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Frances L. Darcy (1927-2017): Waitress went on to represent others in union

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Darcy

THE BLADE
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Frances L. Darcy, a onetime waitress who went on to represent workers in that field as a Toledo area business agent and vice president of the hotel and restaurant employees union, died Thursday in the Lakes of Sylvania care facility. She was 89.

She had congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, her son, Frank Knakiewicz, said.

Mrs. Darcy of South Toledo also was a leader for more than 16 years of Toledo’s Civil Service Commission. When she was named marshal of the 2009 Labor Day Parade, she was credited with having been one of the first women business agents for any union in Toledo.

“She was one of the best,” said George Tucker, executive secretary-treasurer of the Greater Northwest Ohio AFL-CIO. Through her involvement in her own local and with the AFL-CIO and the Toledo Port Council, she also knew the history of organized labor in the area.

“She was a person you could ask a question, and she would give you an answer, and you could take that to the bank,” Mr. Tucker said.

Mrs. Darcy, whose employers included the Hillcrest Hotel and the Aku-Aku Room of the Town House Motel, was business agent in the early 1970s of what was then Local 868, Hotel and Restaurant Employees and Bartenders. She was vice president of what became Local 84, Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees, before she retired.

“Many a time we would go in a restaurant, and the manager and help would come to her and tell her how much they missed her,” said Barb Topping, a close friend for nearly 30 years.

Mrs. Darcy negotiated with owners and managers through the years, seeking fair treatment and decent wages for members, her son said. She described herself in 1980 to The Blade as patient.

“I don’t get mad — I get even,” Mrs. Darcy said then.

Her son said: “She was a strong-willed woman and knew how to get her point across. She knew her facts.”

Mrs. Darcy, who served on the Lucas County Democratic Party executive committee, was a campaign volunteer for the John McHugh, the late Toledo mayor, and Sandy Isenberg, a former Lucas County commissioner, among others.

She was an officer in the Toledo Symphony League and took part in fund-raising efforts. She also was a member of the Old Newsboys Goodfellow Association, which honored her for her volunteer work.

She and Mrs. Topping met on Mr. McHugh’s successful 1989 campaign for mayor.

“We just clicked and were sisters from that day forward,” Mrs. Topping said. They found they shared more than political views. They both had children and discussed “the problems and joys of the different events in their lives,” Mrs. Topping said. “She had the same values I had.”

She was born Dec. 22, 1927, in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Marie and Frank Niciforo. During World War II, she did secretarial work in the office of censorship for the Navy’s naval intelligence department. That’s where she met her first husband, the late Frank Knakiewicz, and they later moved to his hometown, Toledo. Their marriage ended in divorce.

She was preceded in death by her second husband, Joe Darcy.

Surviving are her daughter, June Hampton; son, Frank Knakiewicz; brother, Alfred Niciforo; sister, Eleanor Dileo; six grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. Friday at the Walker Funeral Home, Sylvania Township. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Joseph Church, Sylvania.

The family suggests tributes to the Toledo Symphony.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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