NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — What was meant to be a night of hope for a Newport News family turned into a night of tragedy.
Newport News Police pulled a body from the water on Sunday near Rivers Ridge Circle, not far from Lee’s Mill Historic Park.
While police have not identified the person, family members told 10 On Your Side it was Leon Francis, who had been missing since early January.
A birthday celebration was planned for the 62-year-old previously at the location.
But when news of a body found in Newport News broke and his family learned it was their beloved Leon, it turned into a celebration of life, complete with candles.
“We’ve had faith, we kept our faith and we kept hope alive, hoping that he would return home one day but we know he’s gone home, to a better home and we’re going to miss him,” said his wife Daphne Thompson-Francis.
“The past six weeks, which is how long he’s been gone, has been the longest six weeks in a lifetime,” said Daphne.
“The wondering, the not knowing that was the hardest part, the not knowing. Knowing if he was hot or cold, hungry. Just not knowing what he was feeling,” she added. “We’re going to miss him and truly we know that he is in a better place.”
Daphne said a celebration with Leon was nothing if there wasn’t dancing, so the family put on some of Leon’s favorite music to help celebrate him.
“He loved to dance and he was just that guy. People gravitated to him. He was very positive; he was always a leader,” she said.
This night, his family took the lead as they remembered their last moments together.
“I remember the last time I saw him that Tuesday morning on the 14th of January; we kissed, we said good morning,” she said.
The family welcomed the love from new friends and family as they said their last goodbyes.
10 On Your Side is still waiting on confirmation from the police on the identity of the body.