Margarito “Maggie” Franco

1931 - 2012
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Margarito (Maggie) Franco

died on January 9, 2012, he was 81 years of age. He was buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery with full military honors. He was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and passed away while residing at the nursing home called Garden Terrace Alzheimer Center, at 1600 South Potomac Street, in Denver. He was fondly known to all by his nickname “Maggie”. He is survived by one daughter, Monica Franco, of Denver, one son, Jonathan Edward Franco, a medical doctor in Ft. Collins, Colorado, and his ex-wife, Emma Molinar Franco, of Longmont, Colorado. He is also survived by brothers Albert Razo, of Pueblo, CO, Stanley Franco, Aurelio (Lelo) Franco (wife Marcie Estrada), Joe (Chorizo) Franco, and Vincent (Chente) Franco (wife Hisako Yasukawa Jordan), all of Denver. He is survived by two sisters Georgia (Gregs) Vega and Cathrine (Lina) Ruiz (husband Jess Ruiz) both from Denver. He is also survived by some fourteen nieces and nephews, on his side of the family, too numerous to be named here, as well as, numerous cousins and their children from the Rico family which was the only aunt on his mother’s side of the family. There are numerous in-laws and nieces and nephews from the Molinar side of the family that is not named here. The Jimenez side of the family are the half brothers to Maggie’s father’s, Bernabe Franco, and his father’s side of the family, they are too numerous to be named herein.

Maggie was a retired Denver City and County Firefighter. In fact, he was the first or one of the first Mexican-American firefighters to join the Denver Fire Department. He is best known in the fire fighting community for his contribution of integrating the Denver Fire Department from his lawsuit entitled “Franco vs. The Denver Fire Department” (circa 1965). It was the first case to interpret and enforce the Colorado Civil Rights Act of l965.

In that case, it was revealed that Black or African-American firefighters were restricted to the fire station near the “five points” neighborhood, at East 26th Avenue and Welton Street. This case changed that practice to allow assignments of minorities throughout Denver County, without exception. It also affected the hiring practices of both the Denver Fire Department and the Denver Police Department, which resulted in increased enlistments of minority candidates in both departments. During one hearing on this case, one firefighter testified that Maggie was smart enough to be Chief of the Denver Fire Department. Today there are minority Chiefs and Assistant Chiefs in the Police Department, as well as, minority Chiefs and Assistant Chiefs in the Fire Department, which was unthinkable in the era from the l940’s through the early l990’s.

Maggie has raised in the old “North Denver” (northwest Denver) neighborhood commonly known as  “Little Italy”, because it was populated predominately by Italian-American residents. There were pockets of Irish-Americans, Polish-Americans, Jewish-American, and other ethnic groups residing in this same neighborhood, but most shops and businesses were owned and operated by Italian-Americans.

His family was a minority within a minority. He was Mexican-American Protestant, which in the l930’s was very unusual, within a neighborhood that was predominately Catholic, both for the Italian-Catholic community and the Hispanic-Catholic community. In that era, Mexican-Americans were restricted or encouraged to attend Guadalupe Mission Church at West 36th Avenue and Kalamath Street. At that time Guadalupe was on a mission to St. Cajetan’s Catholic Church. Mount Carmel Catholic Church was predominately Italian-American, and, St. Patrick Catholic Church was predominately Irish-American. There were many cross-overs in attendance in these churches

Maggie was known by most people for his frugality and achievements. His money management touched the lives of most people with whom he came in contact. His being raised during the depression era, and, the poverty of his family forged a very dynamic and forward-looking man. One image is reflected in an old photo of Maggie sitting in a wagon, at the age of 11 years old, using a file, sharpening the teeth of a hand saw to sharpen the tool for family use. How many young pre-teens would sharpen, by hand, a hand saw? This work ethic stayed with Maggie into adulthood. While working as a Denver Firefighter, he was often seen at the fire station using a hand file and vise sharpening the teeth of rotary saw blades for his work when off duty.

His work ethic would be described by many as “extremely patient” in his approach to his undertakings, while others would say he was “tenacious”, while others would call him “stubborn”. Whatever the description, he accomplished every task he undertook.

In his junior high school and high school days, he delivered several paper routes for the Rocky Mountain News in his efforts to earn money for the family. He earned enough money for the family to buy an old used Ford Model T vehicle to deliver the paper routes. On bitterly cold days, he had to start a small fire under the vehicle’s oil pan to warm the oil in an effort to start the engine. These earnings were saved to also buy, via a Wards catalog system, a motorized bicycle to deliver the paper routes on warmer days.

Maggie lived in Northwest Denver yet attended and graduated from Manual High School in northeast Denver.

He should have attended North High School at Speer Boulevard near Federal Boulevard. However, in the 1940s racial and ethnic discrimination was very overt, and, to avoid suffering from these problems, and desperately wanting to acquire a high school diploma, Maggie attended Manual High, which was a more ethnically integrated school.

Upon his graduation, he worked a short time and was drafted into the U.S. Military to serve in the Korean  Conflict around 1950. While serving in Korea he was cited for his excellent draftsmanship skills in the construction of bridges and various buildings utilized by the military. His picture appeared in the Rocky Mountain News mentioning this particular citation and his work achievement. One particular story he mentioned from his military experience was to motivate his brothers to work until one was totally exhausted and had to drop to the ground from such exhaustion. He stated that his military post had been overrun by North Korean and Chinese soldiers, and, the Americans had to retreat on foot to avoid capture or being killed. His close friend and he were running side by side from the enemy and his friend stopped from exhaustion and did not want to run any further.

