Frances Klisch

Obituary of Frances Christina Mortara Klisch

Long time Santa Cruz resident Frances Klisch died at her home on August 22, 2019, on the date of her own mother’s birthday, surrounded by family and a dedicated caregiver. She was 97. She was born in Turin, in the northwestern region of Piedmont, Italy, to Battista and Antonietta Mortara. Battista’s active political opposition to the fascist government of Benito Mussolini resulted in him being forced to leave Italy with his family or face arrest. In 1926, at the age of 4, Frances immigrated with her parents and her sister to California. After a brief stay with relatives in Southern California, Frances and her family moved to Santa Cruz, where her father eventually began his own ornamental iron business, Santa Cruz Ornamental Iron Works located downtown on North Pacific Avenue. Throughout her life, Frances affectionately pointed out her father’s work on many homes and businesses throughout the city of Santa Cruz, including the entry railings on Holy Cross Church. Frances grew up on Market Street in Santa Cruz, in a home centered on family, homemade meals, and fresh fruit and vegetables from her father’s extensive Italian garden, which fed the family for many years. Having grown up during the Great Depression, she frequently told the story about unemployed transient men who would be camping at the creek nearby, coming to the door for food. Her parents would seat them at the family table and feed them a homemade meal prepared by her mother Antonietta, while Frances and her sister looked on, wide eyed. Frances graduated from Holy Cross High School in 1939, and worked for Finn and Finn Insurance for several years, before she met her future husband Ted during World War II, in downtown Santa Cruz. Ted was stationed at Camp McQuaide in Watsonville. Within weeks of meeting, during the intensity of wartime and impending separation, they were married on August 21, 1942 in St. Vibiana Cathedral, in Los Angeles. Frances followed her husband throughout the South, until he was shipped overseas to serve in the China Burma India Theater of War, in an engineering corps. When Ted returned, he and Frances built a home they cherished, down the street from Frances’s parents, where they would raise their 2 daughters. Frances still lived in the family home at the time of her death. For many years, they owned and operated the business, Ted’s Liquors, in Santa Cruz. When her youngest child reached adolescence, Frances returned to work as a clerk stenographer for Child Protective Services County of Santa Cruz, where she worked for 10 years. She was in residence in her home for 72 years, and altogether on Market Street for 92 years. In 2005, at 84 years of age, Frances returned for the first time to Italy since leaving at the age of 4, accompanied by her daughter and son-in-law. Despite her initial apprehension, she thoroughly enjoyed each moment of the trip, and experienced being warmly welcomed back to the country of her birth. Frances prized her Italian heritage, and being an immigrant herself, she enjoyed meeting people from other countries. She loved learning about their origins, and sharing her own. Frances loved her home, helping her family, her grandchildren, and cherished her memories of growing up in Santa Cruz, and living in her neighborhood. Frances was predeceased by her husband of 42 years, Theodore, by her beloved parents, Battista and Antonietta Mortara, by her beloved sister Matilde Spaducci, and by her good friend Mary Duncan. She is survived by her daughters, Lana Rough (Mark), Lida Strong (Michael), and grandsons Daniel and Joseph Strong and Brian Rough. She was accompanied and cared for in her last years by a number of committed caregivers, including most recently her loving and dedicated caregivers, Linda Dzigorski, Terri Garland, and Samantha Lyon, and past caregivers Carol Bell, Heather and Deanne Purchase, Angel O’Kane, Jaimie Kahn and Ashley Hartwyck. Heartfelt thanks and gratitude go out to all caregivers who made it possible for Frances to live and die at home, as was her wish. Special thanks also go to Hospice of Santa Cruz County for their sensitive and comforting care, and especially to Dr. Mary Patz, for many years of care, attention, and kindness. A rosary and service were held in August at Santa Cruz Memorial, officiated by Father John Griffin, who made time for us on his final day of work before retirement. .
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