Sally LaFranchi



Sally LaFranchi lived more than 90 years in Sonoma County, many of them on the same quarter-acre in Sebastopol where she died Sunday.

She was two years old when her parents Stanley and Belle Jenkins moved in 1919 to the dirt road on the outskirts of Sebastopol that became Murphy Avenue. After marrying Howard LaFranchi, her husband of 64 years, she moved to Santa Rosa where she raised her four children there.

When the children were grown, she and Howard returned to Murphy Avenue and rebuilt the home of her childhood, a time when people with little money believed themselves to be rich.

"You know people say they want a better life for their kids?" asked her son, Howard LaFranchi, Jr. "She didn't. She thought she had the perfect life. And that's what she wanted for us."

Work was a part of LaFranchi's life and she made sure her children were in the orchards picking apples and prunes. She graduated from Analy High School in 1935 and worked at the Santa Rosa Poultry Producers. When her children were young, she offered day care out of her Proctor Terrace home and later worked as an aide in the Rincon Valley School District.

Friends and family remember her most for an abiding sense of awe at the ordinary — and her belief that no occasion was too small to celebrate. She baked thousands of cupcakes and hosted hundreds of showers, birthday parties and holiday dinners. Fourth of July was her favorite, but she insisted that even a makeshift picnic at the coast could be its own holiday.

"Her daily love for life and sense of fun made her the guiding force of our family. She never had a sense of delayed gratification — now was perfect," said her son.

She found joy in life's small wonders and loved nothing better than riding the back roads of Sonoma County, rhapsodizing about the beauty of a mustard field, the perfection of a Gravenstein apple or the scent of the white daphne that dutifully bloomed each February in time for her birthday. She celebrated her 94th birthday last month as she liked best, with multiple family parties and the ladies of her birthday club, still lunching after more than a half century.

LaFranchi's faith was at the center of her world. She was a dedicated Christian Scientist and stalwart member of churches in Sebastopol and Santa Rosa since the time she was a teen-age Sunday school teacher.

In addition to her son, Howard of Chevy Chase, Md., she is survived by her daughters Judy Magrini of Santa Rosa, Susan Peterson of Sebastopol and Cindy LaFranchi of Sonoma; her sisters, Betty Braga of Sebastopol and Bernice Emery of Ukiah; 10 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

A family memorial is planned for Easter.