I am asking that all of you please pray for the soul of a dear friend who died on us yesterday after suffering a debilitating heart attack, just one month shy of her ninetieth birthday.
Her name is Helen Franco, of Westbury New York, Born on March 28, 1928, to two Italian emigrants from Naples, Italy, Mr. and Mrs. Salvatore Franco, who left Europe to give their children a better life.
Helen was one of two children born to these extraordinary people, the other is the late Reverend Father Salvatore Franco, ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood in 1953. To give you an idea of the tenacity of spirit possessed by his sister, I will tell you that her brother, Father Franco, had no qualms when he approached John Paul II In the city of Rome in the mid-1980s and said to him, “What are you doing to the Mass? You are ruining the Mass!” Father Franco was referring to the concomitant destruction of Catholic morals that he himself was witnessing being destroyed along with Roman Catholic liturgical worship. Helen was very proud of this event and she would have done the same thing herself. She could not stand what was happening in our Roman Catholic Church.
Helen Franco is best remembered for her giving; Helen would not let any of her friends be in need. If she were to hear that you needed something, she would discreetly ask you how she could help. And she would not go around telling everybody. One of her Filipino assistants' husband died and this Filipino family did not have the resources to bury the dead. The Filipino woman told me that in her country, where her husband died, a dead body will remain above ground until the financial resources are available to bury the body. I shared this information with Helen Franco. The next day, the Filipino aide asked me why I told Helen. I responded to her that I was very upset that her husband would remain above ground in the Philippines simply because the family had not the resources to bury him. The Filipino aide then proceeded to tell me that Helen Franco handed her a check for $3000 in order that she bury her husband. Helen was by no means wealthy, but as Helen would say, she didn’t need anything.
In these pictures that are pasted below, you will only see a very brief portrait of the joys I shared with this woman in Long Island, New York over the past two years. You will see my daughter Carrie, who is now fourteen years of age, pictured in two of these pictures. Helen was very generous to Carrie. Helen wanted to make Carrie feel at home and tried to make Carrie’s thirteen birthday in 2016 a special one right in her very own home. Helen shared in Carrie’s birthday celebration as well as Carrie’s First Holy Communion reception. Please see the pictures.
Helen Franco insisted that I lodge at her home when I traveled to New York from Florida and would get angry at me for not getting home to dinner after working all day in Long Island. Typical Italian! When I would remind her that I had to work, she would remind me: “Yeah, But you gotta eat too!”
Helen never married. Whenever I spoke to her about the gentleman callers in her life when she was a young lady, she always had a funny story about one particular man. Let’s just say, after a couple of failed dates, she resolved to dedicate her life to taking care of her aging parents and her brother – let me explain.
Getting this information from Helen was like pulling teeth. Her father earned his living as a musician who worked in a band playing in cabarets in the New York Metropolitan area. He was a man of dignity and class but as he got older, his bad knees quit and Helen Franco, who began full-time employment immediately after completing high school, contributed all of her income to the household for the care of her parents and her brother who was a student in a Roman Catholic Seminary in Queens, New York.
Amazed at this charity, I asked Helen if she was happy to have given up her life for the care of her elderly parents and her brother. Do you know what she told me? She responded, “Who else was going to do it?”
Helen Franco lived with her parents until they died. And then she lived alone until her brother suffered his first heart attack and could no longer serve in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. Retiring from active service in the priesthood, Father Franco, at the insistence of his sister, moved in with her in Westbury, Long Island. He lived there until he died on Friday, December 13, 2002. It was in this home on Page Lane where Father Franco would offer the daily mass all the years he would live there, right in their kitchen.
Helen Franco lived to serve. She took care of her ailing parents and then took care of her ailing brother, a gutsy Roman Catholic priest.
You can tell what kind of woman she was, can’t you? It is evident by this short account, that Helen did not live for herself and Truth be told, this great woman told me herself that this is what we are here to do: she said if you have something and somebody else needs something, give it to him!
I am very saddened by her loss but I realize we all must die.
Please help me in this time of grief and promise me that you will not just say a prayer but that you will keep this woman in your daily prayers. I know it is a lot I am asking you to do but nevertheless, I ask you to do it.
Eternal Rest grant unto her O Lord, and let perpetual Light shine upon her. May she Rest In Peace. And may her soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, Rest in peace.
Helen Franco Remembered in Pictures
Here are photographs provided by Lt. Spencer Colgan, NYPD (retired), of the late +Helen Franco, R.I.P.
Helen trying her hand at "Skeet," which I, Thomas A. Droleskey, have never heard of before.
Helen, flanked on her right by Susan Alcain and on her left by Spencer Colgan and Juan Carolos Araneta
Helen, joined with friends, including Spencer Colgan and his youngest daughter, Carrie.
Spencer Colgan, Susan Alcain, Helen Franco, Carrie Colgan
Spencer Colgan, Helen Franco, Susan Alcain, Juan Carlos Araneta.
(Droleskey afterword: Look, although my family no longer eats out a lot as there is neither the time nor the money to do so, New Yorkers like to eat out. A lot. The food choices on Long Island are remarkable. What a Lenten penance it is to look at all that good food--and on an Ember Day in Lent!)
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.