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Dolores Franz, pioneer in school sports programs for girls

July 1, 1925 – Sept. 21, 2015

Dolores Franz, who was instrumental in pioneering school sports programs for girls in Western New York, died Monday in her Amherst home. She was 90.

Born in Buffalo, Miss Franz was a 1946 graduate of Mount St. Joseph Academy and earned a degree from the University of Buffalo.

After beginning her career as a physical-education teacher at Baker Victory High School, she campaigned in the 1950s to have girls recognized as athletes just as boys were. She created a sports curriculum for girls, the first in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

When the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association was organized, she was chosen to represent girls’ sports.

She went on to head the sports program at Bishop Gibbons High School in North Tonawanda, then became head of the phys-ed program at Cardinal O’Hara High School in the Town of Tonawanda, where she also was dean of discipline. She retired in the mid-1980s.

She was honored by the Cardinal O’Hara Alumni Association following her retirement and was part of the inaugural class to be inducted into the Cardinal O’Hara Hall of Fame in 2005.

Many of her former students gave tribute to the effects she had on their lives and maintained contact with her in retirement. Several traveled from out of state to help celebrate her 90th birthday earlier this year.

“She did a lot to help other people out. That’s what she did in retirement,” said her friend Joan Gravanda. “She would do ordinary things in extraordinary ways. And she had a great sense of humor.”

Survivors include many friends.

Services will be private.

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