !!

  • 10/19/2022

    An accomplished electronics instructor indeed, I was fortunate enough to learn from him many times. Never knew he had so many other talents, but it does not surprise me. A life well lived Francis, fare thee well.

  • 10/19/2022

    Everetta: Please accept My Most Sincere Condolences. Even though we lost touch, I considered Francis a dear friend. I looked forward to hearing of your escapades. I did not know Francis' children well, even though I cherish the fact we met on occasion. Please know I share in your loss and am only a phone call away. Murleta Williams

  • 10/19/2022

    I was sorry to read of Francis's passing this morning. I had the pleasure of sailing on one of his boats on a few occasions. He was a fine sailor. My prayers are thoughts are with Everetta, Andrew, and the rest of his family. Rest in Peace. Martin Canning

  • 10/19/2022

    Sincere heartfelt condolences to Everetta, Janice, Cheryl, Andrew and family's. Francis is a profound loss to our family and wonderful longtime friend. He will be missed by those who knew him as he had so much to give to those around him. Such a supportive man, teacher, storyteller, and sailor. May his loved ones find peace in all the memories and legacy he left behind. We sure will miss him.... Blair & Carol

  • 10/18/2022

    A true and dear friend for many years. We spent many hours together. Our sympathies to Everetta, and the rest of the family. A great loss..

  • 10/18/2022

    Our deepest condolences Janice and family. Prayers are sent to you!


  • 2 TREES

    Tanya Crew planted 2 trees in memory of Francis Robert Tibbetts . - October 18, 2022

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