Maria Josefina “Mary Jo” Franco French, 79, joined our Heavenly Father on December 31, 2015. Mary Jo was born in Phoenix, Arizona, on January 4, 1936, to loving parents who shaped her work and life. Jesús Franco was the Mexican Consul to Arizona and along with her mother, Josefina Carrascoso, they founded El Sol, the first Spanish language newspaper. Mary Jo was also raised by her loving Nana, Josefina Puente.
Mary Jo attended St. Francis Xavier Elementary School and Xavier High School, where she excelled in academics and graduated in 1952. She attended Arizona State University where she met Alfred. After graduating, Mary Jo moved to Mexico City to pursue a medical degree. She graduated from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México School of Medicine in 1967 and specialized in endocrinology.
Mary Jo returned to Phoenix and dedicated her life to her family and her community. The Francos began the annual Fiestas Patrias celebration of Mexican Independence Day in the 1930’s and Mary Jo carried on this work through the 2000’s. Every September 16 she ensured that the Grito ceremony was held to honor her Mexican heritage of which she was so proud. Mary Jo was the editor of El Sol, was on the Board of Directors of Alma de la Gente, the University of Phoenix, the El Mirage Diabetes Coalition, Vesta Club, Friends of Mexican Art, and other organizations. Mary Jo was honored by Valle del Sol with the Profiles of Success Award in 1994 for her steadfast leadership in the Latino community. She was appointed by President Reagan to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) in 1981. In this role, Mary Jo had a rank of Honorary General and traveled around the world interviewing women in the Armed Services and improving conditions for them. Mary Jo was appointed an Honorary Colonel for her service alongside Alfred with the Arizona National Guard. Mary Jo chaired the Veterans Day Parade and the Grand Army Ball and received the George Washington Award for distinguished civilian service in 1988.
Mary Jo was most proud of working with Bishop O’Brien on the host committee to bring Pope John Paul II to Phoenix in 1987.
Mary Jo is remembered for her generous and loving spirit. She was a friend to many and we all mourn her loss.
Mary Jo is survived by her loving husband of 43 years, Alfred R. French, M.D., her daughter Laura, her son Alfred, her granddaughter Maya and her grandson Aran.
In lieu of flowers, we respectfully ask that donations in her name be made to the Arizona Kidney Foundation or Xavier College Preparatory.
Visitation will be held from 5-7 p.m. and a rosary at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 7 at Whitney & Murphy Funeral Home at 4800 E. Indian School Road. The funeral mass will be celebrated on Friday, January 8, at 11 a.m. at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church at 909 E. Washington with a burial following at St. Francis Xavier Cemetery.
Adele (French) & John Wagner
Mary Jo was a beloved sister-in-law and friend. We were honored to sponsor her and husband Alfred’s visit to various Hawaii military installations representing DACOWITS. We were also always greatly appreciative of the many delightful family dinners she hosted during our visits to Phoenix. Adele (French) & John Wagner.
Mrs. French was a very special friend to my family, especially my grandparents, Tony and Emma Certosimo. I will always remember her Christmas Eve visits and how she lit up the room like an angel.