Francis Karzag, son of Direct Relief co-founder Dennis Karczag, is pictured in the Direct Relief warehouse moving shipments bound for U.S. health centers and clinics in November 2016. He passed away on Sunday. (Direct Relief photo)

Today is a sad day for Direct Relief, as the organization mourns the loss of a lifelong team member and dear friend.

Francis “Franco” Karzag passed away Sunday night after battling cancer for the last several months.

Francis’s connection to Direct Relief has been profoundly deep.

His father, Dennis, led the organization since founding it with William Zimdin, his business partner, in 1948, and his mother, Sylvia, served as the executive director for many years as his father stepped back from day-to-day management of the organization. 

Francis joined the operations team at Direct Relief in 2013, and distinguished himself as a tireless worker, trusted colleague, thoughtful mentor, and supportive friend – with a wonderful sense of humor and a soulful perspective on all matters big and small.

He worked as long as his doctors permitted him, and he continued joining his colleagues each week for lunch on Fridays with his new bride, Rhonda. His courage, optimism, sense of humor, and his commitment to the organization, which exists only because of his family’s extraordinary devotion to it, never flagged.

While he was at Serenity House, Franco shared that he wanted to have a barbeque for all his many friends and family.

On Saturday, with the assistance of the Dream Foundation, 100 people gathered at Shoreline Park for a large barbeque in his honor. Franco was unable to attend, but it was a joyful occasion for those he had touched and whose lives were better for knowing him.  

It is a painful loss for all who knew Franco because it was a true joy in life to know him. 

Our hearts go out to his family and his wife, whose grace during his illness also has been inspiring. 

It was a privilege for all of us at Direct Relief to know and work with Franco and to call him a friend.  He will be dearly missed and most warmly remembered.

Thomas Tighe is CEO and president of Direct Relief.