Francene Eleanor Smalls departed this life peacefully in her sleep on Sunday, December 16, 2018 at her home in Gardena, California, surrounded by her loving family. Francene was born July 25, 1930, in Vallejo, California, to Ivy Louise King and Frank Newton. At age 3, Francene and her mother left Vallejo for Los Angeles where they put down roots and built a life. Ivy always strived to expose young Francene to things that would make her a well-rounded young lady. Ivy insisted the family move to the Westside so that Francene could get a good education. She attended Foshay Junior High School, Manual Arts High School, and Los Angeles City College. When Ivy married Jesse Thompson, Francene became a doting big sister to twins Jesse and Tina, and Dolly. She loved her siblings and often shared fond memories of growing up together riding her favorite blue bike, tap dancing, sneaking out to go to the Rosebud Theater to see movies, and enduring the pranks of her mischievous stepbrother, BeBe whom she loved very much. An avid musician, from age 16 to 18, Francene and her closest and dearest childhood friend Lillaine, played saxophone in the Church of God in Christ State Youth Band, for presiding Bishop J.A. Blake Sr., father of renowned Bishop Charles E. Blake Jr. The band traveled to play at churches throughout California from San Francisco and San Diego, to Palm Springs, Oakland and beyond. It was exciting and fun for Francene and Lillaine to travel and play their instruments. Francene began her professional career at the Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) as an Eligibility Supervisor in 1952. She took a brief hiatus from DPSS, but returned in 1959. She enjoyed servicing the clients and had compassion for all those she helped. She retired from DPSS in August 1990, after 34 years. In 1952, she married Elmer Cleveland. Together they welcomed Elmer LaMonte and Anya Latriece. Francene later married Arthur McCovey in 1967, and to that union, Melvin Louis (Tony) was born. After years of friendship, Francene married got it right when she married the love of her life and soul mate, Abraham Smalls, on March 24, 1972, and gained another child, Abe’s son, Wendell, blending their two families into one. Throughout their years together, Abe and Francene enjoyed travels to New York, Charleston, South Carolina, and Miami, Florida to visit family and friends. Abe also loved to drive his “Franny” to her favorite casinos throughout Southern California and Las Vegas, where she enjoyed playing the slots. She also loved to play Lotto and hoped to hit it big one day. Abe and Francene remained devoted to each other 46 years. Francene gave her life to the Lord in 1978. She and Abe were longtime members of famed Crenshaw Christian Center where they faithfully attended Sunday worship services together. Francene leaves to cherish her memory, her loving husband, Abe, devoted daughter, Anya (Earl), and sons LaMonte and Melvin (Sherri), devoted daughter-in-law, Caryl, grandchildren, Tiana, Dustin, John, Justin, Kaylin, Isaiah, and Haylee, and great grandchildren, Karae and Daniel (DJ), and a host of nieces, nephews, and close friends. Francene Smalls loved the Lord. She lived life to the fullest. Her family will surely miss her warm smile, words of wisdom, good food, the lessons she taught, and most of all her fervent prayers.

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  1. Anya, Mr. Abe and the entire family of Miss Francene: My heart is broken to hear of her passing. She’s a precious lady who will be greatly missed, fondly remembered and never forgotten. As you celebrate her life, do also cherish all the sweet memories. Unfortunately, I’m unable to be with you during this time. But do know that I will continue to pray for you all. May God comfort you as only He can and the Holy Spirit bring you peace.
    (Anya’s friend from Cleveland, OH)

  2. Anya,
    I am so very sorry for your loss and pray that you continue to have strength, find peace, and are surrounded by love.
    I am thinking of you.
    – Thomas family, Kendra, Gerard, Gerard Jr., and Kori

  3. Abe, Anya and family: My family and I will miss her so very much. She was my mom’s best friend, her supervisor at work and like family to us. I have known Francene since I was 14 years old! May you trust in and rely on the Peace of God which passes ALL understanding. Agape from Denise and family.

  4. Abe, the Martin family extend our deepest and sincerest sympathy in loss of your dearly beloved, Fran. She will forever be remembered as our neighbor for over 44 years, for her quite and loving spirit. May you and your family find comfort, peace and strength in knowing that others care. You have our continuous prayers today, and days ahead..

  5. Ms. Francene. The first time we met you, we realized immediately where Anya got her zest for life, her laughter, and her love for people. From you! Whenever we think of you, we think of your smile and how welcoming you were to us. Thank you for the privilege of knowing you and for the great legacy you leave through your children and grandchildren. We are blessed to have them in our lives. Rest in Peace.

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