Maggie urged his friend to continue running and offered to carry his rifle in their retreat. The friend was too tired and refused. Maggie left his friend behind, continued running until he reached a safe area to settle down with other fellow U.S. soldiers. His friend was eventually declared missing in action and presumed dead and was never heard from again. The lesson, never quit.

Upon his honorable discharge from the military, Maggie returned home and started to work and improve the living conditions of his family. They had used an outhouse as a toilet facility until Maggie changed these conditions. By pick and shovel, he and his family dug a full basement to build a new addition to the home at West 37th Avenue and Inca Street, across from the railroad tracks. This addition changed the family’s lifestyle to have a large kitchen and dining area and a new shower, a bathroom sink, and a toilet within the new addition. This commenced the construction lifestyle of Margarito Franco.

Maggie became an employee of the Denver Fire Department, being the first or one of the first Mexican-Americans firefighters. He recalled being asked in his oral interview how he would handle the general public if he were called a “dirty Mexican”, a very common term used in the 1940s and 1950s. He was patient enough and smart enough to explain that since he was not a dirty Mexican, and, as a public employee serving the public, that he would ignore such comments and not overreact to such name-calling. He was successful in passing the examinations and became a Denver County firefighter for the next thirty years. He was the first Mexican-American truck driver for the Denver Fire Department, which was a position of higher pay. While working as a fireman on his days off he worked with his family to construct housing structures and churches. He retired from the Denver Fire Department around l985.

While on the Denver Fire Department he became a member of the first Rescue Squad formed around 1965, while stationed at 20th Street and Welton Street. On numerous occasions, he responded to rescue situations where he had to skillfully utilize tools to extract persons from wrecked vehicles and other situations. He occasionally would describe how his crew would be required to enter a building to extract a deceased person. Sometimes these people would have been dead for several days or weeks and the stench would be unbearable, and, yet the work had to be accomplished and these bodies would be wrapped up and removed. These situations would always impress Maggie with his religious convictions and he would always render a short prayer for the deceased, even as an unknown person.

Around l954, Maggie and his parents commenced buying vacant lots with the intent to construct homes and apartment buildings in the coming future. Each year the family, under Maggie’s leadership, constructed one home per year. Three homes with full basements were constructed at West 35th Avenue and Quivas Street. In the next three years, three similar homes were constructed at West 37th Avenue and Lipan Street. During this same time frame, Maggie being one of the more religious of the family gained the confidence of the leadership of the church he attended, he convinced the congregation to buy land and build a new church. At the time the family attended the First Spanish Assembly of God Church, a Protestant denomination, in an old storefront under the West Colfax Viaduct near Federal Boulevard and West Colfax Avenue. Utilizing Maggie’s financial credit and his construction knowledge, he recruited a licensed contractor to assist by pulling the construction permit and acquired sufficient financing to build the church at West 14th Avenue and Julian Street, which is still standing

and is now called “Families of Peace”. The old congregation moved and today is now located in Wheat Ridge at 6475 West 29th Avenue and called “Healing Waters”. Around l959 he did the same for the Second Spanish Assembly of God Church and built a new church located at East 26th Avenue and Lawrence Street, which is no longer standing and was replaced by a new housing facility. Around l975 he did the same for the Third Spanish Assembly of God Church that used to meet at an old building at West 45th Avenue and Jason Street, one city block from the railroad tracks. This third church was built at West 41st Avenue and Kalamath Street, which is yet standing and now called “Redeeming Love Fellowship Church, Inc. The old congregation moved to Federal Heights behind Water World and today ceased to exist. In 1961,

Maggie and his brothers and sisters built a 23 unit apartment building at 2836 Wyandot Street, work-

ing from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily, except Sundays, in order to attend church. That apartment building to this day continues to be owned by the Franco family. During the years between l963 to l969, and, from l970 to 1977,

Maggie, alone, continued to build several single-family homes and four-plex buildings. His restless soul would not allow him to sit idly by without working. He built a four-plex home on West 41st Avenue and Osage Street. He would lease the property for several years then sell the property at a profit and carry back the note earning interest on the mortgage payments. He in a sense he became a small-time personal banker.

In 1970 he rejoined his brothers and sisters to build a second 23 unit apartment complex at 28th and Vallejo Street, which was later sold to his sister and brother-in-law. In 1973 he and his relatives built a fifteen-unit two-bedroom apartment complex at 2955 Vallejo that was later sold to his brother and sister-in-law. Lastly, he built a small office complex at West 32d Avenue and Osage Street that was later sold to his brother. After 1975 he separated from his family of brothers and sisters and continued to construct homes throughout the Denver area. He built a home at 2460 West Water Avenue, where his two children were raised to adulthood. He built four-plex units at West 12th Avenue and Grove Street, again renting and eventually selling the property. He built two duplex homes on West Dakota Avenue, between Vrain and Wolff Streets, again renting and eventually selling the properties.

He built three single-family homes on West Asbury Avenue, between Raritan and Pecos Streets, again

renting then selling the homes. In 2004 or 2005, he built his last unit at East 54th Avenue and Leyden Street in Commerce City. It was a modular home atop a concrete foundation.

Only his old age and death caused him to cease building housing structures. May he rest in peace and be

blessed by His Loving Gracious Father that he worshipped his entire life. The Franco, Vega & Ruiz Families.



Margarito “Maggie” Franco of Denver CO

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Margarito Maggie Franco of Denver CO

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