We Remember Past Chief P. Francis Hartnett
Thursday, March 14, 2024

Patrick Francis Hartnett Obituary

On 1/9/60, shortly after the New Year's celebration of "1960," arrived a beautiful baby boy to William "Pat" Hartnett and Eleanor Cochran Hartnett of Smyrna, Delaware. They named him Patrick Francis Hartnett and called him Francis. He came home to discover he had two brothers and one sister waiting for him to share their lives.


Francis had a fun and happy childhood running, playing, loving and fighting with his older siblings. He loved playing in the neighborhood and getting into adventures and mischief, as most kids do.


Francis grew up in Smyrna and made lots of friends in school. He was fun and ornery and made his classmates laugh every day. He was the smallest boy in the class with the largest heart and spirit. In high school he played baseball and wrestled and was smart and did good in school. When he was 17, the family learned his dad had cancer, and Francis's world was forever changed by helping care for his dad and watching his deterioration and eventual death when Francis was only 18 years old. It was one of Francis's biggest heartbreaks of his life.


Soon after, Francis found comfort in his many close friends and their families who always welcomed him into their homes and surrounded him with love. He spent a lot of time with one of his best friends, Jeff Leager, and they would ride horses and muck stalls and help at the farm, ride four-wheelers and motorcycles and "tear up the town." In those years, Francis loved going to the Harrington Fair and would stay down there for fair week with friends, and those were some of the best times of his life which he spoke of often. He loved rodeo and farming and country life.


Francis graduated from Smyrna High School in 1978, which he considered the absolute best group of classmates to ever come through a high school. He was well-loved and voted as class president. He was very popular in school because of his loving, caring spirit and how he was a friend to everyone, no matter your financial or social status, no matter the color of your skin, no matter if you were different from or similar to him.


The true saving grace for Francis's young life was when he joined the Citizen's Hose Fire Company. There, he found the father figures, brotherhood, mentorship, camaraderie, love, acceptance, and the respect that he needed to mend his young broken heart. He dedicated his life to the fire and rescue service. Here, he had found his true calling and realized that a life of service is what he was born to do. He became an instructor at the Delaware State Fire School and trained future firefighters. He was tough but fair. He knew how to climb ladders, bust through windows and doors, run through burning buildings, and save lives. He knew how to work with teams and cut people out of horrific car accidents and try to save their lives. He wanted to share his knowledge with others in this important field. Francis also was a mason in Harmony Lodge No. 13 in Smyrna/Clayton.


Francis held many jobs. He started working from a young age and never stopped. His first job was at the Wayside Inn when he was 13 years old washing dishes for 25 cents an hour. He worked at the Wagon Wheel; Blanchfield's gas station; Lebanon Chemical; Southern States; drove an oil truck for King's Oil/Sharp Energy; hauled corn and beans for local farmers. There was not a piece of equipment or truck that he couldn't operate. He got his CDLs at a young age driving fire trucks.


He left Smyrna one time later in his life and took a job as a safety/rescue personnel/instructor for American Tower, where he taught people to safely climb and maneuver huge communication towers, to "tie off" while performing construction and maintenance on towers. He was so athletically fit, and being small and fast, he could scale a tower in a matter of minutes to get where he needed to be. He had zero fear of heights. It was here that Francis traveled the United States. This was one of his most rewarding jobs. He was devastated every time he got a call that someone had fallen from a tower and died. He would literally break down and cry while he was packing his bags to fly out to the tower locations to take pictures, interview witnesses, go to the hospitals and see the bodies, and review and file reports. He considered every loss of life a major loss of life. His goal was to drive it into the climbers' minds how dangerous this job was and how he wanted everyone to be able to go home alive.


During Francis's younger years, he had a daughter with his then-partner Ranelle, whom they named Lindsay Frances Hartnett. Lindsay was the love and sunshine of Francis's life, along with her sister, Katelyn Bolyard Allen, whom Francis loved like his own child. Francis would often recall good times with his "first" family. When he and Ranelle had parted ways, he enjoyed his times with Lindsay, and often Katelyn, at his house where he would order pizzas and the neighborhood kids would come over and play on the trampoline.


Francis and Lorena had dated in 1983, and Lorena always knew he was the guy for her, but he didn't know it then, so they went their separate ways but always remained friends. They found each other again and got married in 2001. They had a baby boy together when Lorena was 41 and Francis was 48, a late-in-life miracle named Ashton Patrick Hartnett, who is and was Francis's pride and joy.


Francis was working at Marcus Hook Refinery as safety/fire personnel while Ashton was a baby, but the hours and swing shifts were so long and difficult that he didn't have much time at home, only to sleep. We will always be grateful to his friend and boss, Paul Walker from Southern States, who asked Francis to return there, which he did to be close to home and Ashton. Southern States is where Francis worked for the past 12 years, and they were his true "work family." Francis retired on a Friday, looking forward to spending time with Ashton and Jackson (his and Lorena's 8-year-old grandson who they were raising together). He unexpectedly and suddenly passed away on Thursday, March 14 of natural causes, so he was only retired for a matter of days. He had been unwell for a long time but just kept pushing on and fighting the pain of severe and crippling rheumatoid arthritis every day because he knew his family and work needed him.


At the time of his passing, his son Ashton (who found him) is 16 years old, and his grandson Jackson, who has lived with them for seven years, is 8 years old, and "Pop-Pop Francis" got him on and off the bus every day, did his homework with him, was his main father figure and his entire world. Our family is devastated and unsure how we will survive without him. Francis was the best husband, father, pop-pop, and friend there ever was, and he loved us and took care of everything for us every day of his life.


Francis was predeceased by both his parents as well as his sister Mary Louise (Mary Lou) Hartnett.


He is survived by his wife, Lorena Hartnett, his son Ashton Hartnett, his "son-grandson" Jackson Willey.


He is also survived by his daughter Lindsay Hartnett and grandson Kevin Crawford, his stepdaughter Katelyn Bolyard Allen, and stepson Konnor Willey.


He is also survived by his two brothers and their wives, Dennis Keith & Teresa Hartnett, and William (Bill) & Karen Ricker Hartnett. Also surviving him are his nieces, Kelly Hartnett Bork (Cary), Alexis (Lexie) Hartnett (Teun Baar), and nephew Daniel Hartnett (Chelsey), and step-niece Desiree Poore.


The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Citizens Hose Company, P.O. Box 97, Smyrna, DE 19977.


The family would like to sincerely thank Citizen's Hose Company and Harmony Lodge for helping us in these terrible times for our family. And, as always, a special thanks to Rob at Faries Funeral Home for his supreme organizational skills and professionalism in making these difficult arrangements for us.


A visitation will be held on Thursday, March 21, 2024 from 4 to 6 PM in the Faries Funeral Chapel, located at 29 S. Main Street in Smyrna. Memorial services will begin at 6 PM with Pastor Keith Noel. A reception will follow at Citizens Hose Fire Hall in Smyrna.

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