Francis John “Frank” Persico, 78, of Palmyra, passed away on Tuesday, November 12, 2019 at his residence under the care of Hospice of the Piedmont.
He was born on May 16, 1941 in Manhattan, New York, the only child of Italian Immigrants, Fernando and Giada (Gambera) Persico.
Survivors include his wife of 53 years, Rebecca “Becky” Persico; his son, Michael Persico and his wife, Jill and their daughters, Gabrielle and Alycia; his daughter, Theresa Altherr and her husband, Brian and their children, Vaile and Alexander.
Frank’s early education began with New York City Catholic Schools including Our Lady of Solace and Mount St. Michael High School. He also attended Manhattan College in Bronx, NY, and graduated in 1963 with a BS in Biology. He continued at Adelphia University, Garden City, NY earning an MS in Microbiology. Following his Master’s Degree, he attended the University of Houston where he was awarded a competitive NASA grant to complete his PhD in Microbiology. Finally, Frank was granted a post-doctoral assignment at The Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers State University in New Jersey. Throughout his years of postgraduate work, Frank’s dad had two primary questions for him: 1) When are you going to get a haircut (it was the 60’s); and 2) When are you going to get a job?
Frank worked in research development with Johnson & Johnson for 30 years. His career began at Ortho Diagnostics as a Research Fellow, and soon thereafter he was promoted and transferred to other Johnson and Johnson subsidiaries where he made significant contributions in the field of genetic research. Throughout his career, Frank worked on projects that were instrumental in paving the path for the developments in genetic testing that we experience today. His most notable contribution was his work on the Human Genome Project, a collaborative international scientific effort led by James Watson and Francis Collins. This project brought scientists together to determine all of the base pairs that make up human DNA and to identify and map all the genes of the entire human genome. Another distinguishable assignment Frank had was to meet with Sally Ride, America’s first female astronaut to discuss possible projects in space. Although Frank accomplished a great deal as a research & development leader, he was a humble leader who preferred to allow his staff to take credit for his team’s achievements.
In his retirement years, Frank spent time giving back to the community while continuing to educate himself and to teach others in an informal fashion. He logged many volunteer hours at Streamwatch and conducted a workshop for Blue Ridge Governor’s students one summer to teach students how to identify bugs to check the health of the Rivanna River. He was also a Tree Steward. He served as President of the Fluvanna Master Gardeners and was involved with many projects such as the first Children’s Garden at Central Elementary, which was later moved to Carysbrook Elementary. He ran several hypertufa workshops in Fluvanna and Louisa. He was one of the original volunteers to establish the Fluvanna Community Garden. Volunteers used cedar trees from the construction site of the new high school to set up the first fence. He spent many hours on an archeological dig behind the manor house at Pleasant Grove in order for the Fluvanna Master Gardeners to create a demo garden. And, of course, there were many years of participation at Old Farm Day.
His hobbies included reading (he always had two books going at once), fly-fishing, and amateur photography for which he won several 1st place ribbons at local events. He jokingly referred to himself as MAWP (Multiple Award Winning Photographer). Frank also had a lifelong passion for cars. He especially loved going to Ferrari meets at Watkins Glen in the Poconos. His most recent pride & joy was winning Best of Show with his Lexus LC500.
The way that Frank led his life was rooted in values that were based on his love of the Lord, whom he held in the highest regard. Ever the intellect, Frank had a thirst for knowledge, especially when it came to his Savior, so he spent a great deal of time praying, reading the Bible, and engaging in other forms of religious education. If a family member or friend had a question about a Bible passage, Frank could immediately give a discerning, insightful response based on his in-depth knowledge as well as the personal relationship he built with God over the years. Frank was a devout Catholic who taught CCD, RCIA, and served as an usher. Although he would never refer to himself as a Biblical scholar, people who knew him would consider him to be not only a Biblical scholar, but also a true child of God.
A Memorial Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11:00 am, on Saturday, November 16, 2019 at Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church, 4309 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy in Palmyra. The family will receive friends immediately following the Mass for a luncheon at the Parish Center.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the following: Hospice of the Piedmont, 675 Peter Jefferson Pkwy, Suite 300, Charlottesville, VA 22911; The Lake Monticello Volunteer Fire & Rescue, 10 Slice Road, Palmyra, VA 22963; or Saints Peter & Paul Cemetery Maintenance, 4309 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy., Palmyra, VA 22963; or a charity of your choice.
Thacker Brothers Lake Monticello Funeral Home is handling arrangements. Family and friends may share memories and photos at www.thackerbrothers.com.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Francis John Persico, please visit our floral store.