Teresa Lee Francis was born Sept. 26, 1952, to Rita Evalyn Green and Charles Scott Francis in Knoxville, Tenn. She was the cutest freckled girl imaginable, endearing the adults in her life with her charming personality and mischievous curiosity. She is the eldest child of seven siblings. She spent her childhood with four brothers and sisters, living at various times in Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, New Mexico, Tripoli, Libya (in Africa) and Arkansas where she spent her adult life.

Within her immediate family, she was leader of the kids, creating games of cowboys and Indians, a Beatles lip sync band and many other activities. In her youth and early adulthood, she engaged in a variety of athletic pursuits including tennis, motorcycling and water skiing. But the sport she loved the most and her favorite outdoor pastime was fishing. One of her key pleasures was an annual migration to Lake Ouachita to camp with family and friends.

Throughout her life, she maintained a zeal for many kinds of music and entertained friends and family with her enthusiastic style of piano playing. She molded the musical taste of many she knew. Her creativity knew no bounds as she played several instruments and dabbled in arts and crafts. Teresa had an enviable capacity for having fun and enjoying the simple things in life. She loved watching bear cubs, all kinds and forms of music and playing Santa Claus to family and students alike. All of this made her a treasured sister, daughter, aunt and fabulous mother to Michael, the light of her life.

She was the first in her family to attend college, obtaining her BA in physical education from Ouachita Baptist University. As her career began, she was quickly drawn to special education and this became her professional passion. Her career spanned 36 years working with special needs children at BOST School, Mansfield Public Schools, Van Buren Public Schools and Stepping Stone School. Her love of teaching and compassion for special needs children inspired a generation of other teachers who modeled their teaching techniques off of her approach. Teresa was a beacon of hope to an entire generation of Northwest Arkansas disabled and underprivileged children. She had a life changing impact on more than a thousand students throughout her career. She went well beyond the call of duty in taking care of their needs.

Teresa Lee Francis passed away Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, but her spirit will live on in the hearts of countless family and friends who were touched by her generous soul. She was preceded in death by a brother, Carl Ratcliff; and stepfather, Vernard Ratcliff.

She will remain beloved by a son, Michael Farrar of Fort Smith; her parents, Rita Ratcliff of Fort Smith and Charles Francis of Knoxville, Tenn.; four sisters, Lynnda Rakestraw of Copper Canyon, Texas, Vicki Lane and husband John of Monument, Colo., Connie Rist and husband John of Knoxville, Tenn., and Lisa Zimmerman and husband Jason of Spicewood, Texas; two brothers, Mark Ratcliff and wife Kathleen of Flower Mound, Texas, and David Francis of Florida; a number of nieces and nephews; and her lifetime friend, Toni Wilson.

Memorial service was Oct. 2 at Edwards Van-Alma Funeral Home Chapel. Cremation is under the direction of Edwards Van-Alma Funeral Home in Van Buren.

Memorial contributions may be made to Stepping Stone School, P.O. Box 2389, Alma, AR 72921.

To place an online tribute, go to www.edwardsvan-alma.com.