She was the life of the party. A welcoming committee of one. The friend who knew no strangers.

And Barbara Franks was the detail-oriented organizer who kept Taco Dan’s running smoothly.

Family and friends stood in a line a block long outside McPeek Hoekstra Hoskinson Funeral Home in Granville on April 6 to pay their respects to Franks, who died unexpectedly at age 73 on March 28. 

Then the crowd moved two doors north on South Prospect Street to fill Taco Dan’s, where they celebrated her life over drinks and a pool-table-sized charcuterie board. 

More than 100 people gathered at Taco Dan’s on Saturday, April 6, to remember Barbara Franks, who managed the family business until her death on March 28. Credit: Isabella Pereira

Franks and her husband, Dan Rogers, are well-known in Granville for their outgoing nature and their businesses – Taco Dan’s, which is described on Facebook as “a family owned and operated taqueria restaurant” on South Prospect Street; Footloose, a vintage clothing store that Franks opened in the same location; and Danr Electric, which is Rogers’ electrician services company.

As the theme song from the movie Footloose played in the background at the funeral home, photos of Franks smiling with family and friends scrolled on a big screen, and those celebrating her life could be heard crying, laughing and telling stories about Franks, her kindness and generosity. 

“Oh my God, they’re playing Footloose! Of course they would,” said one of the attendees as she reached for a tissue.

Franks was described in her obituary as “an inextinguishable extrovert.” 

Barbara Franks, who died at 73 on March 28, developed businesses and made friends in this Victorian home on South Prospect. Credit: Isabella Pereira

“She liked to have a good time, and thankfully for all of us, she was the person providing the good cheer in an atmosphere that welcomed all,” the obituary said. “She reminds us to enjoy being in the spirit of footloose and fancy-free, to be in the moment, to take care of one another, to be of service, especially to the community you surround yourself within.”

Andrew Holzman, a Denison University visiting professor of modern languages, attended the memorial and said Franks made him feel welcome when he moved to central Ohio from his home in Wisconsin. She was a caring figure in his life, inviting him to join her family for Thanksgiving dinner despite having known him for only a year. 

“She went out of her way to make everyone feel welcome and let them know that they had a seat at her table,” Holzman said.

Franks sought meaningful connections, and friends said she did that with her vibrant personality and her extensive knowledge of mixology – the art of mixing drinks – at Taco Dan’s. 

Barbara Franks enjoys a drink and a laugh at Taco Dan’s on South Prospect Street. Credit: Brenda Franks

Brenda Franks, the Academic Administrative Assistant for Educational and Environmental Studies at Denison, said she wasn’t related to Barb, but Barb appreciated that they had the same last name.

“She told everyone that we were family, because she said everyone in Granville has family here. So now I have family here,” Brenda Franks said.

Barbara Franks grew up in northeastern Ohio and graduated from Bowling Green State University where she studied fashion design, business and geology, according to her obituary.

At Taco Dan’s, a local hot spot for Denison University students, Franks would host “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune” games early on some evenings, then serve food and drinks, and launch into engaging conversation with folks at the bar.

“By 1975, Barb moved to Long Beach, California, where she became a homeowner and a small business professional. She owned and operated two women’s contemporary clothing boutiques in high traffic beach communities,” her obituary said. “Barb and Dan met in Long Beach in 1985 to begin their nearly 40-year relationship together. They had their first child, Andy, who was born in 1989 and Sam, in 1990. As a family, in 1993 they decided to move from Long Beach, California, to Ohio, returning to the family roots of both Barb and Dan.”

Outside of the family businesses, Barb Franks was involved with the Licking County Community Center for seniors at Bryn Du Mansion. And Jean McCalmont, Academic Administrative Assistant for the Denison English Department, said Franks was quick to welcome newcomers to Granville.

“She never knew a stranger,” McCalmont said. “She just would get to know everyone right away. She would extend herself.” 

Similarly, Beth Sperry, who grew up with Franks in Warren, Ohio, explained how they met when Sperry was in seventh grade and Barb was in eighth grade.

Both were in 4-H and Beth, who didn’t know anyone at her first meeting, was welcomed by Franks.

“Barbara ran up,” Sperry said. “She was very gawky, skinny, hair flying everywhere, and she ran over and told me her name and that we were gonna be friends.”

In Granville, Franks made friends with Denison students who frequented Taco Dan’s, including members of the women’s lacrosse team – and their parents after they had dropped off their children for their first year of college, according to junior Anna Devuono.

“Barb sat with the parents all night, telling them how lucky we will be because Denison is a great school, and promising she will keep an eye out for us girls (even though she had no idea who we were yet),” Devuono wrote in tribute to Franks. 

Barb, Dan and members of Taco Dan’s staff would sometimes show up at games to cheer for Denison teams, most memorably when they dressed up as human-sized tacos to cheer for the women’s lacrosse team.

Senior Ana Ortiz said Franks had a way of handling students with patience and grace, even when they had had a little too much to drink. 

“If she needed to yell, she’d yell at you – if you were doing something you weren’t supposed to be doing. And like that’s important, because sometimes kids here are not used to being yelled at and being told no,” Ortiz said.

Friends and family gathered on Saturday, April 6, to remember Barbara Franks, who died at 73 on March 28. Credit: Isabella Pereira

Gunnar Young, a sophomore at Denison, was inspired to create a GoFundMe account in Franks’ memory and to support her family.

As more than 100 people filled Taco Dan’s and its patio on April 6 for a party in Franks’ honor, one of her friends, Lori Kirk, took in the scene and said that Franks would have been pleased.

“She would’ve loved this,” Kirk said, noting the large crowd, the sense of community and the outpouring of support for Franks’ family.

“They’re here for Dan and the boys, and with all their hopes and their hearts, that what this place built over the years will go on somehow,” Kirk said. “That’s my hope, too.”

Isabella Pereira writes for, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is funded by the Mellon Foundation and donations from readers.