Home Outdoor education Richard Bruno by Françoise | Obituaries

Richard Bruno by Françoise | Obituaries

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December 2, 1932
October 17, 2021

COOPERSTOWN – Richard Bruno “Dick” DeFrances, 88, of Franklin, died on October 17, 2021 in Cooperstown, after a brief illness.
Dick was born on December 2, 1932 in Brooklyn and was the only child of Joachim Bruno and Gerda (Seedorf) DeFranceschi. Some of Dick’s happiest childhood moments were spent at Ebbets Field watching the Brooklyn Dodgers. After years of school in Brooklyn, he graduated from SUNY Cortland and Columbia University. Dick studied in Mexico in the summer of 1964, but never mentioned that he had done so as a Fulbright scholar. He also served in the United States Army.
Dick met and married Sandra Jean White while teaching history at Malverne. They had two children and moved to North Salem in 1967 when Dick accepted a teaching position at Westlake High School in Thornwood. Each summer, he and Sandy grabbed their two children, their canvas tent, and spent two weeks camping in state and national parks visiting historic sites along the way.
Dick coached track and field and cross country for many years (both at Malverne and Westlake) and was the founder of the Westlake Invitational, a high school cross country competition that grew to include 120 high schools in five states, one of the largest in the Northeast. In North Salem, he launched an annual seven-mile race around the Titicus Reservoir that drew hundreds of runners and showcased his beautiful country town. As a historian of North Salem, Dick was delighted to tell anyone who wanted to hear him about the town’s rich history, from the revolutionary days to the early days of the Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Before running became a popular pastime, Dick could be seen running for miles and miles all around North Salem. He participated in a few hundred road races during his life, including 18 New York City marathons. His zeal for running continued even after Sandy’s death in 1986. Dick eventually found love again, marrying Sonia Mullins and soon Franklin also got to know the Mad Runner.
Dick’s retirement from teaching led to his second career as a bookseller. He opened Poor Richard’s Book Barn on their property in Franklin and enjoyed hunting for prized first editions. Dick and Sonnie drove not once but twice from their home in New York City to Alaska, tracing the Gold Rush adventures of Sonnie’s father as he camped in the back of their truck. He also introduced Sonnie to his precious Snowshoe Lake where he had previously vacationed with his young family and had also developed a wintery outdoor education program for Westlake. In this unique class, he taught students about Adirondack history during the school year, then took them to Raquette Lake for a week of outdoor winter challenges at the SUNY Cortland facility.
Dick is survived by his wife, Sonia DeFrances of Franklin; son, John DeFrances of Atlanta, Georgia; daughter Debra Hannigan (Deece) of York, Maine; six grandchildren, Elyse, Kevin (Jamie), Gracie and Tommy (Melissa) Hannigan, Jack and Tommy DeFrances and three great grandchildren Henry, Judson and Evelyn. He is also survived by three stepchildren, Shaun Mullins (Donna) of Buffalo; Marti Brueckner (Gunter) of West Simsbury, Connecticut and Jennifer Mullins (Elaine Campbell) of Conway, Massachusetts and their families.
There will be no funeral services at Dick’s request.
If you would like to honor Dick’s memory, please consider donating to the “DeFrances Scholarship” at Cortland.edu. Press the “Donate” button and select the destination or by check payable to Cortland College Foundation, PO Box 2000, Cortland, NY 13045, in memo: In Memory of Richard DeFrances ’54, “The DeFrances Scholarship”.

Published on 20 October 2021


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