Found Their Heart in Joe Fran’s Classroom
by Cate Murway

A teacher who is attempting to teach, without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn, is hammering on a cold iron." - Horace Mann (1796-1859)

We all have favorite teachers. Whether they taught us how to read, write or do arithmetic, encouraged us, challenged us or gave sound advice in times of confusion, all of us have one or two educators in mind when we are asked: "What is the best thing you learned, so far?"
A good teacher teaches, a better teacher explains and the best teacher inspires.

Joseph Franceschini, BHS ‘50/ West Chester State College ‘54, B.S./U of PA M.A.
Certified in English and French has demonstrated the true essence of teaching. 
He taught as a vocation, dedicating his life in its totality to it. It was never a job. It is his lifetime commitment. 

Joe’s parents, Italian born Giovanni “John” and Bristol born Pierina [DiNunzio] Franceschini owned the grocery store “John’s Market”, known for the best pure pork Italian sausage around, on 1108 Wood Street. They purchased the market from Sam Mignoni and lived above their store, just as mostly everyone else did at that time and lovingly raised their four children. His mom worked the huge machines in Grundy’s woolen mills for a short time and Joe recalls that she was called “Mary” there.

His brother, Rocco at the age of almost eight, drowned in the Delaware near the Harbor Lights Apartments. Joe confirms, “I still remember and this has affected me for my entire life.” His brother Michael, BHS ’55, the family athlete, resides in South Philadelphia. The eldest, Borough resident Anna [Franceschini] Mancini, BHS ’46, dubbed “Anya” was #2 in her class and she provided a strong influence for her little brother Joseph. When he was in the 10th grade, his always-studious sister encouraged him to teach. “Better go out for teaching because they have security in their jobs,” she advised. Anna confirmed that Joe, 3rd in his class of 135, “was always studying, always a good student.” Anna is a volunteer librarian at St. Mark School and has sung in the Spanish choir at St. Mark Church for over ten years. 
Joe is the namesake of his paternal grandfather. His maternal grandparents Michael and Clemantina DiNunzio lived on the corner of Mansion and Beaver Streets.

He feels that historic Bristol on the Delaware is a quiet, safe town and it is a wonderful community!
In the 1940’s, Joe sang “O Solo Mio” and “The Mockingbird Song” on stage every Saturday to entertain the kids before the movie began at the “Bristol Theatre” at the request of the manager, Ned. He hated the nickname he was given, Joe “Pierina” because he sang like his mother
“I had a wonderful childhood and a lot of fun growing up and playing on Lincoln Avenue. We had pride then and we have pride now.”

A strong work ethic was instilled in Jefferson Avenue School student Joe at a young age as he happily worked as a clerk along with his dad, a butcher who sold fresh Italian cheeses and luncheon meats and delicious pastry from the Mancuso Bakery on Beaver Street. There were no calculators, he put the list of numbers on a bag and added them up.
The customers loved his family’s friendly attitude. 
After graduation from high school, he would take the lengthy trolley ride home from West Chester and would continue to work in his father’s store on Saturdays.
In November 1954, he voluntarily joined the Army and was assigned to Fort Jackson, in Georgia. It was peacetime and SP3 Franceschini was a clerk typist for morning reports when he was shipped out to Frankfurt and Stuttgart, Germany. While he was on leave, he had the opportunity to view Grace Kelly’s wedding in Monaco and visit Capri and London.

Joe had been inspired to “travel through the written word” by his favorite teachers, Ms. Gladys E. Hewitt and Ms. Madeline Kennedy and he had always loved to read. “I was called a bookworm.” His 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Ellis took her students to the old Grundy Library on Dorrance Street and it was there that Joe explored and found Tom Sawyer books. When starting his own teaching career, he admits, “I stole a little bit of their methods and made them my own.”

Uncle Anthony “Tony” and Aunt Mary [Scoponi] Mazzocchi introduced Joe and his beloved wife/best friend Alessandra [Scoponi] who was born in the province of Ascoli Piceno, Italy near the Adriatic Sea.  Sandra said, “I came over for a visit in 1963 and I’ve been here ever since.” Their hearts communicated. The family did the talking and he did the listening and could only understand 25% of what was said. “She couldn’t speak a word of English and I could speak fractional Italian because my father had a grocery story in the Italian neighborhood,” Joe reminisced.
Sandra’s parents [Sandra lost her father when she was only 2] were Vincenza and Guido Scoponi. Her brother Franco and her sister Gabriella still reside in Italy. She was the only one to come to America and she stayed because of the “eligible bachelor”.
They were married April 12, 1964.  Happy 46th Anniversary! 

