by Cate Murway
“Only the educated are free,” wrote the Roman philosopher Epictetus. It does not suffice just to be born into this land of liberty and opportunity. True freedom is realized with the presence of real options, the ability to decide one’s own path in life, and the personal power to put that choice into execution. Education is what gives an individual his/her options, the knowledge to act and choose independently, and the power to turn dreams and aspirations into reality. Welcome to the new, highly competitive, technology saturated, global economy.
“Be careful to leave your sons well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant.” Epictetus
Corporal Joseph [meaning “God shall add another son”] Pasquale DeFranco, BHS ‘51/Millersville/Trenton State posseses considerable creative and artistic talents and he has chosen to devote himself to an occupation that shows concern for the betterment of not just the community but everyone! He exudes a truly outstanding sense of responsibility, love, and balance by always being there and ready to assume more than his share of the load. He and his wife, Anna Frances [DiPrima], BHS ’57 are the extremely proud parents of 4 children, all college graduates with advanced degrees. They both entered this world on the same day and are proof positive that “Friday's child is loving and giving!”
Joe shares his birthdate with Gabriel "Gabe" Kaplan best known for his role as Gabriel "Gabe" Kotter in the 1970s sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter", a wise-cracking teacher who returns to his high school alma mater, the fictional James Buchanan High in Brooklyn, NY.
Their children are Church organist and Director of Music Joseph Edward, Bensalem H.S. ‘79/Trenton State ’85; Electrical engineer Judith Ann Mastrocola, Bensalem ‘80/PSU; Eagle Scout John Richard, Bensalem ‘85/TCNJ ’92; and also an electrical engineer, track athlete /running partner Joanna Frances DeFranco-Tommarello, Bensalem ‘88/PSU, Ph.D, who is a Senior Lecturer of Information Science in the PSU Engineering Division of the School of Graduate Studies. They have presented them with their treasured eight grandchildren ranging in ages from 15 to the youngest, who is 2.
Joe’s parents, veteran of WWI Private Donato and Rose [Capobianco] DeFranco emigrated from the same town of Rosetta, Italy and originally settled in WV. Joe was about 7 when his family moved to Bristol.
Joe’s siblings are Beaver Street resident, Tony who served in Normandy; CA resident, Fabio; Langhorne resident Pompii; Minnesota resident Mike; and his only sister, Mary who lives in Bristol Township. They are 1st generation in America and his parents spoke little English.
He played the bugle and was a member of the Robert W. Bracken Cavaliers Junior Drum and Bugle Corps from the age of 9 years until about the age of 22. The Corps competed every summer and Joe conceded, “it kept me out of trouble”.
His school chum, Rochester, NY resident, Air Force Staff Sergeant Robert Charles [“Nick” in H.S.] Nichol, Sr., BHS ’51 shared, “Joe is a dear friend. I was accepted into his family.” Some “special” memories included drinking Joe’s dad’s homemade wine in his basement and the dances at BHS. According to the 1951 yearbook, Bob Nichol “likes baseball and dancing and will never forget Wilson & Garfield Streets”.
Anna’s grandparents were from Sicily. Her parents, Richard & Frances [Messina] DiPrima, Anna, her brother, Industrial Engineer Richard who currently resides in Albuquerque, NM and and her sister, NJ school teacher Rose Gorton resided on Jefferson Avenue. Majorette Anna was an NHS student who played the clarinet in the BHS band and sang in the choir. She is fondly remembered in her yearbook, “There’s always a baton in Anna’s hand for she’s head majorette of our high school band.” Anna was also the literary editor of the “Rambler”and the school newspaper and she had the opportunity to implement her talent, ingenuity and expertise as part of the yearbook staff, deciding which special events were declared "yearbook moments". She remembers using a fountain pen for her Gregg shorthand, at one time, the most popular form of pen stenography in the USA.
