Francis Anthony Ennis, M.D. died peacefully, surrounded by family and his loving wife of nearly 60 years, Anne Marie (Cavanagh) Ennis, on Sunday, May 7, 2023.
He passed at their residence in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Frank and Anne have enjoyed the community at Coral Ridge Towers North (especially their good friend Anna Foley and their many acquaintances at the pool) for over two decades.
Frank died a week before his 85th birthday. He was born in Boston on May 14, 1938 to Veronica (Pittman) and Lewis Ennis. He grew up in the Dorchester section of Boston (St. Ambrose Parish) in a family of eight children including Mary Hanley, Lou, Bonnie, Kitty Walsh, Betty Connerty, Joe and Peggy Macozek.
Vera and Lewis arrived in Boston from Marishean Island, Newfoundland and worked hard as a maid and fisherman (respectively) to provide for their family. Dr. Frank, as he was known to many, was loved by his parents, siblings and their families and he very much loved them all in return.
Ever responsible and diligent, Frank excelled in his studies at Boston College (Class of 1960) and Tufts Medical School (Class of 1964) while also doing a number of odd jobs (at all hours) to pay for his education. Medical residency and fellowships took him to SUNY Syracuse Hospital, Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Boston), Cornell (Manhattan), and the National Institute of Health (NIH) where he was commissioned as a member of the United States Public Health Service.
Frank had an extraordinary career as a clinician scientist. He played an important infectious disease/virology leadership role at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). In 1980, after spending a year conducting research at the NIH’s sister biomedical research agency in London (where he and Anne toted their six children throughout Europe driving a large American station wagon), Frank joined the faculty at UMASS Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts.
At UMASS, Frank, along with his brilliant faculty and trainee colleagues (many joining him from Japan), built the highly respected Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research (CIDVR). CIDVR successfully competed for and won large federal grants over decades to conduct fundamental research and clinical investigation on a number of infectious diseases (including AIDS and influenza). CIDVR also built a large field-based dengue fever treatment and research program in Thailand. Frank and his colleagues advanced scientific insight into infectious disease and virology with hundreds of publications.
While Frank’s research contributions and training program leadership were impressive, his priorities in life were always clear. He selflessly loved each of his six children and their significant others, Eileen (Mark Pomfret), Francis, Jr. (Kelly Voight), Sheila (Brendan Conway), Daniel (Lisa Purtell), Stephanie, and Cynthia (Michael Cox) and always found a way to make sure that they felt cared for and fully supported.
As Frank and Anne’s children started raising their own families, Grandpa was always ready to arm-wrestle with, sing to and dance with each of his 18 grandchildren. He and Anne loved hosting the large Ennis brood (and other family and friends) at their house overlooking Front Street Beach, in their beloved Rockport, Massachusetts (particularly for the week of July 4th).
Finally, and most importantly, Frank doted on the love of his life, Anne. He took care of her in ways both large and small, including diving in to help raise six busy kids including preparing lovely family (candlelight) dinners, supporting her passion for painting, her work as an art teacher and regularly serving her breakfast in bed. Frank and Anne had the good fortune to travel the world, even living in Paris for several months, and very much enjoyed dancing the night away at family celebrations. Anyone who has ever spent time with them knows that their love for each other and their tender moments on the dance floor will transcend his passing.
If desired, charitable donations can be made to a medical organization for children overseas OMPACO (www.ompaco.org).
Calling hours will be on Thursday, May 11 from 4 – 7 PM at the Britton-Shrewsbury Funeral Home, 648 Main Street, Shrewsbury, MA. The funeral Mass will be celebrated on Friday, May 12 at 11 AM at Saint Mary’s Church, 640 Main Street, Shrewsbury, MA. A reception will follow the service. The private burial will be in Rockport MA on Saturday, May 13.