The Franceschinis have 2 daughters, “wonderful children who could travel with us and not cry. They were good travelers.” Travel agent Marisa Ann [Franceschini] Pirri owns TravelCity located in “Glamorous Life”, 125 Mill Street. Marisa, her husband Louis Emmanuel Pirri, BHS ’80 and their two children, Christian Joseph and Daniela Alessandra reside in the Borough. Carla, who works in the treasurer’s office at Princeton University, her husband David Benincasa and their 2 sons Dante and Luca live in Langhorne.

“Teaching was a wonderful career for me and I loved it. The student taught me as much as I taught them. I taught them to love and be passionate.”

Joe Fran has shared this love of American and British literature, drama and poetry for almost half a century. “Poetry is the beautiful expression of life in short comments.”
He creatively taught each of his classes of 52 students at Father Judge High School, traveling to Philadelphia in his white Oldsmobile convertible with a red boot from 1957-1960.  “Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Charles Dickens, Hamlet and Shakespeare.
I taught them and acted them out in class. I was theatrical for the student to enjoy.”
Then Bristol Junior-Senior High School benefited from his vast displays of knowledge from 1963 until he retired in 1993.“I was retired but I was bored.” 
This stalwart example of commitment and innovation returned with his wisdom of tolerance, hard work, determination and kindness to teach at Conwell-Egan Catholic High School from 1996 through 2005.

"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." Henry Brooks Adams

Author of Anna’s Boys and Stealing Tomatoes, William Michael [Bill] Pezza, BHS ’65 continues to weave tales of fiction with the fabric of history.
“Joe Fran was an outstanding and inspiring teacher who set high standards for his students. He had a passion for his subject and ingrained in me a love of reading. He touched thousands of lives in his career both at BHS and Conwell-Egan. I can still hear him reciting from Shakespeare, "Lay on MacDuff, and damned be him who first cries, 'hold, enough!'"  Thanks, Joe!”

Inaugural member of BHS class of 1988 Hall of Fame, James Marvin Sottile, Sr., BHS ’49 praised Joe exuberantly.
“Joe was an outstanding teacher.  The students he taught who went off to college had a much easier time in their writing classes.  Joe is very capable of teaching on the college level.  His students were always amazed at his knowledge of the subjects he taught.  He is always a gentleman of the highest level.  Joe set the gold standard to be used to judge a top quality teacher. Might I also add, he also has a top quality wife, Sandra, who keeps him in line.  Ha Ha”

"I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think." – Socrates

NY Yankee draft baseball athlete/hitting coordinator for the White Sox Jeffrey Paul Manto, BHS ‘82’s favorite poem is Robert Frost ‘s “The Road Not Taken” (1915), interpreted as an assertion of individualism.
“Joe Fran told me to specifically concentrate on ‘The Road Not Taken’.
I had enough guts to take the chance and leave home.”

BHS yearbooks have been dedicated to the teacher they believed was “fair and firm”.
In 1963 these words were etched, “ Mr. Franceschini encouraged us to prepare ourselves for the future and he fervently bestowed a wealth of knowledge and wisdom upon our class. He strengthened our command of the English language, always stressing the importance of perfection. He was also a great aid in the preparation of the Rambler. Our fondest thanks to you.”

Joe Franceschini, the 1976 Senior Class advisor stated for the yearbook, 
“My world is the classroom- one filled with the intense warmth and green springs of youth, eager to question the answers more readily than answer the questions.”

The books he opens now are his own. He loves to read the legal thrillers of William Lashner and James B. Patterson and he enjoys reading works of the New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline. They remain very involved in their grandchildren’s activities.

“I was always so happy. Bristol gave me a lot of happiness and taught me to be friendly with everyone. I had wonderful teachers and the kind Bristol people who were always so kind to my father and my mother and us. It was like a big family!”

"The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind." - Kahlil Gibran

Recommend a “spotlight”. E-mail 


Four educators to share 'Person of the Year' award at second annual Bristol Fall Classic
Friday, July 20, 2012

BRISTOL --- Coming on the heels of last year’s event honoring Jeff Manto as Person of the Year, this year’s Bristol Fall Classic is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 17 at Bernard Mazzocchi’s Canal Works Building located at the corner of Canal and Beaver streets.

