Bea Franco, “The Mexican Girl,” Dies at Age 92

Last Friday I received a phone call from Albert Franco (Bea’s son) telling me of the dismal news that his mother had passed away last Thursday morning. This comes exactly one week after she held a new copy of “Manana Means Heaven” in her warm hands, and allowed her daughter Patricia to snap some photos of her. One of which I posted on my Facebook account (see below). Needless to say, I was stunned at the news. We had been making plans to honor her at the upcoming book release event in Fresno, and she had been doing great health-wise in recent weeks. Over the weekend I pulled out the video footage of our interviews, which were done in late 2010, when I first found her, and I watched them. She still had her humor about her, and her warm smile was infectious. Especially as she told me the story of how in the early days of East Los Angeles, she wasn’t afraid to fight, and how she often defended her sister Angie from bullies. She laughed about those days. Bea also loved skittles. She often kept a bowl of them on her dining room table. Throughout our interviews she would sneak away to the back of the house to take a few puffs from a cigarette. She was 90 years old at the time. When I first told her that there were over twenty Kerouac biographies that had included her name, her reply was, “Why? My life wasn’t so special.” And then she’d chuckle. In viewing those videos, I see now just how lucky I am to have known her, even if only for a brief moment in time. During the years it took me to write “Manana Means Heaven,” as any writer will tell you, I lived with her in my mind and heart. And then sometimes I’d speak with her in person and she’d remind me, in her own unassuming way, that it was simply a small part of who she was, in a life that spanned nearly a century. On this melancholy occasion, I think of the curious way she signed off her letters, to Kerouac, to her husband and to her friends: “I REMAIN AS EVER, Bea”

Bea holding a copy of "Manana Means Heaven." August 9. (Copyright 2013, used with the permission of Bea's Estate)

Bea holding a copy of “Mañana Means Heaven.” August 9. (Copyright 2013, used with the permission of Bea’s Estate)

(October 13, 1920 – August 15, 2013)

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9 responses to “Bea Franco, “The Mexican Girl,” Dies at Age 92

  1. Imagine what she felt when she saw a book published about her & letting her know how her name was mentioned in his writings? This is touching. This whole time I am thinking Kerouac? I remember Jack but not much else, somehow I know his name, just a tad before my time but I do know his name & now glad to know Bea’s. I am intrigued. I cant wait to read it and read from her point of view and also during the time of our own Grandmother’s. May Bea, “The Mexican Girl” rest in peace. <3 My heartfelt sympathy's to her Family & you also Tim.

  2. Pingback: Bea Franco (October 13, 1920 – August 15, 2013) | Stephanie Nikolopoulos

  3. I purchased ( well my father did ) my copies of On The Road &
    The Town & the City ~~ at a used thrift shop right across from Sears & Roebuck at Olympic & Soto St….not far from where Bea grew up.. who ever gave them up had inked them up w/som many remarks & ideas they were like GOLD to my heart…..I treasure my books to this day & I was 15 & the year was 1976 ~~ because ~~we who love Jack & his work, knew every person in On The Road, was based on somebody~ so those 15 days & Terry the Mexican Girl meant someone REAL…I knew that
    I am so honoured that she was interviewed & talked to & that she knew she was part of that historical record, trust me people are still chasing down the Kerouac Facts & People, but to see her holding the Mr Hernandez’s published work
    is just so beautiful………..as she was …& as she remains..
    Que Dios Te Bendiga Bea~~

  4. I was always taken in by this relationship with Jack and this Mexican girl. I would ( on occasion) wonder what had happened to her and her brother after Jack.

    To bad we didn’t catch up to her till the late 2000′, but thank God that we did.

    Daah you go, daah you go..

  5. She was my Auntie Bea a amazing women and very kind. I was very surprise to hear about this book . My mother was her younger sister Angie, I just purchased this book. I’m very sorry that she left us, but her memories will be shared and carried on. Love you forever Auntie

  6. There is something magical going on here. 1948…..28 Mexican Nationals buried in an unidentified grave….. Woodie Guthrie writes a poem…….Martin Hoffman writes a melody…..Pete Segar records it …..song covered by Joan Baez and many others, , ….Tim Hernandez doing research on………… Bea Franco…………….who was written about by Jack Kerouac.. in his masterpiece..On the road……dedication of headstone with Deportees names on it……… Bea Franco passes away just weeks before the dedication……… 65 years for this thread to be completed. WOW!! Joe Nolan

  7. so agree…………
    when I first heard about the headstone being readied
    I thought Woody Guthrie the poem ~ Dylan & Baez during the Rolling Thunder Revue singing it ~& the many times I post it on the UFW pager
    It is Important ~ some of what he wrote about ~~continues to this day~ our fight for fair wages for farm workers ~~ the silent ones who are responsible for our produce arriving to our tables…….. and the ENDLESS fight as we advocate for the UFW
    & then reading about Bea & Jack picking the grapes….I know my six grape vines each August are abundant & picking is such a chore ~~ fall out of my bowl then in & I cant imagine doing this for my living w/a clock ticking so loud.
    Terry The Mexican Girl ~~~ beautiful
    then Bea is found ……….Kerouac has been wrapped around my life since I was 15/16 years old~~ Terry The Mexican Girl guaranteed the publication of On The Road~~ though I still loved the 1st book he wrote ( the towne & the city) to think that his words about someone who walked the streets of City Terrace~where I grew up, swam ~ the plaza market ~ my first library card at 7 years old
    the connecting thread is so vast & magical & real ….
    Tim introduces her to the world & then she leaves us just as mysteriously
    Fate is a Woman w/Many Secrets

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