Frank Fiscalini has been an educator, San Jose councilmember, vice mayor and so much more. He died on Dec. 8, 2023 at age 101.
Frank Fiscalini has been an educator, San Jose councilmember, vice mayor and so much more. He died on Dec. 8, 2023 at age 101. Photo by Joseph Geha.

Frank Fiscalini, a devoted family man and a San Jose community leader who served in many roles from school districts to City Hall, died Friday. He was 101.

Fiscalini passed away in his sleep early Friday morning, his daughter Lisa Hausle told San José Spotlight.

Although Fiscalini lived past the century mark, Hausle said his death was unexpected, coming just one day after he saw a doctor for a physical exam, and received good marks on his general health.

“You just thought he was going to be here forever, which is impossible, of course,” Hausle told San José Spotlight. “But he kept telling us, ‘I think I’m going to make it to 110.'”

Fiscalini contracted COVID-19 last month and spent a couple of weeks in a rehabilitation center, but returned to his senior living home feeling good last week, shortly after his 101st birthday. His daughter Jill Peters spent much of yesterday with him.

Hausle said her father’s passing is bittersweet, because he lived such a long and full life, and she and her siblings were lucky to have long lives of their own with him by their sides.

“It will be weird to not have him around. But it was time for him to go join my mom,” Hausle said.

Born in San Bernardino as one of seven children to immigrant parents from Northern Italy, Fiscalini moved to the Bay Area in 1942 to attend Santa Clara University. His education was put on hold when he enlisted, and went on to serve in the military during World War II in the fight against the Nazis.

He later graduated from Santa Clara University, earned a master’s degree in education from Stanford University and a doctorate of education development and management from University of Northern Colorado.

While Fiscalini was a beloved figure in his own family, his career as a powerful politician and educational leader also touched thousands of lives.

He was appointed superintendent of the then-fledgling East Side Union High School District in 1956, and he helped lead the effort to open 10 new schools through his retirement from the district in 1982. He at one point earned the nickname, the “Godfather of East Side politics,” according to Terry Christensen, a retired San Jose State professor of political science.

Fiscalini served as CEO of Alexian Brothers hospital system for five years and later helmed a massive restoration project of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph, a Roman Catholic church in downtown San Jose.

After losing a mayoral race to Susan Hammer in 1990—one of the closest in San Jose history—Fiscalini ran for and was elected to the San Jose City Council in 1992, where he served two terms.

Fiscalini was also a founding board member of Opera San Jose, and served on the boards and was a booster of various arts and education programs and centers in the city.

Hausle said her father’s legacy will be one of family, faith and community service.

“He was all about giving and doing for others, believing that you got the most back when you gave to others,” she said.

Fiscalini is survived by four children, 13 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. His wife of 64 years, Joan, preceded him in death in 2010.

Hausle said Fiscalini’s great grandkids were devastated to learn of his passing.

“To them, he wasn’t somebody who just sat in the corner. He had conversations with them about what they were doing in school and what they were learning,” Hausle said. “He had nicknames for them, and was a very interactive great grandfather.”

Her family will have a holiday cookie decorating party in his honor this weekend, a tradition started years ago by Joan and Frank.

“We are all decorating cookies for Papa on Sunday,” Hausle said.

Per Fiscalini’s wishes, his family is planning a private funeral service in the coming weeks. A larger memorial for others to pay their respects will be planned for next year. 

Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter. 

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