The Bristol Fall Classic supports free, after-school educational enrichment for Bristol Borough youth in grades 1 through 12. Preliminary data for 2011-12 show 244 students were served, with daily attendance averaging 42 students, in programs at St. James Parish House and Snyder-Girotti Elementary School. Thirty-four percent (34 percent) of students attending regularly showed improvement in Math PSSA scores, while 25 percent showed improvement in Reading PSSA scores.

This year’s event will focus and highlight the role of Bristol Borough educators and their impact on the lives of Bristol Borough’s youth. Four educators have been selected to share the Bristol Fall Classic’s Person of the Year Award. Each educator was selected for their significant contributions in the classroom at Bristol Borough’s public and parochial schools.

Ken Bachman, the former Band Director at Bristol High School, from 1952 to 1984, established a marching band recognized beyond Bucks County and was a model of success for other marching bands in the region. In addition to nurturing the marching band during his 32 year affiliation with the Bristol Borough School District, Bachman managed the overall musical instrumentation program including the Stage Band, Orchestra and taught many students instrumental music at every grade-level. Some have said that elements of the award winning movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus” were, perhaps, borrowed from Mr. Bachman’s life story and dedication to music and children of the Bristol Borough School District.

Joseph Franceschini, a well-known and highly regarded high school English teacher at both Bristol High School and Conwell Egan Catholic, introduced thousands of students to both American and British literature, drama and poetry. Franceschini regularly performed from several of Shakespeare’s famous soliloquy’s for his students, most notably, Ophelia’s death in Hamlet.

Most of Franceschini’s students were well prepared 
for college --- after enduring the discipline and rigors 
of his classroom curriculum --- some even able 
to successfully test out of mandatory freshman English courses 
at some of the nation’s elite four year universities.

Carol Mignoni-Ferguson’s teaching career spans 25 years with the Bristol Borough School District where she taught kindergarten at the former Warren Snyder Elementary School. Mignoni-Ferguson nurtured her students --- planting the seeds for lifelong learning --- using techniques such as playing, singing, activities and social interaction to establish a fundamental framework for continued learning in the years’ ahead. Her efforts in the classroom resulted in receiving the honor of Teacher of the Year. Since retiring from education, Mignoni-Ferguson has remained active in the community serving on several boards including the Bristol Borough Rotary Club, Bucks County Community College Trustees and the Bristol Riverside Theatre. Along with her sisters, Mignoni-Ferguson is the proprietor of Mignoni Jewelers on Mill Street in Bristol Borough.

Karen Fannin Pezza began her career in education at the Council Rock School District. Bristol Borough was fortunate when Pezza decided to pursue her passion closer to home becoming a substitute teacher at the Bristol Borough School District in order to be more readily available to her three young children. When her children were older she returned to teaching on a full time basis joining the professional staff at St. Mark Parochial School to begin a 31 year relationship at her beloved parish school.

During her tenure at St. Mark School, Pezza established the kindergarten program, taught third and fourth grades and severed as principal for six years. Pezza’s legacy remains strong at St. Mark School today as a result of the many programs she established including the Reading Olympics and active participation in several community events such as the Historic Bristol Day and the annual Christmas Parade.

Tickets for the Bristol Fall Classic are $50.00 per person and are expected to sell fast. To purchase tickets, learn about sponsorship opportunities or obtain more information about this year’s event, call Mary Gesualdi at 215-788-0915.


Bristol Pilot > People

FALL CLASSIC HONOREE: Joseph Franceschini 'added spark' to whatever he taught at Bristol High School
Saturday, October 13, 2012

By Elizabeth Fisher
Advance correspondent

BRISTOL BOROUGH - How would you like to be the kind of retired teacher that gets a standing ovation from the bleachers when you return to school for a basketball game?
How would you like your legacy to be such that faces of students from decades past light up at the mention of your name?
Take a page from Joseph Franceschini’s book and it could happen. Even after two retirements - Bristol High School (1993) and Conwell-Egan Catholic High School (2005), “Mr. Fran” holds sway over those who sat in his classroom.

“Mr. Fran added spark to whatever he taught us,” said Michelle LeNoir, project coordinator for the Bristol Borough 21st Century Community Learning Center and a 2004 graduate of Conwell-Egan. “He would take on the voices of the characters in whatever we were reading. He would act out scenes and bring them to life.”

