JoEllen “Joey” Franklin, a writer who profiled the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker and many other local merchants as a business columnist for The Sacramento Bee’s Neighbors section, died March 14 of Alzheimer’s disease, her family said. She was 83.
Ms. Franklin worked in the service department at Neighbors from 1981 to 1992 and wrote as a freelancer for the weekly publication until 2003. A lively, outgoing woman with a breezy writing style, she reported news about retailers, introduced readers to people behind the counter at mom-and-pop shops and promoted locally owned businesses as building blocks of strong communities.
“We are not all famous, but each one of us is a part of what makes up our community, and we like to know we count,” she wrote in her “Community Business” column in 2002. “Who can deny the feeling of pride and belonging when a clerk in the store greets you by your first name and asks about members of your family?”
Ms. Franklin previously worked at the Sacramento Union newspaper, rising from an entry-level job in 1967 to service department manager. She took a leave of absence in 1979 to travel throughout the United States in a motor home with her sister Liz and wrote stories from the road for the Union and New Woman Magazine. She kept a journal of her travels that she self-published in a book, “Two on a Unicorn.”
After writing for Neighbors, she freelanced for Senior Spectrum publications until about 2006.
She overcame many early challenges. Born April 4, 1930, in Fairfield, Iowa, Ms. Franklin was a year old when her mother died. She lived with a series of relatives during the Great Depression while her father worked to support three children as a traveling salesman for Pillsbury Co.
She settled with her family in Grass Valley in the 1940s but left high school when she became pregnant at 16 and was sent to give birth at a home for unwed mothers in Sacramento. She married, had another child and was active in the community as an officer in North Highlands Little League.
She scrambled to support her children after her marriage ended in divorce, taking jobs in a dime store, a dress shop, the North Sacramento School District and Elk Grove High School. Before joining the Union, she lived briefly in San Diego and handled public relations for a jai alai team in Tijuana, Mexico.
“Whatever my mother did, she was a hard worker and an invaluable employee,” her son Ken Fisher said. “She never used hardship as an excuse. She was very much a self-made woman.”
In addition to her son, Ms. Franklin is survived by her daughter Suzi Hook; a sister, Marilyn “Kay” Bunnell; three grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
A private memorial is planned. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.