f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

October 13, 2008

a melancholy spoof of Frank Duci’s will

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 3:03 pm

(source: Schenectady Gazette)

Frank Duci was the Republican mayor of Schenectady when I moved here 20 years ago and for 16 of the two dozen years spanning 1972 through 1996.  Often contentious and controversial, Duci was exactly the kind of politician that a plucky columnist like the Gazette‘s Carl Strock loves to cover.  When Strock heard that the 87-year-old Duci has lung cancer, he visited his old professional antagonist this week, and they were both at their mischievous best.

You see, Strock brought with him the above Last Will of Frank J. Duci, written on a Shopping List notepad, with “Carl Strock” as the sole beneficiary and sole witness.  And, Duci duly put his shaky “X” on the proffered will.  Carl (who often gets in trouble for his comments about religion, see e.g. here) left shortly after getting the “Will” signed, saying:

“Good Lord (if any), please let me keep my faculties as long as Your servant Frank has kept his.  I ask nothing more — except that the last will and testament I have in my pocket hold up in court.”

As Carl explained yesterday at his Strock Freestyle weblog in “Duci’s will,” and in the offline Sunday column “Frank Duci still fighting for ‘the people'” (Sunday Gazette, October. 12, 2008), the Will was “closely patterned after a will that [Duci] himself wrote for a friend a few years ago when that friend was just hours away from death.”

“[W]hen I learned about the lung cancer I figured I should waste no time, so I took it with me and asked him to put his X on it, just as he had gotten his friend to do (and let me say as a tribute to him that he was a perfectly good sport about it and made a shaky X, even though he well understood he was being lampooned).

. . . “I have tried over the years to dislike Frank Duci, but I have never succeeded, and this is a good example of the kind of hurdles I have faced.”

When the story of the original Deathbed Shopping List Will was reported a few years ago, I just shook my head, thinking “there Duci goes again.”  Until Carl Strock reminded me of it this weekend, I had not realized that Frank Duci had indeed inherited $450,000 on the basis of the will.  Here’s how Genealogue.com covered the story in 2006:

Saturday, April 29, 2006
Will a Shopping List Do?

A former mayor of Schenectady, New York, is embroiled in a legal dispute with an 86-year-old woman over the $680,970 estate of the woman’s late uncle.

Frank Duci says a will was dictated to him by Walter Sengenberger shortly before his death in 2003. It’s hard to understand why the authenticity of the document was ever doubted.

The attorney general’s office has raised questions about the validity of the will, which Duci wrote on a blank shopping list taken from his wife’s purse and then had Sengenberger sign with an “X” because the 84-year-old General Electric retiree was too weak to write his own name. [broken link to the Albany Times Union]

On August 9, 2006, based on a story from the Albany Times Union, Lawyers and Settlements.com reported that Katherine Louise Schoeffler Hansen and Frank Duci had reached a court settlement that “awarded Duci $450,000 and gave Hansen $200,000 of her uncle’s fortune.”  I’m somewhat relieved that the disposition is based on a settlement between the parties, and that no court found the Shopping List Will, witnessed only by the sole beneficiary and signed with an X, to be valid.  But, I’m also pleased that this tale has resurfaced in such a lighthearted manner.

estate auction–
can’t get my hand back out
of the cookie jar

… by Randy Brooks, from School’s Out (Press Here, 1999)

Of course, the context of Frank Duci’s illness puts a large touch of melancholy on the story.  Carl notes that Frank attributes the lung cancer to “secondhand smoke” (from his first and second wives) and exposure to asbestos at the GE plant where he worked for many years as a metallurgical technician.  Duci’s doctors have suspended radiation and chemotherapy for the inoperable cancer, which as Strock notes:

“indicates to me the imminence of the unmentionable, but if that bothers him, he doesn’t shout it.  He is far more concerned about houses in Schenectady being taxed for new siding than he is aabout his own mortality.”

Our hat goes off to the feisty old pol from Schenectady.  Like Carl, we “admire him for his energy and for his lack of self-pity.”  And, we can all only hope to “keep our faculties” and our zest for the political fight as long as Frank Duci has.

afterwords (October 16, 2008): Thanks to Overlawyered.com‘s Walter Olson for linking to this post from his Twitter page; (a first for f/k/a and my own first visit to Twitter); and to wills and estate lawyer Patti Spencer, for pointing to us from her Pennsylvania Fiduciary Litigation weblog.

update (Nov. 23, 2008): For more on Frank Duci, scroll to the second story in this post, which discusses the TU article “An Electric City original still burns brightly: Frank J. Duci may lack official standing, but he’ll always be a mayor” (Albany Times Union, Nov. 20, 2008) and more.

update (October 17, 2009): Yesterday was declared Frank Duci Day in Schenectady, and Frank Duci Plaza was dedicated around the Avenue A home of the now 88-year-old former mayor.  See “After a long road, ex-mayor gets a street” (Albany Times Union, October 16, 2009).

his quiet funeral—
a man who did
most of the talking

……….. by barry george – frogpond XXVIII: 1

her estate
the children

…. by W.F. Owen – The Loose Thread; Modern Haiku XXXII:1

p.s.  My Favorite Frank Duci Story: Shortly after I moved here, then-Mayor Duci appointed his stepson to run the Schenectady Municipal Parking Authority.  As the guy was an unemployed apprentice tile-layer, folks asked why he was qualified for the position.  Duci responded something like “He likes people, and he has a 200 bowling average.  You can’t bowl that well without having good concentration.”  From then on, I confessed to whoever would listen that “I’ll never be able to get a job working for the City of Schenectady.  My IQ is too high and my bowling average too low.”  I sure wish I had a weblog back then (circa 1989), ’cause it would have been fun writing about our Il Duce.

1 Comment

  1. fascinating story. :)

    Comment by kouji — October 14, 2008 @ 3:50 am

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