Grace Franzel

78, hall of fame water skier at Cypress Gardens

Grace (Lukacher) Franzel passed away Oct. 31, of natural causes. Born Dec 2, 1941 in Ferrara, Italy, Grace immigrated to the U.S. at the age of six with her mother and stepfather to Pontiac, Mich., where they stayed until her Junior year of high school.

Upon graduation from high school in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Grace landed her dream job as a water skier for the world-famous Cypress Gardens water ski show and botanical gardens in Winterhaven, Fla. One of her claims to fame was a wall-sized photograph of her in a ski flag-line formation that is displayed prominently in the museum at Cypress Gardens.

It was here that Grace met the man who was to be the love of her life, Kenneth C. Franzel, who was a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force attending pilot training at nearby Bartow AFB. They were married on Aug. 12, 1960 and began a lifelong adventure that would last 57 years until Ken’s passing in 2017.

Among the places they lived over the next 21 years were Florida, Nevada, Arizona, Alabama, Germany, Georgia, California and Hawaii. In 1981 upon Ken’s retirement, they returned to the Franzel family homestead in Buena Vista, where they would reside for the next 38 years.

She volunteered with the Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce and enjoyed being a part of several exercise groups, the local tennis club and weekly meet ups with friends for coffee at Loback’s Bakery or Jan’s Restaurant.

Grace enjoyed traveling with Ken, gardening, tennis, reading, and baking as hobbies, but her true passion was being a loving wife to Ken and mother to their two sons, Tony and Ken.

Her sister Paula related a story that when they were teenagers, people would ask Grace if she was going to college or to work. Her response was that she wanted to get married and have a family. Needless to say, she lived her dream to the fullest.

Due to health concerns, Grace moved to Longmont, to be near her son Ken and his family in 2019.

Grace was preceded in death by her husband Ken and mother Antonietta (Odetti) Lukacher. She is survived by her sister Paula Johnson (husband Gary), her sons Tony (wife Trudi), Ken (wife Jill), five grandchildren (Garrett, Riley, Scott, Laura, and Kate Franzel) and three nephews (Art, Ken and Tim Johnson).

Due to the current limitations imposed by the pandemic, memorial services will be held at a time when all can gather safely to celebrate Grace’s life.