Francine Knapper was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 12, 1952. The 66-year-old grew up in the the Tulsa area with her two sisters and lots of cousins.
Francine attended local public schools in Tulsa, enjoying English, History and the works of Edgar Allan Poe. While she joined both the swim and dance teams for a short time, she says she was easily bored and always looking for new things to try. “I had a lot of fun growing up. I enjoyed it,” Francine said.
After graduating high school, Francine attended Tulsa Community College, which was known as Tulsa Junior College at the time. She was pursuing an associate degree in accounting when her life-long battle with muscular dystrophy sidelined her. Just one semester shy of her degree, Francine was forced to quit school. If there’s one regret Francine has it’s that she wasn’t able to get her degree.
In 1979, Francine was married to James Knapper, who she met at a club. She always remembers that story with a giggle. Three years later her only child, Mahcoe, was born.
Mahcoe is the light of Francine’s life. He was a miracle baby because doctors had told Francine that she probably wouldn’t be able to have children. Well, she said she had to go and prove them all wrong!
She was so excited about her “little pumpkin” being born. “I bought all the baby clothes I could buy,” she said.
Francine was able to stay at home with Mahcoe while her husband worked. Mahcoe was a very serious child and he always corrected his mother’s words and actions, including when she smoked. Mahcoe also made her laugh with unusual observations about the world and his parents.
Being a mother with muscular dystrophy wasn’t easy. There were some things that Francine wasn’t able to do. As the genetic disease progressed, causing muscle weakness, Mahcoe had to grow up and do some of the things his mom couldn’t. “Doctors try to make you comfortable, but can’t really help you,” Francine said.
Several years ago, Francine lost her husband James to bone cancer. She now resides at Four Season Rehabilitation & Care in Durant. “There’s nowhere I’d rather be than Oklahoma. I’ve been other places, but I always come back.” She loves Durant’s small town atmosphere and the slower paced lifestyle than the one she used to lead in Tulsa. “I’m attached to it,” Francine said.
These days you can catch Francine watching old movies, especially those with actress Betty Davis. She also loves playing Bingo. Francine enjoys singing Karaoke. Her favorite kinds of music are R&B and gospel. She often gets requests to sing, “My Girl” by the Temptations.
Francine also enjoys bidding on items such as body wash, popcorn, and soda at the Four Season’s monthly auction. When it comes to eating Francine loves to go to the Branding Iron and get a steak with potatoes and green beans. She loves the salad bar and finishing it up with some ice cream.
If you really want to get Francine talking there’s only one subject to pick: her son and three grandchildren. She calls her son almost every night so, as she says, she can stay on top of him. She doesn’t get to talk to her grandchildren as often as she’d like, but she knows every detail of their lives and all they are up to.
Her granddaughter is in high school, and she has one grandson in who is a sophomore in college studying to become a nurse practitioner. Her other grandson, Mahcoe Smith, is a track star at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee. While he breaks records, he’s pursuing a degree in nursing.
If you give Francine a call she’ll tell you all about her family and her infectious laughter will probably have you smiling in no time.