Franz Cilensek
Share Franz's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share

AUG. 16, 1935 - OCT. 17, 2006

Chico lost one of its most beloved citizens when Franz Cilensek suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage at his home on Monday and died early Tuesday morning, Oct. 17, 2006, at Enloe Hospital. Locally famous as the Santa who meticulously calligraphed kids' wish lists every Christmas season at Magna Carta, Franz was just as likely to be mistaken for Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.

Born in Harlem in 1935, Franz grew up in both New York City and rural New Hampshire and joined the Marine Corps. after high school. He proudly served as a cartographer during the Korean War and afterwards attended the Art Students League in New York City, studying with George Grosz and working as an artists's model to help pay his way. Later in life he became deeply disillusioned with America's war-mongering and as recently as a few weeks ago wrote the editors of local papers criticizing the policies of President Bush.

Franz moved to California in 1963 and worked for several years as a set designer at UC Berkeley, immersing himself in the culture of the Beats and forming a literary motorcycle group whose emblem was a large vulture. When later he moved to Chico, he quickly established himself as store artist and one of the wittier employees of Tower Records, joining the Books division after store was remodeled.

In 1987 he married Kate McCracken at the Ring of Bone Zendo in the Sierra foothills and the couple has made their home on 2nd Avenue ever since. Never one to take himself too seriously, Franz in recent years joined the Almost Dead Poets Society, a group of mature poets who meet regularly to discuss their writing and that of other poets. He generously gave time to his community, reading aloud to residents of local senior centers and volunteering on the City Arts Council. At the time of his death he was working on the illustrations for a children's book he wrote for his granddaughter Raina called Tiny Otto.

Franz is survived by his wife Kate McCracken; his son, Alex Cilensek; stepdaughter, Laura Carr and her daughter Raina; his brother, Walter Cilensek; as well as a Welsh corgi named Oskar and three cats: Waldo, Zelda, and Annabelle.

Friends and family will celebrate Franz's colorful life on Sat, Oct. 21, 2006, at 1 P.M. in the Oak Grove Picnic Area at One Mile. In lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made to the Chico Cat Coalition.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Chico Enterprise-Record from Oct. 20 to Oct. 21, 2006.
Not sure what to say?
View Printed Guest Book
11 entries
November 18, 2006
Kate, we never met, but Franz (aka Bob) was my classmate way back when! He was the youngest in our small class of 28, but by far the most artistically talented. I just learned of his passing, so please accept my late condolences, along with that of other classmates.
Bev Cheney
October 31, 2006
Kate, you have been a friend and collegue for many years. You always spoke about Franz with such love and joy. I remember meeting you as a couple at the Farmer's Market one beautiful fall day. You were a perfect match. Great style and warmth with each other. Franz will be missed by many in Chico, he added an extra zest to our town.
With Love and respect for a life well lived.
Pat Cragar
Patricia Cragar
October 26, 2006
I met Franz @ Tower Books. He was a creative thinker. I enjoyed talking with him to hear his take on things. I'll miss our happy hour talks.
Our best to you Kate.
Roger Cole
October 25, 2006

I am so sorry to hear about your loss. With the late apple season, we would always see you and Franz at the Farmer's Market. It was always enjoyable to share some conversation about the qualities of a good apple--especially the ones from New York. Frank had a great chat with Franz downtown last year when they found themselves sharing the same bench. Thinking of you.
Sally Shea
October 21, 2006
Franz was one of the first people I met when I came to Chico to buy Sundance Records back in the early '70's. Years later, whenever I came back to town, a high point for me was running into Franz downtown. Good by old friend. I will miss you.
Les Lund
October 21, 2006
Dearest Kate,
I knew Franz before I knew you, chatting with him at Tower about our favorite poets, realizing we had many connections. But the most special connection became you and the Foxfire women. I wish I could be there to share this bittersweet day with you, but I know that you know we will all be here for you in the days and months to come. Sending you much love,
Sharon Paquin
October 20, 2006
Kate - I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Franz was one of those people who made Chico the special place that it is. He will be deeply missed. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help during this time.
Laurie Feldman
October 20, 2006
I'm so sorry about Franz. Please let me know if there's anything I can do for you, or your four-legged children.
Jennifer (Matthews) Wood
October 20, 2006
I worked with Fritz at Tower during the Holidays in the early 80s....He will be missed.
Buster C. StJohn
October 20, 2006
Kate-we are in Oklahoma at this time. Our hearts and thoughts are with you.

Sue and Denny Bruce
Sue/Denny Bruce
October 20, 2006
Our hearts go out to you at this time and in the days ahead.
Edy and Blaine Roberts
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences