Niles remembers ‘girly girl’

Published 6:27 pm Thursday, April 12, 2012

Raleigh, NaShawn and Kennedi Franco hug each other in this family photo. Raleigh passed away from pneumonia March 9. Submitted photo

Linda Kirkendoll fondly remembers her late granddaughter, Raleigh Franco, as a true “girly girl.”

Franco, who died suddenly of pneumonia March 9, loved to sing and dance. She loved dressing up, getting her hair done and her nails painted.

“If it was girly, she loved it,” said Kirkendoll, who runs J. Jireh Salon in Niles.

Kirkendoll said her granddaughter used to visit her several times a week at the salon.

“Anytime she came she would go straight to the polish,” Kirkendoll said. “I always had to give her a toe design. She loved a toe design.”

Kirkendoll said it’s difficult to go into the shop without thinking about Franco. She sees “Ry Ry” everywhere. Even at home.

“There isn’t a day that goes. We go to bed with it. We wake up with it. I can’t wrap my mind around it,” Kirkendoll said. “When the school bus comes through you just expect her to get off of it.”

Kirkendoll said the loss has been devastating for the entire family. It’s been made easier by what she calls an overwhelming support by the community. The family has been receiving numerous cards and well wishes.

“It makes us feel good,” Kirkendoll said. “We feel the love and the support and it is like we aren’t going through this alone.”

A benefit will be held Saturday in Niles for Raleigh’s family. The benefit is a Zumbathon and will take place from 10 p.m. to midnight at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA, located at 905 N. Front St.

Zumba is a Latin-inspired dance and fitness program. The evening will also feature door prizes, refreshments, a 50/50 raffle and Mia Molsby “DJ MIA” mixing tracks and acting as emcee.

There is a $10 admission at the door. All proceeds will go to the Franco and Kirkendoll families to help alleviate the financial strain of their tragic loss.

Kirkendoll said “Ry Ry” would never be forgotten.

“Anybody she came in contact with, she just made their day,” she said. “They just fell in love with her. She had black, deep pretty eyes and long eyelashes. She had so much sweetness.”