Eight Bells: Judy Franco

Published on September 26th, 2021

Judy Franco, longtime education and youth sailing activist, died September 20, 2021 in Newport Beach, CA. She was 84 years of age.

Judy set standards wherever she was. As one of the moms actively promoting junior sailing in her region, each summer she was on a mission to qualify as many kids as possible for the Naples Sabot Nationals. The more members, the more slots, with one notable year she even managed to sign up a soon-to-be-born future Sabot sailor!

Judy also helped with race committee, on-and-off the water. “Judy trained all of us with her index card system for scoring large Bay Fleet Regattas,” recalled Debbie Benedict. “We had a system before computers took over. We all loved volunteering with Judy. She attracted volunteers. It was one big party on regatta days! We’ll never forget that. They were such happy memories.”

Judy was so dedicated to helping kids that in 1987, the Balboa Bay Fleet established the Judy Franco Perpetual which is presented annually to a person from the Fleet who, like Judy, has devoted extensive time and energy into promoting junior sailing over the years.

Her interest in helping kids did not stop there. A former teacher, Judy set a record for 37 years as a Newport-Mesa Unified School District trustee. In 1974, as PTA President, she was instrumental in establishing High School Sailing in Southern California. “Judy argued for it on the basis that it was a no-contact sport, and thereby didn’t require immense insurance coverage,” said Tina McKinley.

Judy Franco’s tireless passion for presenting kids with lifetime opportunities was a year-round endeavor. During the school year, she sought out the best practices for all students to have an excellent education. As an active promoter of junior sailing, she encouraged as many kids as possible to spend their summers and weekends participating in a sport that develops independence, critical thinking, sportsmanship, and life-time friendships.

Her contributions to youth have had a lasting impact and have touched the hearts of many.

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