When his daughter, Denisia, came into the world in 1972, Francisco (Frank) Corona Jr. was away at work.  He had just finished his U.S. Army tour in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, and had landed a job in rural Arizona as a custodian. This was a time before cell phones, so Frank didn’t know his wife had gone into preterm labor. Denisia not only came early, but she was also born with brittle bone disease (osteogenesis imperfecta or OI), a genetic disorder that causes bones to break easily. 

Phoenix Children’s did not yet exist, so Denisia ended up at a local community hospital funded by philanthropy. “I was just out of the military,” Frank says. “We needed assistance.”

And assistance is exactly what his family received. Because of her diagnosis, Denisia was airlifted to Denver, Colorado, for treatment. She was there for over a week, but Frank and his wife were able to be with her. The couple faced many unknowns and were told Denisia wouldn’t make it past her teen years, which exacerbated their fears. 

A very resilient Denisia proved that theory wrong. She is now 52 and Frank couldn’t be more grateful to all the medical staff who helped her prevail—especially during a time when he and his family were in need. “I never received any bill,” Frank humbly recalls. “I had insurance, and normally I’d receive some kind of bill or statement, but I never got anything.” 

And because of that generosity, Frank made a silent vow. He didn't know how, but he'd find a way to pay it forward.  

Loving cars and learning life lessons 

Frank has always had a passion for vehicles. His love for them started well before he bought his first car while in high school—a 1962 Chevrolet. His father advised he should build up his credit and was willing to act as co-signer, so Frank bought the car with a monthly payment of only $34. “I worked all my life,” Frank recalls. “Houses and cars weren’t handed to us. We knew what we wanted, and we worked for it.” 

Building a strong work ethic and establishing good credit are two valuable lessons Frank says he inherited from his father, who worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad. As one of 15 children, Frank also learned lessons about equality and the importance of keeping peace in the family. “We were all treated the same,” Frank says. “We were raised with the same standards.” 

Frank shares his story of legacy giving.

Frank’s father never talked about building assets and leaving behind wealth, but Frank and his siblings always knew their father would sell their family home when he passed away and evenly distribute the profit amongst them to maintain peace within the family.  

His father’s valuable lessons, combined with hard work and a passion for cars, eventually steered Frank in a direction not even he imagined. 

Serving his country and building a career 

When Frank graduated from high school in 1968, the Vietnam War was underway. He had received a scholarship to a tech school in Phoenix, but after wrecking his car, he decided he wasn’t going. His father warned him if he didn’t go to school, “Uncle Sam would come calling.” But Frank says he didn’t care at the time because he was angry about having wrecked his vehicle. Two weeks later, Frank received his draft letter. 

“Many people were going, so I wasn’t scared,” Frank says. “I didn’t even go to Vietnam. I was stationed in South Korea. I was very lucky.” Frank went on to do a 13-month regular tour, which ended back in Fort Huachuca. He then moved on to work as a high school custodian for four years. “I enjoyed it. That’s when Denisia was born.” 

Frank lives within walking distance of Phoenix Children's Hospital - Main Campus

From there, Frank moved on to build mobile homes and later worked in the copper mines near Casa Grande. He traveled from Eloy, where he and his family, which now included another daughter, Lupita, had settled. However, he and many miners found themselves out of work when the mines closed. That’s when Frank got an opportunity to work for the Arizona Department of Corrections, where he started at the bottom and worked his way up during a career spanning 28 years. 

During that time, Frank amassed a lucrative classic car collection of 20 vehicles and spent his spare time fixing them up and participating in car shows. A man once offered him $50,000 in cash for his 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air, but Frank turned the man down. He had other plans for his collection. 

Driving toward legacy giving 

Frank is now in his 70s, and his life has come full circle. He's enjoying retirement with his partner, Nora, and their dogs. And that silent vow he made years ago to pay it forward is turning into a reality. 

Frank recently pledged to donate his car collection, valued at $500,000, as an estate gift to Phoenix Children’s Herbert J. Louis Center for Pediatric Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in honor of Denisia and families like his. “I’m a man of my word,” he says.  

Frank humbly celebrates his name unveiling.

And because of that gift, Frank’s family name now graces the walls of the Center's outpatient waiting area at Phoenix Children’s –Thomas Campus. Frank didn’t tell anyone about the name unveiling because he wasn’t looking for a pat on the back or to please others. His heart simply told him to pay it forward. “I’m sure people gave to help people like my daughter back then,” he says. “I’m so grateful to them. I’m also sure other kids and families are dealing with brittle bone disease.”  

Frank adds that giving to Phoenix Children’s also ensures his father’s legacy of keeping peace in the family after death. “We came with nothing,” he says. “We all leave with nothing. It’s the natural way. It’s a circle.” 

Create a Legacy of Hope

If you’re considering leaving a legacy that will bring a future of hope for the children of tomorrow, contact Nicola Lawrence, associate vice president of philanthropic advising, at 602-933-3870 or giftplanning@phoenixchildrens.com.

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