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By Bob Kostoff

Fran Scarfone, my friend and associate for many years, died Wednesday as she had lived -- helping to improve the lot of the people and businesses of this city.

Although age kept her from zipping around like the younger set, she spent many hours on the phone with me, with city officials, with business people and with residents who had complaints and knew not where to turn.

Sovereign Immunity
Racial Discrimination
Fran Scarfone
District Swinging
Hanchette: Mt. Views
Staba: Citycide
Bradberry: Menagerie

She was on the telephone doing her good works when she was stricken. To say that she will be missed is a gross understatement.

I, as many others in the city, first came into contact with Fran by patronizing her beloved Solo Lounge. She knew how to run a restaurant, providing a friendly, safe, convivial atmosphere in which to enjoy excellent food and drink.

Who can forget her delicious, tender steak specials? And Friday was just not worth it if you didn't start out with a fish fry at Fran's Solo. Everybody who was anybody was there. And a lot of wannabes.

More than a dozen years ago, I joined the Niagara Street Area Business and Professional Association when that organization was revived by Fran and the late Carroll Colpoys. I served on the board of directors with her since then and found her to be a veritable tower of strength and activity.

The irreplaceable and irrepressible Fran was revitalization coordinator of the organization and, for many years, vice president.

I worked most closely with her in 2002 and 2003, when she convinced me to succeed Roger Spurback as president of the organization. As most city officials and politicians know, it was always hard to say no to Fran.

And, conversely, Fran would never say no, especially to the people who called daily with problems associated with living in the Niagara Street area of the city, including dilapidated buildings, trash build-ups, abandoned cars, etc. She always knew where to turn, what city official to put the pressure on, to get problems solved.

I may have been president, but I merely served as her backup. She was the driving force behind the organization.

A native of Niagara Falls' old Fourth Ward in the North End, she went to local schools, including Center Avenue, North Junior and Trott. She began working as a waitress in local establishments. In 1959 she went into business with the Duet Restaurant. She later opened the highly popular Solo Lounge and operated it for 36 years.

Fran was not only active in NSABPA but served on the Neighborhood Housing Services Board for many years, three as president.

She was a member of the East Side Block Club and the Niagara Beautification Commission. It was through a meeting sponsored by the NSABPA in 1994, hosted by Fran at the Solo, that the idea of block clubs in Niagara Falls was born. They have since proliferated, with her able assistance.

Science says the remnants of Hurricane Frances poured rain over us when our Frances died, but I like to think that even the heavens were crying over the loss.

The city will not be the same without her.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Sept. 14 2004