Susi Franco’s life may read like a movie plot, but it has been an uphill challenge , a struggle for survival with bright moments of reprieve here and there.
Her first paid “gig” was at age 6, from which she went on to become a professional vocalist, doing nightclub gigs at age 16, and touring with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra at age 18; appearing in a supporting role in a PBS mini-series broadcast nationwide ( 1972), professional modeling, winning the title of Mrs Rhode Island in the 1985 Mrs. America pageant, being a movie extra, becoming an RN, writing a nationally published book and evolving into the Arts as a professional fine artist.
Behind the scenes of what ostensibly seems like a glamorous life, Susi was given up for adoption at just under 1 yr old to a battering mother; she grew up to become a statistic, a battered wife in two marriages, often having to stay in women’s shelters with her six children, whom she raised alone. At age 36, she loaded them all up in an old Chrysler and moved nearly 1000 miles away to attend nursing college and get her degree, her survival strategy to escape an abusive husband who had forbidden her to go to college. Against great odds & a grueling schedule, she won scholarships, obtained her nursing degree as well as an award ( Soroptimist’s Society, 1986) and was invited to deliver one of her written works at her nursing classes’ commencement ceremony. Her book “Angels With Stethoscopes” is a chronicle of that odyssey into her career in nursing.
In 2001 she became totally disabled from a severe back injury; unable to tolerate narcotics, turned to art as a form of pain management, which serendipitously bloomed into a third career. Her work now hangs in four countries and she has won two International awards and nationwide collectors.
She has been featured in Rhode Island Monthly, PBS’s annual Art Auction, several cable TV shows and multiple newspaper stories in RI since 1985. During her reign as Mrs. Rhode Island, she focused on the issues of battered women and presented a workshop for women in a seminar at the State House. She furthered that work during her nursing career.
She makes her home in Narragansett close to the inspiration of the ocean and began a grassroots independent artist’s association (2006) titled “Rhode Island Republik of Art” to network with professional artists in southern RI, providing them with exhibit venues. Her time is divided between artistic pursuits and her family, which includes five grandchildren.
Susi has been studying film-making for two years and plans to begin making short films and documentaries in the near future. She also still sings and performs occasionally.
The quotes Susi has relied on most of her life are:
“Women are like tea bags, you never know their strength til they’re in hot water” ( anonymous) and
“Behind all this, some great happiness is hiding”. ( Yehuda Amichai)
Copyright 2007 Tea with Marie All rights reserved