Unis Uthedra Francis, 82, of Southwest Philadelphia, a Jamaican émigré whose belief in hard work and education fueled a rise from nurse's aide to social worker, died at home Saturday, Nov. 14.

"My mother was determined," daughter Elaine Hansom said. "She was just really a hardworking woman."

Born in Watermount, Jamaica, Mrs. Francis was the third child of Altimont George and Emeriah Whyte.

The Whytes instilled in their daughter bedrock values - faith in God, service to community, and love of family - but above all were hard work and the importance of education.

After completing her studies at the Happy Grove School in Hectors River, Mrs. Francis followed her siblings to Birmingham, England.

There, she worked as a nurse's aide. In 1958 she married Lindford Dacosta Barnes. They had two children.

In 1960, seeking opportunity for advancement, the couple moved to Philadelphia. Six years later, a third child was born.

The couple divorced in the early 1970s. Now on her own in a still-strange land, Mrs. Francis worked as a nurse's aide at Misericordia and West Park Hospitals, and at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, where she stayed for 20 years.

At age 50, spurred by her family's emphasis on bettering oneself through education, Mrs. Francis earned her GED and went on to graduate from Community College of Philadelphia in 1985.

She earned a bachelor's degree in social work from Temple University in 1990. With degree in hand, Mrs. Francis began work at various social service agencies, including the Warren E. Smith Health Center.

After several years advocating for seniors and at-risk youth in the Philadelphia area, Mrs. Francis, by that time in her 60s, set her sights on earning a master's degree in social work. She was accepted into a graduate program at Rosemont College. But her dream was not to be achieved, because of the onset of Alzheimer's disease, which she fought against for 16 years.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by son Courtney Barnes; daughter Hope Watts; a brother and sister; four grandchildren; and nieces and nephews.

Mrs. Francis married Robert C. Francis in 1986. The two divorced in 2004. He survives, as does her first husband.

A celebration of life is to begin with a viewing at 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, at Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church, 5620 Wyalusing Ave., followed by a home-going service at 10 a.m. Interment is in Fernwood Cemetery.

bcook@phillynews.com 610-313-8102