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Thursday, August 19, 1999



‘Franny,’
a free spirit,
had it all

A car crash ended a life full of
promise for this Nanakuli
honors graduate and
homecoming queen

By Rod Ohira
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

Francis "Franny" Ako graduated with honors from Nanakuli High School, where she was a homecoming queen, cheerleader, basketball player and No. 1 free spirit.

Shortly before midnight Tuesday, she entered the parlor of her Keaulana Avenue home in Nanakuli and said, "good night, Mommy."

"I thought she was going to bed," Ruth Ako said.

But Ruth and her husband, Gordon, awoke yesterday at 6:15 a.m. to find 40 somber-looking teen-agers sitting outside their home.

Info Box Moments later, they were living every parent's nightmare when a neighbor told them their daughter had been killed in an early morning car crash on Farrington Highway.

Franny Ako, who would have been 19 in November, was the front-seat passenger in the Toyota Tercel that veered out of control and crashed into a guardrail near Kalaeloa Boulevard at 3:30 a.m.

She was Oahu's 29th traffic fatality of the year.

The driver, a 17-year-old boy who graduated from Nanakuli High in June, and two boys, both 16, seated in back, were taken to Queen's Hospital. Only one of them is still hospitalized, but his injuries are not serious.

Speed appears to be a contributing factor, police said.

"I'm a Christian and the word of God tells me I've got to forgive so I've already forgiven the young man," Ruth Ako said about the driver.

"You never think that it will be your daughter so the news is devastating. Franny and I were close, she was my heartbeat."

Gordon Ako, an admitted tough-love practitioner, had shot hoops with his daughter before going to bed.

"It was the wrong time and wrong place," Gordon Ako said. "Kids down here don't have much money so they like to hang around down at the beach.

"I try to tell them that late at night, only bad things happen, so don't go out late. I used to do that so I know. But it's too late now."

The most difficult part for the Akos was to go down to the medical examiner's office to identify their daughter.

"It was hard for me," Ruth Ako said. "I wanted to touch her but couldn't because we were behind a glass window.

"All we could see was her face. She looked peaceful. I wanted to hold her and say, "Franny, why didn't you listen to Daddy?' "

Holding back tears, Gordon Ako says, "I needed to see her. She was a girl full of energy and now she was lifeless. She belongs in heaven."

Ruth Ako purposely chose the common men's spelling of the name Francis for the second eldest of her seven children.

"I wanted it to be different," Ruth Ako said of the name. "She didn't like it and always told me that she was going to change it."

On her 1998 graduation card, "Franny" Ako used the first name "Franschesikah."

"That's how she was, funny," Mrs. Ako said.

"She would wear one sandal and one tennis shoe or her clothes inside out. Once, she even wore her pajamas to school."

William Ako was outside the house with his sister about midnight. He says she walked to the nearby beach park, where some Nanakuli High seniors were camping out.

"They hung out for a while and went to go eat breakfast at Zippy's (in Kapolei)," William said.

"Franny" Ako had just been hired by City Mill. Yesterday, would have been her first official day of work.

"She was so vibrant and full of energy," Gordon Ako said. "She had a bright future waiting for her and all she had to do was go after it."

When asked how many speeding deaths will it take before people get the message, Gordon Ako says, "I know they will remember this for a while. But as it fades, they'll forget again."

Other survivors include brothers Jordan and Shordon; sisters Nicole, Jessica and Lindsey Ako, and Ewalina Noa, and grandfather Charles Burch.

Services: Jesus Bread of Life Church, 89-446 Keaulana Ave.; 6-9 p.m. Aug. 29 and 8:30 a.m.-noon, Aug. 30. Burial at Nanakuli Cemetery.



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