DUNDALK — Stansbury-Poplar Tax Service owner Blanche Elizabeth Francis passed away on Jan. 10 at the age of 94.
Blanche was born on Nov. 13, 1925, in Baltimore City and was raised in the Baltimore County and the Silver Spring area.
The Dundalk business owner was born into a family with strong role models. All of her aunts, uncles and her father were educated teachers and nurses, according to her oldest daughter, Barbara Francis.
“They instilled in their families that education was the key to everything, especially being able to be self-sufficient,” Barbara said.
Blanche met her husband, Charles Emory Francis, at the age of 19 years old during World War II.
She bought her wedding gown in New York, one of only two on the rack due to the war shortage. By the time she was married, Blanche had worked as a clerk of the children’s court, and as a veterinarian’s assistant. She had beed educated at St. Pauls School for Girls and graduated from Towson High School with a B degree, which stood for business.
At the conclusion of World War II, housing was in demand, which prompted Blanche and Charles to start organizing home-building businesses with other family members and friends.
From those building businesses, many communities like Lochearn off Liberty Road, Aero Acres in Essex, Southland Hills in Towson, Warren Road in the Cockeysville area and Severna Park in Anne Arundel County were created. They sold the houses they built and had a real estate and building business.
Charles and Blanche went on to have four children, Barbara Francis, Cathy Murphy, Michael Francis, and Annie Grybos.
“As she (Blanche) and dad (Charles) created their family, we often had lectures or words of wisdom,” Barbara said. “First we learned to ‘watch our P’s and Q’s.’ If we didn’t, we got the look, which was followed by an invitation to go outside in case we missed the look and did not mind those ‘P’s and Q’s’. We were trained in all the social skills of the day including how to properly dance at the Cotillion.”
“Our treats were many – fine dinners, traveling to Florida, New York, and Ocean City and a new home in Carroll Manor built by my dad,” Barbara said.
In 1956, the Francis’ moved to Carrol Manor, a year of joy for their new home, Barbara said. The tides were changing, however.
Big changes began to happen in the building business like prefabricated homes, huge building conglomerates that undercut the small builder, ultimately bringing hard times to the Francis family.
In order to survive, Blanche went out and found more jobs. She was a secretary at Franklin Simon in Towson Plaza, a secretary at Carroll Manor and a tax preparer with Betty Harper, June Powell, and Milton Schwartman, who owned Stansbury Pharmacy/TV and Stereo.
Along with Charles, who struggled with business and real estate, they plodded on.
According to Barbara, during these hard times, their family lectures centered around themes like “nothing is forever,” “don’t be a victim of your own actions,” “you only have one father and one mother and each other, so respect that fact.”
“We also learned that everyone, small or large, rich or poor, famous or not has a barrel,” Barbara said. “And everyone has a time in the barrel, your job is to find your way out of the barrel and blaming others is not a way out of the barrel.”
“Oh and just in case you didn’t get the message earlier, get your education, gather as many certifications as possible and do not put all your eggs in one basket. Life is a funny business, you never know what it will bring.”
In 1956, Blanche started doing taxes with Stansbury-Poplar Tax Service located in the Poplar Place Center. She went on to do taxes there until she was 90 years old, stopping in 2015.
Blanche had accumulated over 60 years of experience in the field and built a repeat clientele of over 2,000.
“They were always crowded, even to this day,” Poplar Place Center owner Mary Jo Wortman said. “She taught her daughters well.”
Wortman went on to say of all the years Blanche and her family did taxes at her establishment, she never heard a complaint about their business.
“The only complaint I ever hear is the fact that they’re located on the second floor,” Wortman said as she chuckled.
Blanche’s tax clients were her other family, Barbara said.
“Mom loved her tax business. She cared about her clients and listened to the twists and turns of their lives. After every tax season, she would say there are always those who have it worse than you,” she said.
Barbara recalls when Blanche would tell her and her siblings for them to be aware that every 10 years, there is a change in everything.
“She told us absolutely nothing is forever. She also told us when we do a job, do it right. Otherwise, you will be redoing it tomorrow. Work hard, nothing bad ever comes from that,” Barbara said.
Blanche loved to travel and travel she did.
“Every year my mom, sisters and I would go on a big adventure,” Blanche said. “Everywhere we went, the islands, Florida, Ocean City, Hawaii, her favorite place in the world, someone knew her. Their love for her was immense, as was her love for them.”
Towards the end of her life, the road was painful and long, Barbara said.
“I often thought of all the love mom had given and was now receiving. The 24/7 care was equally divided between her children. Often, neighbors and tax friends called and sent cards. No matter the need, it was met,” Barbara said.
According to Barbara, Blanche died peacefully at home with all four of her children present.