Mae R. De Francis, 76, horsewoman, teacher

January 26, 2004|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Mae Roselle De Francis, mother of Karin and Joseph A. De Francis, who are part owners of the Maryland Jockey Club, died Friday of complications from Alzheimer's disease at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. She was 76.

At her side were her son, president and chief executive officer of the Maryland Jockey Club; and her daughter, executive vice president. They hold a minority interest in the company that owns Pimlico Race Course, Laurel Park and the Bowie Training Center.

Mrs. De Francis was married to Frank J. De Francis from 1951 to 1977, and they lived most of that time in Bethesda. They were divorced before Mr. De Francis began his career as a racetrack owner in 1980 by buying Freestate Raceway, a harness track in Laurel. He eventually bought, with partners, the state's major thoroughbred tracks, Pimlico and Laurel.

Mr. De Francis owned racehorses before buying tracks, and the De Francises often attended the races.

"That was our family thing to do. We'd go to the track," Joe De Francis said. "My mother loved it. She loved sports in general. I think what she loved most about it was the people, the camaraderie. She was a real people person."

Born Mae Lascola in Buffalo, N.Y., she graduated from D'Youville College in Buffalo and earned a master's degree at Catholic University in Washington. She was an elementary school teacher in Northern Virginia early in her marriage.

She had polio as a girl. As an adult in Maryland, as a way of strengthening her legs and fulfilling a lifelong dream of being around horses, she learned to ride and became an accomplished equestrian. She competed on her gray Silver Slipper.

After her divorce, she moved to Gaithersburg. She remained friends with her former husband, managing his thoroughbred-breeding operation at Walnut Grove Farm in Howard County and continuing to have family get-togethers. Frank De Francis died in 1989.

"There was nothing in life more important to her than her two children," her son said. "Her children and her grandchildren were the centerpieces of her life."

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Basilica of the Assumption, 401 Cathedral St.

In addition to her son and daughter, she is survived by her mother, Sara Lascola of Buffalo; a sister, Marie Sanderson of Buffalo; a brother, Robert Lascola of Buffalo; and three grandchildren.

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