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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Doctor dead in possible suicide
A native of the Dominican Republic, he was successful, jovial and charitable.
By CATHERINE E. SHOICHET
Published July 17, 2007
Photo of the Dr. Socrates Francis, who was found dead in a Brandon home that he owned at 510 Vintage Way.
TAMPA - As a highly paid anesthesiologist, Socrates Francis had all the symbols of success, including several homes and a Hummer.
Friends and colleagues said he helped others before he helped himself. They knew him as a humble man with a passion for charity work in his native Dominican Republic.
The 51-year-old anesthesiologist was found dead Friday after an apparent suicide, although the Sheriff's Office has not yet completed its investigation and released few details. Deputies discovered the body in a Brandon investment home Francis owned.
News of the doctor's death stunned many in the Tampa Bay medical community.
"He was a very jovial person. He was always happy," said Dr. Alfred Hess, an orthopedic surgeon who worked with Francis at Tampa General Hospital. "He didn't seem like anything bothered him much."
Francis taught at the University of South Florida and worked at several Tampa Bay area hospitals for Florida Gulf-to-Bay Anesthesiology Associates.
"He makes sure to take care of the patients like they're his family members," said Dr. Devanand Mangar, president of the group. "He's a doctor's doctor."
Between cases, Francis frequently collected medical supplies to donate to hospitals in the Dominican Republic. He organized a recent mission trip to the country for local doctors. His passion was persuasive.
"He said, 'These children have nothing. You've got to go over there,' " Hess recalled. "'You've got to show the doctors there how to do this stuff.' "
Francis had a home in the Dominican Republic, friends said, and he owned three in eastern Hillsborough County, where he had lived since 1999.
He purchased a 2,700-square-foot home in Valrico for $208,300 in 2000. Amid the booming real estate market of 2005, he bought two more parcels in a gated, 32-home Brandon subdivision called the Vineyard and paid more than $1-million to build two houses on Vintage Way.
Then the market slowed.
"I knew he was having some financial difficulties," said Steve Bristol, a real estate agent who sold Francis and his wife the Valrico home where they lived for seven years.
Francis' wife, Rosanna, could not be reached by the Times.
Recently, Bristol said, the couple moved to one of the Vineyard homes. They put the Valrico house up for sale, then took it off the market and decided to refinance, Bristol said. Francis was found in the second Vineyard home, at 510 Vintage Way.
Records show that over the past six years, he took out nearly $2-million in mortgages on the three homes. But none of the lenders had initiated foreclosure proceedings.
According to court records, Francis was scheduled to appear in court last week in a child support case involving his 13-year-old son. In a financial affidavit, he said he earned $25,000 monthly.
But the doctor told friends of his humble beginnings.
"He didn't know English when his family moved to New York," Hess said. "So he got a job cleaning toilets to support himself."
He earned a medical degree in the Dominican Republic in 1983 and later transplanted his medical career to Boston. He researched HIV and tuberculosis at Boston's Department of Health and Hospitals and completed his anesthesia residency at Boston University's medical school.
In 1994, Harvard doctoral candidate John Chittick praised Francis' outreach work in a dissertation.
Reached at his Massachusetts home Sunday, Chittick, now a counselor to adolescents, said he remembered Francis well even though they hadn't spoken in more than a decade.
"He was a very modest man," Chittick said. "He's not a flashy guy. He's very hard working. He had an excellent reputation."
Funeral services will be held Wednesday from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Gonzalez Funeral Home, 7209 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa.
Times staff writer Colleen Jenkins and Times researchers John Martin and Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report. Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813 661-2454.