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Posted on Wed, Dec 28, 2011 : 12:54 p.m.

Francis Clark of Arch Realty dies at 48: 'He fought so hard'

By Paula Gardner

Francis Clark, who operated one of Ann Arbor’s largest campus property management companies, died Monday at the age of 48 after battling an aggressive colon cancer for nearly 18 months.

Clark fought it fiercely, recalls his wife, Wendy Chapman. During the battles, he never lost his humor.

“He fought so hard,” Chapman said. “He refused to believe he wasn’t going to win.”


Business Review files

Clark loved residential real estate, Chapman said, buying his first student rental on South Forest many years ago and growing his portfolio over many years. As part of a partnership, he was part-owner of Hidden Valley Club Apartments for several years, most recently running Arch Realty management services.

Clark was diagnosed in July 2010, and underwent surgery at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital to remove a tumor. Treatment followed with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

By March, Chapman said, “We thought he was in great shape. … Everything looked good.”

But in May, he started to suffer stomach pains again. Doctors initially thought they were due to scar tissue from the radiation, but eventual surgery showed that the disease had both returned and spread.

He was scheduled for more surgery in Los Angeles during the summer, but that was canceled the day before it was to have happened.

“They called and said it had metastasized to his liver,” Chapman said. “He came home and did more chemo, hoping to shrink it enough (for treatment).

“… He just couldn’t get ahead of it.”

Clark died while in hospice care, but worked at Arch Realty until right before that. He’d go to work with stomach pain and vomiting, Chapman said, promising his wife that it would just be for an hour or two.

Hours later, she recalled, she’d track him down at the office. Once she learned he’d stayed for hours, drawing up a new management contract.

“I asked him why,” she said. “He said, ‘Because I like it. It makes me happy.’ ”

Chapman, a real estate appraiser, met her husband on a valuation assignment. They were friends for many years before their nine-year marriage.

Many of his colleagues in Ann Arbor real estate recall him as a significant presence in a tough business.

“He was a hard worker,” said Ed Shaffran, a developer and property owner. “He was a tireless property manager.”

He also was severely dyslexic, his wife said. He “gutted his way through the University of Michigan,” then kept that same work ethic as he approached his business.

“He just worked eight times as hard to get anything done,” Chapman said.

Many student landlords know each other, said Marty Nyrkkanen, manager of Jack’s Hardware on Packard east of South State.

The store’s sign, known for its messages, most recently read, “We love you Francis.”

That was a tribute to Clark, Nyrkkanen said, inspired by another property owner who’d stopped by the shop.

“It was our way to reach out to him,” Nyrkkanen said. “We didn’t really know what else to do.”

Clark was a frequent customer, with one building next door and many others within blocks. He’d shown up in the store as recently as three weeks before his death.

He’ll be remembered there, Nyrkkanen said.

“He was a standup guy and always told things the way they were,” he said. “You can’t ask more than that from a person.”

Clark's sense of humor was valued by his close friend, commercial landlord Jeff Hauptman. But their shared passion for real estate made them seek each other out for advice, too.

"We were in businesses that were similar enough that we could help each other and not compete with each other," he said.

Hauptman also recalls Clark's dedication to his family: "The whole time (he was sick,) his focus was making sure they were taken care of."

Chapman said that after his death she’s learned more about Clark’s giving nature.

“The thing that touches me the most is that I keep hearing the nice things that he’d do. He always wanted to help people out … but he’d never talk about it,” she said. “He’d just do it.”

In addition to his wife, Clark is survived by their son Ian, 7, and Chapman’s children Jasper Hanifi, 18, and Lucie Hanifi, 14.

Funeral arrangements are being made by Nie Funeral Home of Ann Arbor. A service is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Jan. 16 at the West Liberty location.

Paula Gardner is News Director of She can be contacted at 734-623-2586 or by email.


John Kluge

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 7:30 a.m.

Oh, Francis, my memories are filled with you. We hung out a lot together, going on car hunting trips all over, out to California, Arizona, Louisiana, the East Coast, and, most memorably, England (twice!). What fun we had!! You were there in some of my best times. They won't be forgotten for as long as I live, and neither will you. You live on in the kind thoughts and clear memories of a great many. You leave our worlds, but not our hearts.

Chris Allen

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 12:24 a.m.

I will never forget the first day I worked for/met Francis, being my first day i had NO idea who he was, I happened to be clearing the parking lot of dirt, rocks, etc and being 18 yrs old and about 150lbs i was struggling lifting heavy bags of debris into a work truck. Seeing me from his office i assume, he came running out to lend me a hand, telling me it was too dangerous to be lifting them alone. After that i always knew he was a stand up guy, there was never any work beneath him. I was fortunate enough to sit next to him at last years annual holiday party (that he insisted on attending even though i could tell how much pain he was in) where we got to share stories and he gave me some very good advice for a college student. He taught me with hard work and a good attitude anything can be accomplished, I will always look up to him for the kind of person he was and how many lives he directly influenced in a positive way, if it weren't for him i wouldn't be who i am today. R.I.P Francis, my prayers out to you and your family.

say it plain

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 9:16 a.m.

