Cortland Community Mourns the Loss of Another Dear Friend

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The Cortland Community mourns the loss of another dear friend this morning.

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Frances Pizzola was a faithful member of both St. Anthony’s Church and Grace Christian Fellowship. She graduated from Cortland High School in 1980 and attended both SUNY Cobleskill and later on SUNY Cortland.

In 1981, Pizzola broke her neck while sledding and became paralyzed, which ultimately this came to shape her life’s mission in advocating for all people with disabilities. She founded Access to Independence Cortland County, Inc. as the 36th Independent Living Center in New York State in 1998 and received many honors for her work over the years.

Recently, Pizzola suffered from a brief illness and passed away on Friday (July 12) at Crouse hospital surrounded by her loving family. Fran was the daughter of Michele and Carmela Testa Pizzola and was a Cortland resident her entire life.

She was just 57-years old.

From Pizzola’s family, written on her obituary to Riccardi Funeral Home:

“As passionate as she was about her commitment to advocacy work, she was even more passionate about her family, friends, and faith. She was the glue that kept our family close. Whether it was card night, game night, wine night, or just any old night, great times were always had around a table with Fran. Through her love of faith and music she coordinated Joyful Noise Ministry and actively participated in Sunday Night Alive.

While we are heartbroken, we know Fran has traded her wheelchair in for wings!”

She is survived by her mother, Carmela Testa Pizzola; fiancé, Paul Dudek; brother, Michael (Mika) Pizzola; sister Maria (Mike) Dafoe; four nieces, Marina (Jeff) Prince, Adrianna, Sophia and Nina Pizzola; godmothers, Gelsa and Lisa Pizzola as well as the rest of her loving family. Fran was preceded in death by her father; Michele “Mike” Pizzola in 2015.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in St. Anthony’s Church. Prayers of committal will follow in St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery.

The family will be present to receive friends on Tuesday from 4-8 p.m. at St. Anthony’s Church, on Pomeroy St in Cortland.

Contributions in lieu of flowers may be made in Fran’s memory to: Access to Independence 26 N. Main St. Cortland, St. Anthony’s Church 59 N. Main St. Cortland, or Grace Christian Fellowship 1250 Fisher Ave Cortland.

Condolences may also be sent to the family by visiting Arrangements are under the direction of Riccardi Funeral Home 69 N. Main St., Cortland, N.Y.

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