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Monday, July 7, 2014

Don Himsel's 'Voices': ‘You did it!’ Downtown Nashua regulars will recognize Franny’s greeting

By DON HIMSEL

Staff Writer

If you’ve spent any time around Nashua’s Main Street and have run across Francis Whitford, chances are he looked you straight in the eye and said you did it.

Just go with it. It’s part of being downtown in Nashua. ...

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If you’ve spent any time around Nashua’s Main Street and have run across Francis Whitford, chances are he looked you straight in the eye and said you did it.

Just go with it. It’s part of being downtown in Nashua.

Friends and strangers alike are often the recipient of his boisterous “You did it!” greetings as he walks by.

Franny, 58, faced with developmental challenges and epilepsy, is as part of the Main Street scene as anything down there. For years he has been seen on foot, walking from his home through the downtown and shouting his greeting.

Since he was hit by a car in 2011 crossing Amherst Street, his gait is a bit more shuffling and slower, but no less determined. His injuries were significant, and he shows off and explains his repaired leg.

I saw Franny walking from his Lake Street home in June. While we were together, he stumbled and fell crossing Factory Street, scraping his leg. Bound for Wingate’s to begin with, he enters and is told to sit down by Christine Freeman, an RN and pharmacy technician.

“What am I going to do with you, honey, huh?” she asks him rhetorically.

Christine said Franny has been coming in to Wingate’s ever since she’s worked there.

“Everybody on Main Street loves Franny. He’s our boy,” she says.

Patched up, he heads out the door.

“People care about you down here,” I said to him.

“I know. That’s why I come down here,” he replied.

Franny makes a beeline toward Cardin Jewelers. It’s another regular stop, and he has a wristwatch that needs fixing.

Inside, he talks about his recovery, ballgames at Holman and at the Fisher Cats ballpark in Manchester, and about his girlfriend. Tim Cardin and the employees chat and joke with him. He rests in a chair, drinking water as a relief from heat, which he said bothers him.

His watch fixed and refreshed, he’s off. He backtracks and heads up the street toward Harbor Homes on High Street.

I ask him about the connections he’s made over the years downtown, and his post-accident return to his walking route. “That’s why I come down here: They all miss me. They shake my hand and everything else,” he tells me.

Franny finds Factory Street again, crosses by the parking garage and into the lot. He recognizes a car in the parking lot as belonging to a friend, which makes him happy. Out front, he struggles a little but heads up the steps at the Harbor Homes building. Inside, he begins to chat up the staff at the desk.

Good job, Franny. You did it.

Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590 or dhimsel@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Himsel on Twitter @Telegraph_DonH.