Phyllis Alterman Franco passed away peacefully at her home on Nov. 1, surrounded by her children, grandchildren, and Richard Franco, the love-of-her life and husband for 63 years. She was 84.
Phyllis was so many things to so many, but always an artist. Through her works and dynamic, insightful way of engaging, she explored the contradictions of life, creating lasting beauty not only in her paintings, but more importantly to her, in the connections she fostered and to which she gave enduring understanding and profound acceptance. Phyllis was a force for goodness. Her children, family, friends and community will miss her dearly.
The daughter of the late Sara and Dave Alterman, Phyllis graduated Salutatorian of the 1956 graduating class of Henry W. Grady High (now Midtown High School) and Phi Beta Kappa from Emory University in 1960. She attended Northwestern University her first two years of college but returned to Emory to be closer to Richard. She later pursued graduate studies at Georgia State University receiving her bachelor’s and Master’s in Visual Arts, Magna Cum Laude in both in 1981 and 1983 respectively. In addition to her roles as mother, wife, homemaker, philanthropist, and active member of the Jewish community, Phyllis became a prolific, disciplined artist. Family, memory, and loss were central to Franco’s art.
The unique approach Phyllis and Richard and their family took to Phyllis’s Alzheimer’s, connecting through Phyllis’ love of the piano and painting and using the strength and tenderness of the couple’s partnership to adapt to the changes together, was well documented. During her decade and a half with the condition,
Phyllis and Richard could be seen daily on walks; their days were a love affair with the City of Atlanta as well as with one another. Along with making art full-time, Phyllis loved playing the piano years into her diagnosis, playing tennis, exploring her Judaism, and hosting countless celebrations. She and Richard were also world travelers, often choosing to explore other countries by bicycle with life-long friends. Phyllis was self-effacing, humble, accepting of others, devoted, dutiful, and the truest of friends.
In addition to her husband and partner in adventures, Dr. Richard Franco, Phyllis is survived by her three children and their spouses, Lewis Franco & Heidi Thompson, Rebecca & Henry Chalmers, Meryl Franco & Sam Worley and grandchildren Louisa, Sarina, Joseph and David. She is pre-deceased by her parents and brother Stephen Alterman and infant brother Alvin Alterman. She is survived by brother Richard Alterman and his wife Marty, and Stephen’s widow Marci Ball. Her husband Richard’s family became her own. She is predeceased by his parents Joe and Rachel Franco and survived by brother- and sister-in-laws Ramon & Jody Franco, Renee Franco, Robert & Sara Franco, and Rita & Craig Gilbert along with scores of nieces and nephews, and exceptional friends.
The family would like to thank Lucy Rengifo and care-giver Gwen Brown for their years of friendship and service. Graveside services were Nov. 2 at Greenwood Cemetery. Donations can be made to Weinstein Hospice, Ahavath Achim Synagogue, NERANENA, and The Piedmont Park Conservancy. Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care, 770-451-4999
- Phyllis Alterman Franco
- Henry W. Grady High
- Phi Beta Kappa
- Emory University
- Northwestern University
- Georgia state university
- visual arts
- Greenwood Cemetery
- Weinstein Hospice
- Ahavath Achim Synagogue
- The Piedmont Park Conservancy
- Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care