Shouldn't this story/comments be in the obituary section instead?

Ann English

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 11:59 p.m.

The deaths of better-known people often get articles, not just obituary notices, such as business owners and doctors. I don't know if the intention of the writer is for us to be reminded to have regular screenings (colonoscopies) ourselves for colon cancer. I have read of people getting colon cancer before turning 50, but never someone local until today. Last I knew, 50 was the minimum age for getting screened, unless one has a family history of colon cancer or polyps in the colon.

Abigail Clark

Mon, Jan 2, 2012 : 6:28 a.m.

I loved my older brother more than anything. I remember the day he found out his cancer had metastastized to his liver, he was still willing to give me advice on something trivial, and said it made him feel better to help me. He got me through a lot and I'll always be proud to say he was my big brother.

Richard Clark

Sat, Dec 31, 2011 : 10:15 p.m.

He was called Duffy until some time after he graduated from the UofM, when he chaged that to Francis (which had always been his given name). His mother's last name is Kochensparger, not Hochensparger.


Fri, Dec 30, 2011 : 1:09 a.m.

Francis was my landlord for a time. What a wonderful person with an unusual spark about him! He was always very upbeat, friendly, and willing to help at the drop of a hat it seemed. I'm so disappointed to hear of this sad news. My condolences go out to Wendy and his family.


Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 6:10 p.m.

My condolences to Francis' family. I bought a basket case car from him 12 years ago, and he was kind enough to search through things in the attic to find the workshop manual for me. I never did get a chance to give him the ride in it after I got done restoring it since both our lives got too busy. I now regret not making more of an effort to give him that ride. He was a good guy.

Glenn Stockdale

Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.

I did a lot of business with Frances over the years & he was always a pleasure to work for. He will be missed. My condolences to his family.

Barbara Bruser Clark

Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 3:18 p.m.

Francis was a beloved son and brother who brought joy and inspiration to all who knew him. It was my privilege to be his stepmother. He is also survived by his parents Frances Duffield Hochensparger and Richard Clark, and his sisters Sara Jennings Clark and Abigail Sonia Clark.


Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 3:06 p.m.

My thoughts are with Francis' wife Wendy and those closest to him. I'm sorry to see he has died. He was a good man.

Laura J

Wed, Dec 28, 2011 : 11:04 p.m.

Francis had a sarcasm that is rivaled by no one. I loved that about him. He pursued his passion and did what he loved. No one can ask for more than that in life. He was the best real estate mind that I knew and he had much to be proud of in his short life. He left us far too soon and he will be missed by so many people. My deepest condolences to Wendy, Jasper, Lucie, Ian, Sara, Francis and Jim. Laura Jacobs Client of Arch Realty Fellow Landlord Friend for many years


Wed, Dec 28, 2011 : 8:21 p.m.


Charley Sullivan

Wed, Dec 28, 2011 : 7:52 p.m.

Who's this Francis guy? I always knew him as Duffy, a long-time and fervent supporter of the U-M Men's Rowing Team, a great guy, and always available to help if it was asked. He'll be much missed.


Wed, Dec 28, 2011 : 7:38 p.m.

He was in my life for too short of time, I know everyone feels the same way. He was caring, charitable, and extremely intelligent. He had passion for the deal and loved the business. He is the only man I admired aside from my dad. My dad once told me "your value in life is measured by how you better the lives of others". Francis' impact will be felt for generations. I will remember you for all my days Francis.

Paula Gardner

Wed, Dec 28, 2011 : 7:33 p.m.

I met Francis on the day this photo was taken in spring 2006. I believe it was the only time I interviewed him, too, despite talking to him many times over the years. I always enjoyed running into him and remember several of our conversations. I find the story of how he approached cancer to be inspirational, and I'm grateful that I had a chance to share it.

shell aldrich

Wed, Dec 28, 2011 : 6:46 p.m.

Francis was one of the kindest people I've ever known, he was strong, he was a man of value. A man that you want your son to grow up to be like. He touched so many lives in so many ways and will always be remembered by us. We love you Francis, you were a rock to many and a beautiful person to know. There are no words to ever say how we really feel about you or to describe what a beautiful human being you were. Our support to Wendy and family, anything you need! We are here.


Wed, Dec 28, 2011 : 6:34 p.m.

I had the pleasure of working with Francis for the past few years and he was a great mentor and caring employer. He always went above and beyond to help anyone he could, and every one in our office felt great loyalty to him. He truley had a passion for Real Estate and loved to come into the office each day and take a real hands on approach. My condolences go out to his family and friends.


Wed, Dec 28, 2011 : 6:01 p.m.

Our condolences go out to Mr. Clarks family and friends. We didn't know him but he sounds like a wonderful man who lived his life fully to the very end.