December 9, 2005


Gerardo Franco

Born: Oct. 28, 1941, Oklahoma City, OK

Died: Dec. 2, 2005 San Diego, CA

Gerardo Franco lived an amazing life in that he was a part of two loving families. In today’s eulogy we share with you two remembrances of Franco’s life. The first is by his son Billy Attinger. The second is from the family that adopted him as their son, the Vasquez family of National City, written by Charlie Vasquez.

By Billy Attinger

Franco was engaged to be married to Harriet Helden-brand, however the bride was swept away by her parents to Kentucky and Franco never married. Soon after, Harriet gave birth to Franco’s only child, Sarah Naomi Heldenbrand. Franco was never allowed into her life and Sarah was never told of Franco’s existence.

God has an amazing way of filling the voids in our life. And in 1983, Franco made history when, in a landmark case, for the first time ever in the state of California, custody of 2 minors was given to an unrelated, single man. Franco became the proud father of his 2 adopted children Billy and Jeannie Attinger after the sudden death of their mother Patricia Attinger.

Some 25 years later, Franco’s biological daughter, Sarah, discovered the identity of her biological father she searched Franco out. And in one of the happiest moments of Franco’s life, he would finally meet face to face with the daughter he had always wanted to meet. She resides today in Kentucky with her husband and 3 children.

Franco was a hot-rod enthusiast. Collecting old cars from his younger days and hot-rodding them. He continued in this hobby until the very day of his death. However, the one car he will always be remembered by is his 1970 Orange, Dodge Van, which he bought brand new and still maintained to this day.

He will always be remembered for his amazing love, kindness, gentleness and ultimate selfless acts of helping others.

By Charlie Vasquez

In 1959, Franco asked Nellie and Eusebio “the Chief” Vasquez if he could park his car in front of their house so he could sleep in a safe place. Of course they said yes. A few days later, my mother asked Franco to come in the house and that is how it began. Franco became part of our family. This little skinny guy, with soft eyes, funny smile and small nose, became a brother to the Vasquez family.

Our mom became his mother and of course she spoiled him. He was the first to be served Menudo, Barbacoa or the fine beans and rice she cooked. She would always say, “Ay, mi Franco tiene hambre,” she then would serve him the largest plate in the house. 

Franco was not only a part of us, but to my extended family, cousins and aunts. After the death of my brother Andy, Franco remained close to my sister-in-law Esther and her daughter Priscilla. He was the Best Man in my wedding, an uncle to my two daughters Annalysa and Chela and to my brother David’s daughters, Marissa and Natalia.

He also became a dear friend to my wife Angie. During intercessions, Franco and Angie would go to the movies and have lunch. He always told Angie whatever she wanted he would buy it for her. We loved Franco for his kindness and affection he demonstrated to my wife and daughters.   

Angie and I will never forget the good times we had with Franco, especially the dinners at the house, the BBQ’s and when we took him out to dinner or the show. During those wee hours of the night, enjoying his company, Franco would share his stories about becoming an orphan, being adopted and living on his own. He told us about his experience in Vietnam and told all the things we did before I got married. He also told us about how he got the job at Rohr. It seems that after Franco came back from Vietnam, he and I partied for several months. One day, his sister Ila, told Franco, she had enough of his loafing around and told him to get a job. The following day, he went to Rohr, submitted an application for Shear Operator. As he walked away from the counter, a man called Franco back. He was holding the application and asked Franco if he was looking for work. Franco said yes. At that point, the man said you’re hired. After 36 years with Rohr, Franco retired.  

Franco was at all of the celebrations, parties, Quincea-ñeras, family gatherings, and of course joined us when we lost our brother and parents. He was a true friend, companion and brother. We will miss him dearly.


Served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1964-1966 with an Honorable Discharge.

Retired from Rohr Industries after 36 years of employment 1966 - 2002 as a shear operator.

Survivors include his daughters, Jeannie Ortiz and Sarah Nichols; son, Billy Attinger; sister, Ila Owens; brothers, Clyde Franco, Charlie Vasquez, Ruben Gonzalez and Greg Valero; and eight grandchildren.

Viewing: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, December 9, at the Little Chapel of the Roses, Glen Abbey Mortuary, 3838 Bonita Road, Bonita.
Services: 1 p.m. Friday at the chapel.
Interment: Glen Abbey Memorial Park.

Rest in Peace!

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