Farewell To Bruce Franzen

Topanga Banjo•Fiddle Board Member

(August 9, 1950 – October 15, 2014)

By Michele Marotta

Bruce Franzen 2I received a text message on Sunday, October 19, 2014 advising that Bruce Franzen had passed away. I first met Bruce in 1972. Over time, we lost contact, and then reconnected in 1991. We were friends ever since. Bruce was an "older brother" to me, helping me move once and he must have thought he was constantly rescuing me from bad relationships.

Bruce was past president of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, and together with his wife Jackie, the two have been organizers and volunteers on the roots music scene for many years.

Bruce's eyes would light up when Jackie's name was mentioned, and he was the love of her life.

Bruce was especially active with an annual event where he played a key role, the Topanga Banjo•Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival. It’s a landmark event held every May at the old western-town movie set at Paramount Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a site administered by the National Park Service. The couple’s other involvements include the acoustic music series held at the Airtel Hotel, along with a variety of folk, bluegrass and western music events.

The Topanga Banjo•Fiddle website still includes his autobiographical paragraph as a board member: "Hello, my name is Bruce Franzen and I'm a native Californian, born in the San Fernando Valley. I attended my first Topanga Banjo•Fiddle Contest in 1967 and after that I was hooked. Soon I began playing mandolin at the Blue Ridge Pickin' Parlor and then at Topanga itself in 1983. I am now serving on the Board of Directors of the contest. Currently I'm employed by the City of Los Angeles and since 1989 have volunteered for the Glendale Chamber of Commerce. I am a past president of that organization. I look forward to helping to make this year's Topanga Banjo•Fiddle Contest the most enjoyable ever. See you there!"

Those who saw Bruce at Topanga over those many years will carry fond memories of interactions with him.

I spoke to Bruce’s wife, now widow, Jackie, just after his passing. Jackie told me that she and Bruce had been together over 26 years. They were married for more than fourteen of those years.

Bruce had a very diverse working career. Initially, he was a plumber by trade before going to work for the Los Angeles Police Department’s motor pool.

About 18 months ago, Bruce told me his kidneys were failing. He came to my office and spoke to the attorney I where I worked at that time; the attorney had undergone a kidney transplant several years ago. The attorney, Mr. Gold, spoke to Bruce for almost two hours, explaining the pros and cons of dialysis, and suggested he look for a kidney donor.

Bruce was on dialysis several times a week, and last week, he succumbed to septicemia.

Bruce leaves behind his lovely wife, Jackie, their cat, and numerous relatives and friends, including his many music friends. All of whom will miss him.

If you have a story to share about Bruce, email Joy Felt (bgraskal1@earthlink.net) and she will incorporate it into Bruce’s special memory book for Jackie.

Michele Marotta is a correspondent for the Acoustic Americana Music Guide

Shared by Jackie: During the early 1990s, for two years, Bruce and I were co-Presidents of the Jaycees. For a number of years, Bruce and I were very active in elections working at our precinct until the present day. We did everything together.
Bruce worked for the City of Los Angeles for 25 years. First, for two years, for the Department of Recreation and Parks until he found his home with the LAPD Motor Transport Division for 23 years, until his passing.
I love him so much.