“My planned death will occur Thursday, September 7, 1:00 p.m. local time, Eugene, Or.,” wrote David P. Francis in a Sept. 5 email to his friend Deb Felix in Wellfleet. And because Oregon has a “death with dignity” law, it did. David, who was 74, had terminal melanoma, said Felix.
The son of Joseph “Tweet” Francis Sr., David was born in June 1949. He grew up on Gull Pond Road in Wellfleet and graduated from Nauset High School in 1967.
Joe Francis was an oysterman. He also established the Bayside Lobster Hutt on Route 6 in Wellfleet in 1971; he later moved the restaurant to the building on Commercial Street that now houses Mac’s Shack and where a papier-mâché fisherman in his likeness still adorns the roof.
When David came into the restaurant one night in 1974 to get his dinner, his father was leaving the building in search of his wife, who had absconded with the cash drawer, according to Felix. Looking around, David saw that people in the restaurant needed to be served, so he took over and ran the business for the evening. His father stepped aside, his parents divorced, and David went on to run the restaurant for 30 years until it closed in 2004.
During his tenure, David prided himself on hiring teenagers and shaping them into adults who strove for excellence in everything they did, Felix said. She worked at the restaurant as a manager. Bayside Lobster Hutt served some 500 diners on summer nights and won a mention in the New York Times for its “good food” and praise in Travel and Leisure because “A good lobster is a gift from heaven.”
David’s father stayed connected to the business, providing oysters from his grant for the menu. In turn, David helped Joe on the flats.
David never agreed with Wellfleet historian David Wright’s account in The Famous Beds of Wellfleet of the way the town’s oystermen came to use the so-called Chinese hats for cultivating oyster larvae. According to his story, Felix reported, it was he who imported the conical discs from France and distributed them to other oyster producers, forever changing the oyster industry in Wellfleet. His dying wish, she said, was that this history be corrected.
David’s last home in Wellfleet was the historic Bacon House on School Street, which he restored after thoroughly researching its history. He unbricked a fireplace, uncovered doors, and restored closets even though they were too shallow to hold modern-day hangers.
David was also a talented ice skater and photographer. “He sent stunning photographs nearly every day to everyone on his email list,” Felix said.
In 2012, David retired to Lake Havasu City, Ariz., where he loved the endless desert views but disagreed with most of his neighbors on politics and found the summers oppressive. One summer, driving to Canada to escape the heat, he saw a dog run across the highway. He pulled into the next rest stop, saw the dog again, and coaxed it over, giving it a new home.
David told Felix the dog had saved his life; she pointed out to him that he had saved the dog’s.
Donations can be made in David’s name to the ASPCA or another dog rescue program.