Frances Mary Aversa, 73, departed December 9 at 9:30 p.m. Fran loved to cook for friends, travel, garden, cultivate orchids, attend classical concerts, opera theater, and movies. She was generous, intelligent, beautiful, and accomplished with an unforgettable smile and joyful laugh that captured the hearts of all she met, especially those of those us lucky enough to have known her and been loved and cherished by her in return. She is irreplaceable in our lives and will be unceasingly missed.

In July, Fran was diagnosed with an incurable condition, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. She volunteered for a posthumous medical procedure to help researchers develop treatments and prevention for the future. She courageously endured a long decline and died in peace at home in Medford, Oregon, in the company of her husband Tom Johnston and wonderful friends and devoted caregivers.

Known variously as Fran/Frances/Frannie/Francesca to her brothers and sisters, dear friends, and relations, she was born in Boston to Frances (Franco) and Salvatore Aversa, and grew up in a close-knit Italian family. She is survived by her husband, Tom Johnston; her sister, Anne; and brothers, Chuck, Tom, and Steve.

She worked, in succession, at the College Board and the Children's Television Workshop/Sesame Street where she was an educational program evaluator, and as Director of Educational Program Evaluation at the University of Mid America, a pioneering program in television distance learning administered by the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. In each job, she made lifelong friends and was regarded as a wonderful colleague, consummate professional, and authority in her field. Later, in Lincoln, Nebraska, with her husband and partners, she opened and managed Simple Pleasures Restaurant, emphasizing her Italian heritage and using many of her mother’s recipes, making her own pastas, and baking Italian bread.

Fran requested cremation, and her ashes have been distributed among her family members who will bring her to rest in some of her favorite places, especially her garden and Italy.

Memorials will be scheduled and announced in spring, Fran’s favorite season, on the east and west coasts.

In Fran’s memory, donations may be made in her name to the CJD foundation online at, by mail at CJD Foundation, P.O. Box 5312, Akron, OH 44334, or by phone at (800) 659-1991.