Francis Geere, one of the great friends of pilgrims and a champion of the Via Francigena, has died aged 73, from a heart attack while driving near his home in France. A retired diplomat, Francis lived in the village of Nans-sous-Sainte Anne, south of Besançon, where over many years he made all pilgrims welcome. Married three times, with two children from each of his first two wives, Geere was a chorister at Exeter Cathedral as a schoolboy where he developed a life-long passion for singing. His postings with the Foreign Office included India, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Congo, and Switzerland.
Paul Chinn has written this tribute.
He was a much travelled English consular official who retired to live among the beautiful slopes of the Jura in France where he brought with him his love of languages, travel, landscape, history and above all people. He was a champion of the Via Francigena and an aid and friend to me and many, many pilgrims passing through Franche-Comté. The route will be the poorer for his passing.
Francis and his trusty mountain bike explored every inch of the roads and pathways between Langres and Sembrancher in Switzerland, constantly seeking to find routes as close as possible to the roads taken by Archbishop Sigeric, and yet practical and safe for the modern day pilgrim, whether on foot or bike His photographic recall of maps and intimate knowledge of the historic sites of the region led him to challenge the received wisdom of Sigeric passing through Yverdon Les Bains on his return from Rome and made a strong and now accepted case that the sub-mansion of Antifern was indeed close by Jougne on the Swiss-French border, and not content with this he mobilized his diplomacy to persuade management of the Conifer scenic railway to allow pilgrims to pass along the track side path.
His dedication to helping pilgrims was unmatched. He would willingly travel by car for dozens of kilometres to pluck an exhausted pilgrim from the wayside, whisk them to his home, La Maison Rose, in the little village of Nans-sous-Sainte Anne close to the waterfall source of the River Lison, to ply them with one of his memorable curries and a little Jura wine, before returning them refreshed to the route the following morning.