Delcia Francke

Delcia Francke

Delcia Francke of Ortega matter-of-factly declares that “being nearly 91 means I get to talk back” – something she does frequently and with endless humor. A 15-year breast cancer survivor, Francke celebrates her 91st birthday on Jan. 5 in good health. Her goal is to reach her 100th birthday as did her mother, Beulah “Bobo” Shubert.

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Delcia Francke and her daughter, Stephanie, in Sevilla, Spain in 1965.

Francke grew up in Georgia, and attended Brenau University in Georgia when she met Georgia Tech student Steve Aichel of Ortega. Aichel grew up in his family home on McGirts Boulevard and was a Lee High School graduate. After his college graduation, he worked for Aichel Steel & Supply Company on Edison Avenue, founded by his father, Lewis Aichel.

The couple married in 1943 and had two children, Stephanie and Walter.

“In 1946 we bought a home for $7,000 in Splinterville on Lakeshore Boulevard at Pinewood. Splinterville was very wooded with huge trees and many people had chickens,” she said. “Our two-bedroom home had a gas furnace and the gas hot water heater was installed in the kitchen. It even had a garage.”

In 1951, needing more space, the Aichels bought a brick bungalow on Baltic Street, which was the family’s home for the next 14 years.

Francke’s adult life centered in and around Ortega and “The Forest” (Ortega Forest), which she calls a compound, comparing it to the Kennedy Family Compound in Hyannis Port, Mass. She said Ortega even had its own social writer who published articles in the newspaper once a week.

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Stephen and Delcia Aichel’s wedding, May 1943

“Alice Whitney was our social writer and she knew everyone. She always had plenty to write about, and during Ye Mystic Revellers she wrote articles every day. Revellers news took up space in the paper like war news!” said Francke, adding that Ye Mystic Revellers is North Florida’s oldest Mardi Gras social organization.

Francke recalled one day when her son, Walter, came home from Ortega Elementary School, concerned about her status as an Ortega outsider.

“Mom! Do not tell anyone that you were born in the Philippines! I won’t be invited to any of the birthday parties!” her son said.

Even at a young age, neighborhood children knew it was best to be “from” Ortega and nowhere else. Francke’s father, Oscar Shubert, served in the U.S. Army and his family was stationed in the Philippines, where she was born.

Most women Francke knew did not work outside the home. Like her, they managed the household, raised their children and participated in volunteer activities. Francke volunteered for the PTA, charity projects at Riverside Park United Methodist Church and with the Pink Ladies at Duval Medical Center, later renamed University Hospital.

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Commander Jake Hogue

“The Pink Ladies volunteered in support of the hospital. There was no cafeteria so we prepared sandwiches and took food on carts to all the patients’ rooms and to their families,” she said. “When there was a shortage of beds at Brewster Hospital, we raised funds to buy new ones, but not everyone supported that effort. I wanted to help the patients at Brewster Hospital and had a hard time with those who didn’t. It was a world just like in the movies “Driving Miss Daisy” or “The Help.”

Brewster Hospital served black patients from 1901 to 1966. It re-opened as Methodist Hospital in 1967. The original Brewster Hospital structure has been preserved, relocated to West Monroe Street and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Aichels divorced in 1957 and in 1961 Franke married the late U.S. Navy Commander J.D. “Jake” Hogue, a decorated WWII naval aviator and war hero. For five years they traveled the world, ending up in Africa. Hogue died at the age of 46 of complications following surgery, and Francke lost the man she quietly refered to as “the love of my life.”

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Delcia Francke and her son, Walter Aichel, 1988

Francke and her children returned to Jacksonville in 1966, only stopping for Hogue’s burial with honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Their home on Baltic Street was waiting, their furniture still inside. Her parents had been living in the home and with the return of their daughter and grandchildren they moved to a house on Baltic Circle.

In 1967, Francke met the late Bob Francke, a U.S. Naval Officer and Vietnam veteran, who was raising his two young children. She married him in 1969. The couple divorced in 1979 and in 1984 Francke bought another Baltic Street home where she currently resides with her daughter Stephanie Harjung, and her Maltese-Yorkie, Coco. Her son, Walter, died of cancer in 2003.

“I’m the wealthiest person anywhere with good friends, my loving family. Favorite activities have been traveling, cruises, supporting cultural and performing arts. My Christian faith and my church, Ortega United Methodist, are very important to me. I’m a longtime member of the Garden Club/Formosa Circle and the NAS Retired Officers’ Wives Club. I support Community Hospice and enjoy seeing my ‘breakfast friends’ at the San Juan Krystal’s,” Francke said.

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Delcia Francke and daughter Stephanie Harjung

“Mom is known as the lady who always wears a hat and a smile…she is one of the most positive people you could ever meet, despite all that she has gone through in her life,” Harjung said. “Somehow she stays full of life and energy and gives God the glory for her strong faith.”

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident CommunityNews
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