Senior captain of the BHS wrestling team and collegiate wrestler, Joe was penned the “husky devotee of the grunt & groan sport” in his HS yearbook. He believes that Bristol actually had the first wrestling team in Bucks County. BHS Superintendent was Warren P. Snyder and the Principal was David L. Hertzler and the Korean War was of the most significance. Before entering the Army, Joe completed a 2 year tool & die maker apprenticeship with Fallsington Manufacturing Company, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Fabio. He confirms, “tool & die makers are a rare breed; I call it the ‘king of trades’!” He began his 2 years active duty, guarding the Wiesbaden Airfield, the home of Headquarters U.S. Air Force in Europe; and then his 6 years inactive duty, earning his Army provided training and education. He is skilled in all areas of plastics, woodworking, metals, ceramics and printing.
Joe has been involved in the education field for a half century, producing students prepared for the rigors of active citizenship and long-term success. When he finished college, he started teaching in the Bristol Township schools, Lafayette Elementary School, then Woodrow Wilson H.S., including 2 years of metal shop and woodshop.
He taught a total of 8 years and then served in Administration as Supervisor of Vocational Education, a laison to any trade related classes, now called Career Tech, and retired in 1990. Some “retirement”, he has been working for the last 20 years in CITE/Career & Technical Education at Temple University!
The Temple Center for Professional Development in Career and Technical Education offers career-long services to Career and Technical Education (CTE) professionals throughout the seventeen counties that comprise the eastern region of PA. Its mission is to facilitate the professional development of all educators who work with career-bound students.
Joe started co-operative education in Bristol Township schools and made presentations to all of the area service organizations.
The Cooperative Education Program provides an opportunity for students to alternate semesters of academic study with semesters of paid, career-related, engaged-learning experience. A basic goal of this experiential-learning program is to help bridge the gap between academic study and its application in professional practice. Teeming with intellect, confidence and charisma, Joe has proven himself to be the main advocate to offer navigable paths and universal access to complete and competitive education.
In 1997, Joseph DeFranco was recognized in Harrisburg as Outstanding Post-secondary educator in the State of PA for his involvment in professional organizations, memberships and activities by the PA Department of Education.
A lifelong resident of Bensalem, Honorable Rep. Gene D. DiGirolamo, BE ’68/Delaware Valley College/Holy Family College remembers meeting Joe when he was first elected to the state House. “Joe is just a great guy; a good family man, dedicated to Temple University and the community. We are very proud that not only is Joe a resident of Bensalem, but also of Bucks County. He and I share a mutual interest in running!”
Joe is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Bristol Township Foundation for Educational Excellence and he started the annual Tiger Classic 5K and Fun Run in 1990, originally sponsored by Rohm and Haas.
He has been connected with that for almost 25 years and his notoriety is apparent! Category of age 70 and above is “JOE”!
The proceeds support and create projects that offer parents and students innovative educational opportunities in the elementary schools that the district does not fund.
Former race coordinator Army Sergeant Eugene Edward [Butch] Oberlander, Truman ‘84
currently a Health/ PE teacher has known Joe for over 10 years. “Joe continues to be a great help in rounding up the volunteers and marshalling the race.”
Joe is Parliamentarian of the PA- ACTE Executive Committee and is usually the delegate to the National Conference. He is a member of BSAA and the Levittown-Bristol Kiwanis Club for over 30 years, part of the global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time.
Joe serves because he wants to serve.
He also works part time as a Real Estate salesman at Anthony Messina Realty on Jefferson Avenue. He and his wife are season ticket holders at the Bristol Riverside Theatre and they most recently enjoyed the critically acclaimed off Broadway musical “Altar Boyz”.
Joe still makes his shoe purchases from the fabulous selection at Ballow's Shoes on Mill Street.
Joe and Anna DeFranco have lived in their custom- additioned home in Bensalem for 47 years but “Bristol is home for me,” Joe confided. They will celebrate their 49th anniversary on August 20th. Perhaps they’ll share their favorite dinners of poppy seed-crusted Atlantic Salmon and the jumbo lump Crab Cakes at King George II Inn.
The final enabling component to the American Dream is access to a quality education. Such access is the great equalizer, ensuring that all Americans have a decent starting position as they enter adulthood.
Education then is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline.
Keep blazing the trails, Joe DeFranco, empowering each student to live, learn and work as a productive citizen in a global society. We thank you!
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