Virginia R. Francisco

November 18, 1942 - September 21, 2023

Virginia (Ginny) Royster Francisco, a beloved member of the Staunton community, passed away on Thursday, September 21, 2023 at the age of 80 at Summit Square, after a prolonged battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was a loving mother, dedicated teacher, friend, and pillar of her community.  
Born in Youngstown, Ohio, on November 18, 1942, Virginia Francisco grew up in the Bon Air neighborhood of Richmond, VA. She is preceded in death by her parents, John LeMay Royster and Marjory Fleming Royster. Ginny is survived by her daughter Sarah Ashton Francisco and daughter-in-law Teri Beasley, her former husband William (Bill) Francisco Jr., sister Linda LeMay Royster and her wife Barbara Kinsman, her brother William (Bill) Royster and his wife Priscilla Melchior, nieces Amy Royster Bridger and Leatrice Royster and nephew Jeffrey Royster, and her bonus daughter Amy Cuomo.
Ginny was married to Bill Francisco for more than two decades. Together they farmed Christmas trees and fostered the growth of Francisco Farms in Augusta County. They had one daughter, Sarah Ashton Francisco. Ginny cherished her daughter and took immense pride in Sarah’s dedication to protecting the environment. One of Ginny’s happiest moments was celebrating Sarah’s marriage to Teri Beasley, in 2010. In the following decade, Ginny delighted in spending time with her two daughters.
An alumna of Mary Baldwin College, the University of Virginia (M.A. English), and Indiana University (Ph.D. Theatre), Dr. Francisco’s academic pursuits were fashioned by a love for theatre and a devotion to (and an insistence on) well-written and precisely spoken English.  As a Professor of Theatre at Mary Baldwin College for over 40 years, “Dr. Fran” taught courses in theatre history and literature, directed over 50 plays, and served on numerous committees. Her Mary Baldwin career also included several years of service as an associate dean for special programs, which encompassed the growth of new programs such as the Master of Arts in Teaching. She was a respected member of the faculty and was loved by her students. Ginny Francisco inspired young women to pursue their dreams and to treat people with compassion and grace.
A woman of faith, Ginny was a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church where she was a member of the choir and a bellringer. She played a pivotal role in the HerStory Conference, which celebrated the history and leadership of women in the church. As an advocate for social justice, she was a leader in the first Habitat for Humanity Women’s build in Staunton. Ginny believed in the transformative power of art. She promoted classical music for the Staunton Music Festival and was one of the founders of the Oak Grove Folk Music Festival in Verona. Since her time as a Mary Baldwin student, she was involved in Oak Grove Theater and Theater Wagon productions as well. On her retirement, Ginny’s expertise in history and architecture prompted her to work with Staunton Guided Tours.
Ginny’s adventurous spirit led her to explore the world. She guided student and other groups on educational trips to London, China, Egypt, and Eastern Europe. She espoused only one rule on those trips: “Do not come to the attention of the authorities.” Ginny also explored Greece, Russia, and Italy with family and friends, and spent several months as a volunteer English teacher in Ethiopia.
As Ginny’s Alzheimer’s disease progressed, her friends and family stepped in to help her manage her world. Her family would like to thank Nancy Tyree and Wendy Thompson, her special helpers. They would also like to express their gratitude to the compassionate and loving women who cared for her in the memory care wing of Summit Square in Waynesboro.
Virginia Francisco lived her life to the fullest. She was never afraid to step in, take charge, and make things work smoothly. A director to the core, she had a keen eye for detail and a loathing for inefficiency. Virginia Francisco was a force of nature, and she will be missed beyond measure.
A memorial service to celebrate Virginia Royster Francisco’s life will be held at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Staunton on Saturday, September 30, at 11:00 a.m. Friends and family are invited to gather for a reception on Saturday evening at 5:00 p.m. at the Fletcher Collins Theatre at Mary Baldwin University.