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Fran Alex of Long Beach: She loved the city and the sea

Fran Alex of Long Beach was a first-generation

Fran Alex of Long Beach was a first-generation American born to emigrants from Sicily. Credit: Family photo

Fran Alex loved the city and the sea, and she shared the best of both with her three granddaughters when they stayed with her in Long Beach during summers as they were growing up.

There were trips to Manhattan to see Broadway shows and historic landmarks, and visits to the beach and boardwalk in Alex’s adopted hometown, where in 2012 the Brooklyn native rode out superstorm Sandy alone in her Troy Avenue house.

The Long Beach resident, a first-generation American born to emigrants from Sicily, died April 14 at 89 while hospitalized for COVID-19, said her granddaughter, Lauren Wetzel.

Before that, she spent the past few years in a Long Beach nursing home while coping with dementia, said Wetzel, 33, a Manhattan advertising executive.

Born Frances Anastasi, Alex and her husband of 55 years, the late Albert Alex, took an active role in their granddaughters’ lives.

Their single mother, the late Deborah Wetzel, raised them in the suburbs of Baltimore. But every summer, one of the three sisters would enjoy a monthlong visit with their grandparents, said Ashley Bashur, another of Alex’s granddaughters.

While Alex was about 5 feet tall, her personality was larger than life, said Bashur, 36, an attorney in Virginia.

“She was this kind of very tiny but very mighty person,” she said.

Alex frequently cooked feasts before serving them in her formal dining room, but no family members were allowed to help with the preparations, Bashur remembered.

When Alex and her husband visited their daughter and granddaughters for Christmas, there was “a great scramble” to clean the house before Alex would do an inspection that could include checking moldings for dust, Bashur also recalled.

For many years, Alex was treasurer of a nearby beach club, a leader in a Catholic Daughters of the Americas chapter and a parishioner at St. Ignatius Martyr church, Wetzel said.

Alex’s granddaughters also recalled how the “feisty” and “generous” woman called pasta sauce “gravy,” grew raspberries, enjoyed classic movies and liked to don a fur coat when she stepped out in style.

After her husband, who worked in finance, suffered a stroke and other health problems, Alex cared for him at home until he died in 2009, Bashur said.

Alex’s other survivors include her granddaughter Kelly Talesnick, of Pasedena, California, and two great-grandchildren. She was buried at Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury.