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15

 

been constructed at Beacon Hill. All realized that Baba had made a very deep impression.

Soon the group realized that Francis was determined to build a worthy house at Beacon Hill, just in case Baba should ever want to visit Australia. Rock needed to be blasted. Francis worked with a stonemason, learning the trade. Many of the group visited and helped with the work where possible. Reg Paffle and Diana Snow, who lived in Sydney, helped on their days off. The Brufords came up from Melbourne for their holidays. There were visits from the Le Page family and the Adams family.

 

Reg and Diana have happy memories of this time. Often at weekends, there would be hard physical work during the day, a simple evening meal together, and then a reading and a talk given by Francis. Reg recalls his ability to tell a story, and his incredible memory. He was drawn by Francis's strength of character, his knowledge of many religions, his ability to "cut through to the heart of a story." Although not a big man, he was physically tough, and had the ability to do a hard job.

 

In 1954, Baba called Francis to India, where he accompanied Baba on the Andhra Pradesh tour. This is described in Journey With God . This was the year of the special men's visit, which Bill Le Page was also invited to attend. Reg Paffle was invited to but had to decline.

 

In time Meher House was built at Beacon Hill. The Adams family lived there for a time and then the Le Page family. Francis lived in the cabin. The house was ready when Baba visited in August, 1956. One highlight of this visit was the performance of Francis's play The Quest with Francis himself in the lead role.

 

For Baba's 1958 visit to Australia, Francis selected a property on the top of Kiel Mt., Qld., which was later given the name Avatars Abode by Baba. As the visit is well documented, it is not necessary to give details here. Francis was very much in charge of the preparations and knew just what he wanted for the building that needed to be constructed. Many Baba lovers have vivid memories of this very busy but happy time. Subsequent to this visit, Baba invited Francis to again visit Him in India. No time period was specified, so a return ticket was bought. Baba did not say to go home, so Francis stayed. As the months and years passed, eventually the return ticket was cashed in. He stayed on until after Baba dropped His body in 1969. During these years, he lived in very close contact, under the close supervision of Baba. He did a lot of writing, which was read to Baba. The major work Stay With God was published while Francis was in India . He kept up a regular correspondence with the group back in Australia. They were able to meet up with him during the 1962 East-West Gathering, and again at the Great Darshan just after Baba dropped His body .

 

Soon after the Great Darshan, he returned to Australia and lived the rest of his life at Avatars Abode, with occasional short visits back to India. He continued to write, and was loved by a new generation of Baba-lavers, who perhaps knew a softer Francis than the taskmaster of earlier years. When he returned to India, he was always joyously received by his fellow mandali, and stayed in his old room which was always kept for him.

 

In Australia, those who sought his company were introduced to delights of literature, music, art and spiritual writings, as well as the "feel" of Meher Baba as conveyed by one who had had such close contact. Many were inspired to develop their own talents in art, music and drama.

 

I first met Francis in 1970, and the initial prospect filled me with some trepidation. I knew little of what to expect, but feared some smooth-talking "guru" type. When we met, the relief was enormous and instantaneous. He was so unpretentious, so practical, so humorous — qualities I came to thoroughly appreciate in the years that I have lived on Avatars Abode.

 

For the final years of his life, Francis's health gradually deteriorated with the advance of Alzheimer’s Disease. Finally, in the last months, he was completely confined to his bed, where he was lovingly and constantly cared for by a dedicated group of Baba lovers who live close by. All his needs were met unstintingly. It must be a measure of the regard in which he was held.

 

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