School leaders mourn loss of former assistant superintendent

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Cecilia "Cissy" Frakes (2015)
Cecilia “Cissy” Frakes (1943-2015) served as assistant superintendent in the Diocese of Phoenix for nearly 10 years. (1943-2015)

Cecilia “Cissy” Frakes, an esteemed Catholic educator whose smile was known to light up the darkest room, died May 31. She was 71.

The Tucson native and her husband of 52 years, Michael D. Frakes, were involved in a fatal car accident in Northern Arizona.

The couple were elementary and high school sweethearts.

“They met in grade school so it’s really like they came into the world together and left together,” said daughter-in-law Liz Frakes. “They always lived their faith and gave what they had.”

Cissy’s work in the Diocese of Phoenix spanned 35 years and reflected a life of service and achievement in Catholic education.

She retired last year as assistant superintendent of Catholic Schools for the diocese where she served for nearly 10 years.

“She was this petite woman full of light and energy who always had a smile on her face,” said MaryBeth Mueller, superintendent of Catholic Schools. “She loved teaching kids, she loved her family, she loved her job; she just had passion and great rapport with people and she was genuine.”

Cissy was born in 1943 and attended St. Peter and Paul Elementary School and Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson. The couple moved to Phoenix in 1977 to raise their four boys.

Resembling the patron saint of musicians, St. Cecilia, Cissy was an accomplished pianist who taught the neighborhood children how to play. She was the music teacher at St. Theresa Catholic School from 1978-1980. At St. Thomas the Apostle School from 1981-1997 Cissy taught music, social studies and eventually became the assistant principal.

In addition, she was the principal at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Glendale from 1997-2004 prior to becoming assistant superintendent in 2004.

Her life was her ministry — dedicated to the education of children.

Cissy championed program assistance in reading for diocesan schools as a two-term member on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Federal Assistance Advisory Board.

She was also a member of the No Child Left Behind-Ad-Hoc Reauthorization Strategy Group.

“As an assistant superintendent she was very knowledgeable and a teacher at heart,” said Catherine Downey, who knew Cissy for more than 20 years. “Whatever she had she shared, and she would impart that knowledge to others.”

She was involved in many community and professional boards, and in 2005 received the Circle of Excellence Award from the Arizona North Central Accrediting Association.

Cissy and Mike are survived by their four sons and their wives, Tim and Liz, Tony and Cindy, Ken and Stacy, and Brian and Christie; nine grandchildren, Tim Jr., Mark, A.J., Michael, Lily, Mack, Kennedy, Cooper and Charlie; and extended family members.

The Visitation and Scripture Service was at St. Theresa Church, June 5. The Funeral Mass was celebrated the following morning at St. Francis Xavier Church.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in their memory to Brophy College Preparatory’s Loyola Project or the Catholic Community Foundation.

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