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Saturday, January 28, 2023
9:30 - 10:45 am (Eastern time)
Saturday, January 28, 2023
Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)
Joseph Peter Francisco, 62, of Glenn Mills, Pennsylvania, died tragically, December 30, 2022, the victim of a traffic accident, while on holiday in Lewes, Delaware. Joe had planned to spend New Year’s Eve with friends in nearby Rehoboth Beach. Joe was a licensed professional counselor/psychotherapist affiliated both with Crozer Keystone Health Care and with Cognizant Behavioral Health Services, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.
Joe was born June 21, 1960 in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, the son of Terrence Richard Francisco and Patricia Anne (Owens) Francisco. Joe and his younger brother Terry grew up initially in Glenolden and then in the Conestoga Farms community near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. After graduating from Salesianum School, Wilmington, Delaware, in 1978, he attended Saint Joseph’s University on a drama scholarship, graduating in 1982 with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology. He later attended Hahnemann University (now Drexel University College of Medicine) on an academic scholarship earning a Master of Arts degree in Creative Arts & Therapy in 1994.
Joe was a performer throughout his life, literally following in the dance steps of his mother – who was active in community theater as an actress and a lover of comedy – who introduced him to the stage. A versatile and talented actor, singer, dancer, director and choreographer, he starred in high school productions at Salesianum School and then at St. Joe’s where he headlined Cap & Bells plays such as “You Can't Take it With You” as Tony Kirby and “The Alcestiad” as Epimenes, directed others such as “Sorry, Wrong Number,” and choregraphed musicals such as “The Fantasticks” and “Guys & Dolls.”
Joe was ever engaging and always “on stage.” Much to the delight of his family and friends, he could “command a room” as an opinionated, stand-up, ad lib comic typically focused on Philly “here and now” topics, a slightly tempered version of his comic hero, George Carlin but with a touch of Groucho Marx. As a child, forced to watch “Wall Street Week” by his grandfather, Joe would claim as an adult he was a victim of “affectionate child abuse.”
Everywhere he went, Joe left a trail of new friends – from property managers at apartment complexes to cashiers at checkout counters – who knew him by name. Joe never forgot a birthday or an anniversary or a kindness. As a therapist, Joe was respected by colleagues and patients alike as a trusted, compassionate, creative problem-solver.
As a kid, he loved spending summers with his grandparents “GP” and “GM” Owens at their cabin in the Poconos. His friends remember Joe directing neighborhood play, organizing street hockey games, chasing after Checkers, the Francisco’s wandering springer spaniel, and his spot-on impressions of his pro-wrestling “heroes” – minus the masks, feathers, war paint and ring regalia.
As a 13-year-old, Joe traveled solo to visit his Aunt Carol in Italy to spend the summer only to declare after 10 days, “I have seen it all, so I can go home,” while adding a trademark quip he later would come to enjoy repeating over the years, “Smart remark time, Uncle Bill.”
As a diehard Philly sports fan, Joe’s post game remix of highs-and-lows was the best part of any game, win-or-lose. His brother and cousins may have come for the game but they stayed for the banter. As a man for all seasons, Joe lived sympatico and in the moment. Irish bar hopping post-performance with a stage friend for her night on the town in New York came as naturally as his on-field Jewish bottle-dancing at a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park.
As a brother, Joe cared for his younger and only sibling Terry after the onset of cancer, initially inviting him to cruise the Mediterranean, then attending Eagles games together, to eventually crossing the country from Philadelphia to Los Angeles twice a month to be at Terry’s bedside as his health declined. As an uncle, he was deprived by his own death of attending niece Bella Francisco’s “father’s day” celebration at her sorority in place of his deceased brother.
As a godfather, he was devoted to Cassie Barone, daughter of his Salesianum friend Mike Barone and his wife, Cindy, and his godson Luke Badrak, son of another Salesianum friend Jim Badrak and his wife, Cynthia. He lived long enough to dance with Cassie at her wedding and to proudly – and self-effacingly – report to her parents “I didn’t step on her toes.” Joe was close to his godson Luke from an early age, bonding over ways they could get into trouble together including a one-time introductory visit to Luke’s first “dive bar” – at the age of eight – to the slight amusement of the Badraks. Only last Thanksgiving, Joe had visited Luke and his parents in Orlando. He had planned to divide his post-retirement time living close to the Barones in Rehoboth Beach and the Badraks in nearby Coco Beach.
