The ten worst days in our lives turned out to be the most treasured days as we look back. Three unexpected sucker punches took us down one at a time but we got back up with the love and prayers from thousands!
It started on Tuesday, September 24. My husband, Steve Francis of Country Smoke House, suffered a serious heart attack involving the “widow maker” artery. Steve and I were in West Michigan, at a very secluded deer farm, with no vehicle or cell service when his severe chest pain began. A stranger drove us as we headed toward a hospital. It took nine dropped 911 calls before we could convey our location. We finally met the ambulance en route. They rushed Steve to a Muskegon hospital where a surgical team was waiting to open the occluded artery by surgically inserting a stent. The “Widow Maker” attack has only a 90-minute window for survival. It was 120 minutes from the onset of chest pain to placement of the stent. He had beaten all odds for survival. We do believe the power of prayers aided in his survival.
Steve’s father, Don Francis, called to tell me that he had prayed the rosary for Steve and he had bartered with God to take his “old” life instead of his son’s. We arrived home on Friday and 90 minutes later Don Francis had a fatal heart attack.
Steve mourned his father’s death with an already damaged heart. So many attended the funeral to show their love and support. On Thursday, we traveled north to Elmira, MI to bury his father in a family cemetery. We were exhausted but relieved that he was peacefully laid to rest.
We then traveled further north to enjoy some quiet time and the fall colors. We bedded down in Harbor Springs and 90 minutes later, we got the call, “THE COUNTRY SMOKE HOUSE IS ON FIRE!” This can’t be happening, but it was! We quickly left and drove four hours. We arrived to find six fire departments and 50 firemen on-site. Thankfully, the fire was out when we arrived. It would have been too much for us, especially Steve, to watch. The look on the firemen’s faces were stricken with grief. They worked so hard to save our building but it wasn’t meant to be. Witnesses tell us of their relentless professional teamwork. They fought as if the building was their own. Their dedication and effort is so very much appreciated. From the bottom of our hearts, we are forever indebted to each one of you. Thank you!
Daylight came as well as so many friends, family and employees to mourn with us, again. People sent tons of donuts, food and drinks for our Country Smoke House family. Businesses were offering their help in any way. We didn’t have to endure more pain alone.
Numerous TV & radio stations reported our 10-day story, which resulted in the outpouring of love, care and compassion. It was amazingly powerful in lifting us up and warming our hearts. We received phone calls and texts by the hundreds. People from Toledo to the U.P. were sending prayers and well wishes on Facebook to the point that Facebook couldn’t show us all of them. Multiple church leaders and congregations were praying for us across Michigan. Church leaders used Steve as an example of his strong faith in God, his resilience, and determination to not be beaten by Satan.
Your prayers and love have strengthened our family in faith and determination. The power of love and prayer from so many is truly amazing. The Francis family thanks all of you for your love. We love you too!

—Suzanne Francis
Almont Twp.