Franceschini cared about his students both in and out of the classroom. He had an open door policy that put students at ease and he always followed up on what students were doing in school or in their personal lives, LeNoir said.

And he seemed to be just the guy to ease kids through teen-age angst. On a recent morning, he sat the dining room table in his cozy Taylor Street house reflecting on his teaching career.
“I’d tell the kids not to worry about anything. I told them that when I was in high school, I was the outsider. I didn’t get dates. I wasn’t invited places. I lost myself in my books and I think that’s how I came to love literature so much,” he said.

Franceschini is a lifelong borough resident. He lives with his wife Sondra and boasts of his married daughters, Carla Benincasa and Marisa Pirri, and his grandchildren. But if this self-described “loner” endured a rocky journey through adolescence, he finished his career as the recipient of much adulation.

Franceschini graduated from Bristol High in 1950 and from West Chester University in 1954. He took graduate courses at the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and Trenton State. He spent the summer of 1953 at the Sorbonne in Paris to “polish” his French, he said.
He taught at Bristol High from 1960-1993 and Conwell-Egan from 1996-2005.

“I wanted to be a really good teacher and I poured my heart and soul into it,” he said.

In appreciation for his work, Francheschini will be one of four retired Bristol teachers to be honored at the 2012 Bristol Fall Classic to be held from 7-11 p.m. Nov. 17 at Canal Works, Beaver and Canal streets. The other honorees are also educators who had an impact both in the classroom as well as on the lives of Bristol Borough students.

Tickets for the event are $50 and checks may be made out to the Bristol Borough 21st Century Community Center (or BB21CCLC). Mail checks to the Bristol Borough Advsory and Oversight Committee, 680 Radcliffe St., Bristol 19007, Attn.: Mary Gesualdi.

Refreshment include hor’douveres, beer, wine, soft drinks, coffee and dessert.

Money raised will benefit the Bristol Borough 21st Century Community Center, a free, after-school program for Bristol Borough elementary, middle and high school students.

Anna Marie Mancini
June 21, 1928 - December 20, 2017

Anna Marie (nee Franceschini) Mancini of Bristol, PA passed away peacefully on Wednesday, December 20, 2017 surrounded by her loving family after a brief illness at the age of 89 years young.

Born, raised, and resided her entire life in the same house on Wood Street in Bristol, which was the location of her Father’s Italian Market (John’s Market).
She was Bristol High School’s 1946 Class Salutatorian. She was ranked #1 in the Academic Course. She was the News Editor of the Rambler Newspaper for BHS. Also, Literary Editor of the BHS Yearbook. She received the Latin prize for 4 years of Latin. She was the recipient of the Rohm and Haas Award for Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.
She was a member of St. Mark’s Spanish Choir for 43 years - the best years of her life. She made many loving friends there. Before Anna Marie’s illness, she volunteered for 25 years at St. Mark School, as the Librarian, Teacher’s Aide, and taught Italian and Spanish. She loved being with all the wonderful children of St. Mark’s.

Anna Marie was the matriarch of her family. She took care of her mother, father, husband, brothers, children, and grandchildren.
Everyone knows what a generous and loving person she was. She would make at least 60 loaves of Easter Bread each year and give them away to anyone she knew. At Christmas time, all of Bristol would enjoy her delicious Italian cookies.

Anna Marie was preceded in death by her loving husband, Nicholas Mancini of 69 years; her parents, Giovanni and Pierina Franceschini; her brother Rocco Franceschini, and many brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law.
She is survived by her 4 children, Louis Mancini, Nicholas Mancini, Esq. (Rochelle), Antonia Hochreiter (John), and Rocco Mancini (Danielle); Grandchildren Richard Brady (Michele), Isabella Mancini, and Marcella Mancini; her great grandchildren Chloe English and Michael Brady. She is also survived by her loving brothers Joseph Franceschini (Alessandra); Michael Franceschini, and numerous nieces and nephews.

Relatives and friends are invited to call on Saturday morning, December 23, from 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. at St. Mark’s Church, 1025 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, PA 19007. Funeral mass will begin at 10:30 a.m. Inurnment will be held privately at St. Mark Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in memory of her name to St. Mark Church, 1025 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, PA 19007.

Alessandra and Joseph Franceschini
Joe Franceschini -1967 BHS yearbook
Joe at ages [about] 9 and 5
Sister-in-laws for over 55 years. 
Friendship and love. 
Alessandra and Anna Marie
click on thumbnail to enlarge