We Remember Tony Franco

                                                                          St. Joseph Patron, Director ‘58 – ‘68

                                                                                                By Frank Dana


Frank Dana  joined the St Joseph Patron Sea Cadets in 1958.

He went into the school auditorium to sign-up. The first man he met there was Tony Franco. He sat up on the stage behind a wooden table. A most “imposing figure” of a man, dressed in a Naval Officers uniform with gold trim. Tony was some what over-weight, but in a strange way it seemed to fit. Frank would learn as the months went on, that Tony had a dream and that was to build a competitive drum and bugle corps in Bushwick (Brooklyn) within the walls of St. Joseph Patron Youth Center. Many of us had no idea what a “competitive” drum corps would look and sound like.  However, Tony took it upon himself to take us to an outdoor competition on Randall's Island. It was located actually on a separate island from Manhattan, but still part of  the NYC landscape. Little did we realize, this parking lot would later become our M & M practice home. Randall’s Island was the “Mecca” for the rehearsal site of nearly all NYC marching and maneuvering drum and bugle corps: seniors and juniors. At this contest, I saw some of New York's elite drum corps competing for top honors. Needless to say, I was awestruck.

There they were: St. Catherine's Queensmen, Our Lady of Loretto Knights, Floyd Bennett Golden Eagles, and the Selden Cadets. All the junior corps we had only heard about.

At this contest, I saw some of New York's elite drum corps competing for top honors. Needless to say, I was awestruck.

Tony gave me a recording of the Skokie Indians; a senior corps National Champion boasted one of the best drum lines in the nation. That was it! I wanted to be a drummer. Tony gave his heart and soul to the corps, and finally his health. He cared about every young adult in the corps and became friends with all our families. He was like an uncle to all of us. Unlike others drum and bugle corps of that time, which closed their doors to different ethnic kids (circa early 60’s).  At St. Joseph Patron, it did not matter what your ethnic or racial background was.  All new members were accepted.

When my father passed away, he was a great help to my family. Tony helped us through a hard time. I had the pleasure of meeting his family, his sister Louise Lo Casco, and his nephew Frank Lo Casco. They were all warm and caring people and it was easy to see that Tony was from that same mold. Without Tony's perseverance and dedication, there would not have been a St. Joe's Patron Cadets or a St. Rita's Brassmen. Who knows where the young people who passed through our ranks would be today? 

Tony.... you are greatly missed!

Thank you,

Frank Dana

Robert Sartory - Frank Dana & Skokie Indians Senior Corp