Francis LaPlante was born in Worcester, MA, in 1943. He was raised in a rural area of Massachusetts with his three sisters. LaPlante had a love of all sports growing up but particularly baseball. His father was a World War II Navy Veteran, and wanting to follow in his footsteps, LaPlante enlisted in the Navy right after graduating high school in 1961.
After going through the Naval basic training program, LaPlante shipped out of Norfolk, VA, aboard the aircraft carrier the USS Randolph. Through his naval training, LaPlante learned Morse code, which is an alphabet or code represented by combinations of long and short signals of light or sounds. His occupation as a radioman involved him receiving highly sensitive messages in Morse code. Once he received these messages, he had strict orders to tell no one and walk them straight to the bridge, only handing them to the captain. But the top-secret messages were not his only communications; his mother wrote him a letter every day while he was in the service.
LaPlante was stationed in Ireland for a period and always remarked how kind the locals were. If he and fellow soldiers were walking through town wearing their uniforms, local citizens would come to greet them and invite them in for dinner. LaPlante spent most of his military career out at sea on the USS Randolph. He loved the sea and later told his wife that one of his duties was to walk the ship at night. He reveled in the beauty of the ocean, the night stars, and the movement of the water. As his wife Marilyn recanted his stories, she got choked up and was brought to tears remembering how he talked about his love of the ocean.
LaPlante met his wife, Marilyn, after being honorably discharged from the Navy. He lived next door to her sister and would make sure to walk outside around the house whistling when he would see her car out front. Marilyn was on to his attempts at trying to get her attention and would usually shrug it off. One day she decided to go over and talk to him while he was up in a tree gathering nuts for his mom. His mother said to him, “Offer her a cigarette!” and he quickly replied, “But I don’t like girls who smoke!” Although Marilyn wasn’t interested at first, something eventually grew between them. About four to five weeks after they started dating, LaPlante proposed to Marilyn on the beach while vacationing with his family at Old Orchard Beach in Maine. Marilyn reminisced fondly, “That’s where we fell in love.”
The newlyweds were vacationing in New Hampshire at Weir’s beach on Lake Winnipesaukee when they noticed a young woman walking on the boardwalk with adorable twin boys. It was evening, and a storm was slowly moving in. The boats were rocking in and out from the dock with each large wave surge when they suddenly heard a woman screaming. One of the children they saw earlier had fallen in between a boat and the dock. LaPlante ran over and dove in the water without hesitation, saving the young child before the ferry boat came rocking back towards them. “That was my Fran. He was always so kind and caring of others. He didn’t remove his wallet or anything and just jumped right in.” Marilyn proudly stated.
The young couple decided to stay in Massachusetts after getting married. LaPlante had always wanted to use his military training to work for the airlines but instead found himself going back to school and training to become a computer analyst. He was a numbers guy and extremely intelligent. Together the couple built a house and raised two sons in the country.
LaPlante continued playing baseball on a local traveling team. He was even awarded MVP after one big tournament in New York. Some of his teammates had told Marilyn that they voted him MVP, but she never told him. “I wasn’t going to take that surprise away from him.” Marilyn went on to say, “He never had an enemy in the world. Everyone loved him.” Marilyn said she used to tease him that baseball was his first love, and she was his second.
The only thing that could keep him from baseball was his devotion to the church. “He was a very strong spiritual Christian man with a wonderful attitude who loved to joke just like his father.” He held several elected positions in the church. He was a Deacon and served as an elder for seven years. They also worked together with the youth group for about seven years.
The couple now has six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, with only one girl in the bunch. They built a home on a lake with their retirement and enjoyed traveling in their motorhome and mustang convertible. They thought that they would stay in their lake house for the rest of their lives.
Ten years ago, Francis LaPlante’s health started to decline. He slowly stepped away from his beloved roles at the church as he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, his disease has progressed, leaving him nonverbal and in a wheelchair. Marilyn firmly stated, “There is no way he is going to a nursing home. He’s staying here and won’t go anywhere else but here with me, as long as I can take care of him. I took care of him for a long time till I realized I couldn’t do it alone.” She went on to say, “We now work with a great company and have some wonderful caregivers. And God bless the caregivers that even came out during COVID to help us.” She then confessed, “It is a big step to have someone come into your home and help you. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes.”
Marilyn remarked as she thought back, “We have been married a long time, and I just remember the few stories that he was able to tell me.” She continued, “I tell the children we had a wonderful life and don’t feel bad when we die because we are going to heaven and already have our tickets. Just put your red shoes on and dance on our graves.” Marilyn declared, “Fran is the love of my life, and we have been married 56 years, and we would marry each other again in a second.”
Veterans Care Coordination is proud to recognize Francis LaPlante for his service to our country. We are privileged to have the opportunity to share the stories of our nation’s heroes.