Francis “Franco” Bernard Karzag

Date of Birth

April 30, 1953

Date of Death

April 16, 2017

FRANCIS (“Franco”) BERNARD KARZAG, a beloved son, brother, father, grandpa, uncle, and husband, as well as a dear friend of many, died peacefully on Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017, at Serenity House, after a short but hard fought battle with an inoperable brain tumor. His loving wife Rhonda Johansen-Karzag and his daughter, Lauren Karzag-Fritz, were at his side.

Franco was born in Santa Barbara on April 30, 1953 to Dezso Karczag and Sylvia Karczag, the fourth of five children. He is survived by his daughter, Lauren, his son-in-law- Steven Fritz and his two grandchildren, Mason Fritz and Athena Fritz. His daughter, Lauren, and his grandchildren were everything to him and he cherished every minute he spent with them. He married his love, Rhonda, just a few months ago, on January 18, 2017, since he said there was no better time than the present to be with the woman he so loved. He is also survived by his 3 siblings, Christian Karzag, Anna Karczag and Stephan Karczag as well as his mother, Sylvia Karczag, and 7 nieces and nephews. We all have shared his dreams, felt his passion for his work at Direct Relief, and admired his dedication to his many friends.

Franco attended kindergarten at Marymount Girls School when it was co-educational for just kindergarten boys. He later attended Mount Carmel school in Montecito and then Jefferson grammar school located on Alameda Padre Serra, which later became Santa Barbara Middle School. After Jefferson, he attended Santa Barbara Junior High School and briefly Santa Barbara High School. It was during his high school years in the early 70’s that he attended Finegold, an alternative High School where his diploma was handed to him by Jerry Rubin himself – the American social activist, anti-war leader, and counterculture icon of the 1960s and 70s. Later, he attended Santa Barbara City College and then Santa Barbara College of Law later in life. His only daughter, Lauren, was born in 1983. During their times together they would enjoy Big League Bubble Gum, Apple Juice, Beef Jerky and singing “This Old Man (knick-knack Paddy-Whack).” He later passed the tradition of singing this song down to his grandson Mason. Franco had great musical ability in both singing and playing the guitar and cherished the classic rock of the 60’s and 70’s – mostly the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and above all, Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. His varied career ranged from going through the Panama Canal, to working in New Orleans on Gulf oil rig service boats, to a stint as a roofer in Indiana, and even a soccer coach in Los Altos. In the 90’s Franco enjoyed a career in car sales and management. He prided himself in being a car enthusiast, and loved to share stories about all the vehicles that he had owned throughout the years to anyone who would listen.

Franco was determined to become a professional and graduated from Santa Barbara College of Law with a JD. It wasn’t an easy task for him for many reasons, but he persevered and stuck with it as he did with many things. But his true calling and passion was working for Direct Relief. He carried on the legacy of his father, Dezso Karczag, a co-founder of Direct Relief, by dedicating every working hour of the last years of his life to the organization. In November 2016 Franco furthered his commitment to helping others when he traveled to El Salvador to help install a drinking water purification system for a village with no clean water. It was an experience that touched him deeply and that he hoped to do again in the future.

Franco was a shining light who had a tremendous impact on so many lives, especially in the last 6 years. He will be greatly missed by his colleagues at Direct Relief, all of the many people he sponsored and mentored in Recovery and, most of all, his family and friends. Franco would have wanted his struggles in the last few months to have meaning and make a difference for those to come. In his memory please consider donating to the Defeat GBM Research Collaborative. Visit to donate.

A memorial for Franco will be held at Direct Relief 27 S. La Patera Lane, Goleta on Sunday May 7th at 1 pm.


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