Francis Xavier Sweeney, age 86 of Waterford, beloved husband for 62 years of Betty (Cragin) Sweeney passed away peacefully December 14th 2012 surrounded by his family. He was born March 3rd 1926 in Bangor Maine to Lucy (McGrath) Sweeney and Francis X Sweeney.
Shortly after graduation from John Bapst Memorial High school in 1944, he served in the U.S. Navy Armed Guard as a gunner aboard the Liberty Ship Zane Gray during the World War II conflict in the European Theater and was honorably discharged in 1946. He attended Springfield College on the G.I. Bill, married Betty May Cragin in his junior year of college in 1950 and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education and Biology in 1951.
Francis was hired by the Waterford School System in 1951 as the physical education teacher on a rotation basis throughout the elementary school circuit at Jordan, Cohanzie, Quaker Hill, & Great Neck. His rotation later included teaching at South West and Clark Lane. He became the P.E. teacher at Waterford High School in the inaugural year of 1956, also teaching math, science, and health during his tenure. He loved education and learning, continuing on to receive his Master's Degree from UConn in 1956 and his 6th Year Degree in 1958. He retired from Waterford High School after 28 years but not from learning. After retirement, he attended Garfield College in Painesville Ohio, enrolling in the Physician Assistant Program returning home due to illness. He later graduated from Bridgeport University School of Nursing in 1985 with honors. His nursing career included time at Yale, Backus, and Lawrence and Memorial Hospital as well as the Pan Am Games in Indianapolis in 1987.
He was the catalyst and patriarch of Waterford Athletics responsible for the entire athletic program and serving as the first Athletic Director at Waterford High School. He coached nearly every sport and doubled as the trainer well versed in sports medicine. Francis coached basketball for 18 years at Waterford High School and would slyly leave the gym open on Sunday for students from New London and Waterford to play. He started Waterford Lacrosse in 1975 but by stepping down as Athletic Director in the following year the sport lost traction until the recent resurgence of Lacrosse in South Eastern CT.
Francis loved the students of Waterford acting as mentor to many, most of all he loved the comradery with the students. . He was an avid skier and organized many student ski trips. He was chosen as the first teacher to be the commencement speaker by the graduating class of 1979.
Francis was committed to the town of Waterford as a member of the Waterford School Board, and the Waterford Recreation and Parks Committee.
He loved his summers at Waterford Beach, directing the swimming and life guard programs at Millstone Point and later at the present location.
Retirement from Waterford allowed him to coach women's softball and men's squash at Connecticut College. He was very busy with officiated girls softball, and swimming & diving meets, as well as a Red Cross Instructor.
He shall always be remembered by his sharp wit and infectious smile.
Francis is survived by his sister Anna and her husband Charles Waddell of Milford CT. He was predeceased by sisters Helen and Corinne. He is survived by his wife Betty, and 6 children, Robert & Kerry of Lawton OK, Gregory & Linda of Tampa FL, Cathleen Sweeney & husband David Gregoire of Old Saybrook, Michael & Barbara of East Lyme, Ann Marie & Tim Gunn of Guilford, and James & Cindy of Fond du lac WI as well as 15 grandchildren, Alanna, Sean, Cullen, Madison, Brennan, Brandon, Kyle, Erik, Bryan, Jesse, Kevin, Sean, Jamie, Kayla & Keegan, all of whom shall be ever impacted by his life. He was extremely pleased that his first Great Grandchild, due in January is to be named Xavier Francis Sweeney.
Francis and his family were very grateful for the care he received from the dedicated staff at the New London Rehab and Care facility on Clark Lane in Waterford.
Calling hours will be held on Wednesday the 19th from 5:00 to 8:00 PM at the Thomas L Neilan & Sons Funeral Home on Ocean Avenue in New London. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Thursday the 20th at Saint Joseph's Church on Squire Street in New London at 11:00 AM. He will be buried at Jordan Cemetery in Waterford.
Come not to mourn but to celebrate his life. Please visit www.neilanfuneralhome.com to view a memorial video or to leave a condolence message for the family.