As a gifted performer, Joe was at home on any stage. As General Tom Thumb in the 1985 Upper Darby Summer Stage production of “Barnum,” he tapped his way into the hearts of all. As Pat in the 1998 Candlelight Theatre production of “State Fair,” Joe’s dancing again impressed audiences but none more than the six-year-old son of a castmate who left with “Pat’s” hat as a memento.
As an actor, Joe was especially fond of playing flawed, conniving, shady characters. In the 2005 The Brandywiners production of “South Pacific,” he was the scheming Seabee, Luther Billis, and then in The Brandywiners 2013 production of “Annie Get Your Gun,” he was the “sometimes underhanded stage manager Charlie Davenport.” Sometimes, Joe simply played Joe with a different name. Joe’s “comedic timing, dancing, and genuine heart” as Bobby Child in the 1996 Candlelight Theatre production of “Crazy for You” left a lasting impression on one audience member later turned actor himself: “For me, there can only ever be one Bobby and his name is Joe.”
As a dance partner, Joe was a close match in real life to his role as Nathan Detroit, in the 2010 The Brandywiners production of “Guys and Dolls,” for his ability to win their favor as in, “Guys will do anything for their dolls.” Sometimes the favors were returned with a flirtatious twist. As George M – likely his favorite role – dancing in the 2000 Candlelight Theatre production of the musical of the same name he also directed and choreographed, his partner decided each performance to whisper a “risqué sweet nothing” at precisely the wrong moment, hoping for an inappropriate laugh. More than once, she was rewarded with a “gotcha moment.” Joe loved it.
As a role model, Joe never lost his cool or his charm or his wit even under duress. As George M, just before show’s big tap number, Joe caught his shoe on one of the steps leading to the stage losing the heel. A fellow cast member, ready to go on himself, saved the day offering Joe his pair of tap shoes. Joe quickly put them on, smiled, and feigning lament, paused and said, “Now I guess I have to cast you in Funny Girl,” and charged up the stairs. The show went on.
As a choreographer, Joe’s imagination was on full view for the mummers march up Broad Street each New Year’s Day from 1985 through 2012 alternatively with the Woodland, Trilby, Duffy, Hegeman, Greater Overbrook, Broomall, and Uptown String Bands. His credits include a first place in 1995 for “Hegeman’s First Class, Secondhand Hobo Band” and two third place finishes also with Hegeman within the span of four years. In addition to choreography, Joe always “took a suit” marching with the bands and typically leading the dance chorus.
As a lover of satire and sight gags, Joe was at his versatile best in the 2015 production of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” at the Milburn Stone Theater. Joe played four roles – the Historian, Not Dead Fred, the Minstrel and Prince Herbert – in a play that could have been written for him. In the words of one reviewer, Joe was “a show stealing sensation.” Joe’s “jerky and almost robotic” portrayal of the Historian reminded the reviewer of the “animatronic future in the Disney World version of the Monty Python attraction.” As the Minstrel, Joe showcased “his vocal prowess, complete with committed character voice” and, as Prince Herbert, he took the show by storm “with his musical dalliances that earn the scorn of his father and his flirtations with Lancelot.” And, poignantly enough, the reviewer described Joe’s dancing as Not Dead Fred as “a bit like a reanimated corpse, unsure but hilarious.” Somewhere Joe is smiling. Even now, he gets the last laugh.
Joe was pre-deceased by his parents and his brother Terrence Hugh Francisco. He is survived by his extended family including his aunt Carol Rita (Owens) Cleary; his cousins: Mary Robin Thiers, John James Ferrick, III, and Matthew Ryan Ferrick; Harry Charles Allen, Douglas Patrick Allen, Anne Marie Collins, Hugh Owens Allen, and Joanne Elizabeth Dahl; Audrey Anne Cleary and Emily Erin Tracy; his nieces: Amanda Christine Francisco, Noelle Marie Francisco and Isabella Grace Francisco; his goddaughter, Catherine Mary Barone and godson Luke Alexander Badrak.
The family invites friends to join them January 28, 2023, at St. Cornelius Church, 160 Ridge Road, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, 19317, for a visitation from 9:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., followed by a funeral mass at 11:00 a.m. Interment will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family invites those who may wish to remember Joe to contribute to either of two charities in his name using their respective links: