When everyone in Hernando County heard that we had the first death from COVID-19 on April 6, there was speculation as to who the forty-six year-old woman was. The brief statement issued that day did not reveal the story behind that impersonal statistic or the family affected by her untimely death.
Franca’s eldest sister, Maria, was gracious enough to talk to me about her younger sister. She described a sweet and talented woman, loved by her family and friends, alike.
Franca graduated from Central High School in 1999. She was enthusiastic and loved going to school. Franca received excellent grades and made the honor roll.
“She was twenty-one years old at graduation and aspired to go to college, if only it were possible,” her sister remarked. Franca was born with Down’s Syndrome and faced many challenges during her life.
She had a beautiful smile and a soft, sweet voice. Wherever she went she attracted an audience. People stopped to speak to her and comment on how sweet she was.
“My sister loved family gatherings with all her nieces and nephews. She loved holidays, especially Christmas and Easter. She went to Mass regularly and respectfully received Holy Communion,” Maria continued.
Franca looked forward to celebrating her birthdays and kept track of the days until her next birthday. Each year she requested her favorite foods. On her last birthday in November of 2019, she requested two birthday cakes and the family gladly granted her wish.
She loved to do arts and crafts, painting, drawing and coloring. Just one week before she was hospitalized, she painted two wooden plaques of her initials.
Franca was devoted to her parents and her special name for her mother was “Honey.” After her father passed away she became even closer to her mother. They were perfect companions and the two had a very special mother/daughter bond.
“I was with them daily and was very warmed by their love for each other,” her sister added.
Franca was admitted to Oak Hill Hospital on March 28, all alone for the very first time in her life. She was not tested for COVID-19 right away.
“On Thursday, April 2, I was told she tested positive for Coronavirus. She died on Monday afternoon, April 6,” Maria stated.
“We all miss her. We believe Franca is now in Heaven with Jesus. The family would like to thank everyone that’s reached out to us with their condolences and everyone that has prayed for us. We are so grateful, more so than words can express.”
Franca is survived by her mother and two sisters, along with her extended family.
If anyone would like to make a donation to The Arc Nature Coast in Franca’s memory, the address is: The Arc Nature Coast, 5283 Neff Lake Road, Brooksville, FL 34601. Or click on the “Donate Now” box at www.thearc-naturecoast.org.