As the sun shone on Second Street this past Saturday, neighbors emerged from homes, families held hands and Mummers strutted as a sea of umbrellas and brass bands weaved their way from Murphy-Ruffenach Funeral Home to the Mummers Museum.
Leading the Mardi Gras-inspired procession was a horse and carriage cradling the casket of Mummer legend Francis “Franny” McIntyre Sr., who passed away from lung cancer on March 2 in Sewell, NJ at the age of 73.
Singing and dancing to the sounds of the Whoa Phat Brass Band, hundreds of people paraded Pennsport following an official receiving of military honors to celebrate the life and legacy of the eight-year brigade captain and Vietnam War veteran in the most fitting fashion.
“He’ll be a little mad up there that he missed the parade,” said his second son, Scott McIntyre. “But, he’s really not missing it, because he’s with us.”
Along with the throng of folks paying respect on Saturday, Scott estimates 800 people attended the viewing the night before – a testimony to the selfless gentleman whose heart has touched the entire South Philly community and beyond.
“I just think of the admiration that these guys had for him, and my dad never liked that stuff,” Scott said. “He was a really humble man, but he reversed it. He had the ability to reverse the feeling of, ‘What’s going on with you?’…he absolutely made you feel more special than anything.”
Born in August 1945, Francis grew up on Dudley Street, commonly called the “Back Street,” in Pennsport, where he spent his childhood running around with neighborhood kids, playing on the local football team and, of course, being bred into mummery.
Francis, a graduate of Sacred Heart of Jesus School and St. John Neumann High School, won his first parade as a juvenile in 1949 before sparking his lifelong tenure with Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars Fancy Brigade.
His father, William H. McIntyre, founded the club in the late 1940s, serving as captain until Francis took over from 1973 to the early 1980s.
“It was really nice – the father to the son passing the reins,” Scott said. “It was pretty cool. My dad was proud, and my grandfather was proud of my dad.”
It wasn’t long before Francis, a father to four and grandfather to eight, began making Mummer history.
The 1978 parade served as the City of Philadelphia’s first year officially recognizing the Fancy Brigade Division after Francis and other fancy brigade members established their own division separate from the Fancy Clubs, also known as the “Mother Club,” according to the Philadelphia Mummers Fancy Brigade Association.
Francis clinched first prizes for top brigade and captain this historic year with his iconic “Aqua Fantasy” theme.
“It was off-the-charts phenomenal,” Scott said.
From 1949 through 2018, Francis fostered one phenomenal performance after another, collecting a total of 18 first prizes under his belt with the Shooting Stars.
Whether serving as captain or working behind the scenes, club members describe his perpetual commitment to the parade.
“He was a dedicated Mummer, that’s for sure,” said former Shooting Stars captain Bill Morrison. “He lived and died for New Years Day. That was his day….He’s pretty much Mr. Mummers as far as we’re concerned in our club.”
Throughout nearly seven decades, Francis, who was an employee with American Airlines, missed only one Mummers Parade, in 1967. Although he was not working with sequins, he was sacrificing his life overseas in the Vietnam War.
During the mid-1960s, Francis served as a rifle sharpshooter with the 30th Artillery and was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal with a bronze star, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal and two Overseas Service Bars, according to his Philadelphia Inquirer obituary.
Following his time at war, Francis and his family relocated to Wissinoming in the Northeast.
It wasn’t long before he promptly slipped back into a Mummers suit.
“From the day I met him, he was the best,” said former Shooting Stars captain Micky Adams. “He welcomed me with open arms, and when I became captain, he was always there to lend me his support and anything that he could tell me to help me along.”
In December 2018, Francis was diagnosed with lung cancer – a corollary, Scott says, of being exposed to Agent Orange during the war.
But, Francis did not share the devastating diagnosis with his friends, family or club members until Jan. 2.
“He held onto the news until after the parade,” Scott said. “He didn’t want anybody’s parade getting messed up…that was him.”
After military honors were presented outside of Murphy-Ruffenach, a Shooting Stars blanket was draped over the casket before the masses marched down Second Street.
En route to the museum, other Mummers appeared from their clubhouses to salute the legend.
Outside of the Shooting Stars clubhouse, the parade paused for a few minutes, dancing to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” Finally, after reaching 2nd Street and Washington Avenue, a nearly endless line of individuals placed a flower on the casket one by one as the brass band rang out “When The Saints Go Marching In.”
“There’s not too many guys that you could march down 2nd Street in a funeral procession with a brass band and an umbrella and celebrate his life,” said active Shooting Stars captain Michael Adams. “….There’s a lot of Mummers in South Philly, but there’s not too many that can go out like this.”