Joseph James Franco July 23, 1947 – July 7th, 2021 Joe was a son, brother, father, husband, and grandfather. He was an incredible athlete, a track buddy, an icon to many, an incredible friend and coworker. Joe was renowned for his pranks, great conversation, and humorous story telling. Joe grew up in the Central District. He was the neighborhood kid who broke a window playing ball in the street. He was the kid with the gumption to show up late to school, and tell the teacher that he was waiting for his pants to dry (he only had one pair). The one with the self-confidence to insist that he could drive the car at age six (and then proceeded to plunge it into the family garage). He was the dad who not only got his daughter (and nieces!) tickets to White Snake, but also managed to score back stage passes for them. Joe was a proud Garfield Bulldog, graduating in 1965. He helped win Metro championships in track and cross country in both his junior and senior year. He played basketball on the team at Bellevue Community College which won the state championship in 1967. In 1966, Joe signed up for the Marine Reserves. We all know why. His greatest achievements were in softball, where those who played against him and with him would say he was the best softball player in the country. In 1972 he helped establish a softball team of local athletes named the Backstabbers (“they smile in in your face, all they wanna do is take first place, the Backstabbers”). Joe and the Backstabbers won the Seattle Metro Championship in ’79, ’81 and ’84. In 1985, Joe began playing for W.E. Ruth Realty and for the next 30 years competed at the highest levels around the country. But more importantly, Joe made friendships that lasted a lifetime. Joe was inducted into the USSSA Washington Hall of Fame in 1995, and the SSUSA National Softball Hall of Fame in 2019. He was named to the All World Softball team several years (and won the tournament), and won the National Championship team title several times. While all this softball was taking place, Joe found the job of his dreams. In 1969 he joined the Bellevue Fire Department working as a Lieutenant stretching into 41.3 years and retiring in 2010. He loved his job. He loved the people he worked with. He loved the lifelong friendships that developed over the years. He loved competing in the Police and Fire Games. He loved messing with people’s heads when it came to pranks! Several years ago, Joe was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease which took a devastating toll on his mind and body. He fought this disease by participating in Rock Steady Boxing which focused on overall fitness, strength training, reaction time and balance. His instructor was Shig Tsutsumi, a Garfield Grad. The members of that group are the strongest people Joe has known. This last year’s isolation due to the pandemic was rough. But Joe still fought. Through all his life Joe has had the support of family. His parents, Katheryn and Leon Franco. Wife Cherryl, his children Whitney (mother, Ross Wright) (Gabe), Taylor Franco (Ashley), Phil Franco, (Mother, Patricia Mankis,) Cherryl’s children Lesley Egbert, Allison Rachner (James)Joe’s sisters Kathleen Bledsoe (Rupert), Lee Anne Aguilar (John), Dan Franco (Lorena) along with grandkids, and many nieces and nephews. Joe was preceded in death by his older brother Jack Leon Franco. Finally, last but NOT least there is no support system finer than Joe’s many fire and softball Buddies. In remembering Joe, please consider a donation to: EvergreenHealth Hospice Center 12040 NE 128th St. MS #5 Kirkland WA 98034-3098 Celebration of Life will be held at:
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