Francis C. Stokes Jr.


(Aug 6): Francis C. Stokes Jr., acclaimed trans-oceanic solo sailor, died Aug. 3, 2008, at 82 years old.


He was born March 28, 1926, in Moorestown, N.J., the son of Francis Collins Stokes and Agnes Nicholson Stokes. His life was shaped by his Quaker heritage.


Francis attended Moorestown Friends School, class of 1944. He left early his senior year to join the U.S. Army Air Corps, serving until 1945. He graduated from Williams College, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1948 with a degree in economics. He ran the family food canning factory, The Francis C. Stokes Co. in Vincentown, N.J., for 27 years, bringing it back to profitability.


He married Nancy Buffum Taylor in 1952. They built a home and started a family of four daughters on Rancocas Creek in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Later they moved to Moorestown and had two sons. He was a devoted and loving father.


He wrote, "My most successful dreams have involved oceans." He bought his first cruising sailboat in 1968. In 1970 he made his first solo transatlantic voyage. He competed in the OSTAR transatlantic solo races in 1976, 1980 and 1988, along with numerous Bermuda One-Two races with his son Whitall. In 1982-83 he sailed in the first BOC Challenge Solo World Race, finishing second in his class. He wrote of his life on the seas in his book, "The Mooneshine Logs," published in 1994 by Sheridan House.


Francis later retired to South Thomaston, Maine, building his house with skills he acquired keeping the factory running. He volunteered for many years at the Humane Society of Knox County and developed a special affinity for cats. He loved Schubert and was a sweet and sensitive pianist. He was an avid reader and writer, skilled birdwatcher and excellent cook.


He was predeceased by his parents, his daughter Marjorie, his sister Sylvia Perry, his cat Margaret and his dog Claude.


He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Nancy; his sister Carol Bergeson; his daughter Clare Stokes and her husband, Roger Papke, of Gainesville, Fla.; his daughter Agnes Joy and her husband, Paul, of Lincolnville, his daughter Rachel Senter and her husband, Rick, of Kingston, N.H.; his son Whitall Stokes and his wife, Deone Zell, of Santa Rosa, Calif.; his son Arthur Stokes of Brighton, Mass.; and seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild, with a second expected.


Memorial donations may be made to the Humane Society of Knox County.


Francis will be interred in the Village Cemetery in South Thomaston.