Phone: 215-543-9339 (24-hour Availability)

Francis J. McGuigan

Francis Joseph McGuigan (“Ace”)
September 3, 1937 – November 17, 2018
A beloved son, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and cherished friend, Frank (aka Ace) passed away on November 17th. He is survived by his children, Victoria McGuigan and her husband David Landrecht, his son Francis (Gregory) McGuigan and his wife Susan, his grandchildren Christina McGuigan and Asher Landrecht, and his great-grandchildren Adriana and Carter. He is predeceased by his wife, Elizabeth (Betty) McGuigan.
Frank, whose stage name was Ace, is known by many as a talented musician, vocalist, and band leader whose professional work spanned nearly six decades. At age 8, he began training as a drummer, and as a high school student performed as a member of the West Catholic Marching Band. Early in his professional career Ace honed his skills working with bands such as “The Carroll Brothers” as well as many other local musicians. As a band leader, he created “Ace Midnight and the Night Riders”, “Ace and the Professor”, and “On the Move” who collectively played the Philadelphia music circuit as well as many venues throughout the tri-state area. Ace also taught music for six years as a private instructor for the Bob Sterner Music Studios. Although primarily a live performer, Ace had two original recordings in 1973: “I’m Looking for a Place to Dream” and “No Moon,” which were recently featured on WBCB during a live radio broadcast and interview in October, 2018. As the interview ended, Ace commented, “Well, it took me 81 years to get my music on the radio – just wait till you hear my next release!” His quick wit and keen ability to connect with anyone and everyone endeared him to all and lent to his charismatic appeal as an entertainer.
While music played a central role in his life, first and foremost Frank was dedicated to his family. A devoted son to his mother, Ellen, with whom he shared an extraordinary bond, Frank watched over her and never ventured off too far for too long. Even while serving four years in the United Sates Air Force Frank traveled home, often via hitchhiking, during every leave he was afforded. Ellen also travelled to North Carolina whenever possible to visit her son while he was stationed there. As an only child raised primarily by his mother, Frank was the apple of her eye, and conversely, wherever she was he called home.
After his first marriage ended at age 26, this full-time musician became a single father of his two children, both under two years of age– a role he accepted without question. Road trips with the band, a music-filled home, love, laughter, and great story telling shaped the lives of his children, Vickie and Greg. Yet, even more so, their growth was influenced by their father’s empathic nature- his ability to embrace all, to judge no one, and most especially his practice of aiding those in need with an open heart. He considered fatherhood a precious gift. When his daughter asked about his journey in parenting he thoughtfully said, “I wouldn’t have missed a moment, and when I walked to the park with my babies in the coach, I was the proudest Daddy in McPherson Square.” He shared an exceptionally close relationship with both of his children throughout his life – he was their “Constant”, as well as an adoring “Pop Pop”, “Poppy” to his grandchildren, Christina and Asher, and great-grandchildren, Adriana and Carter. Among so many precious memories is that of Poppy teaching his grandson, Asher, how to hold his drumsticks for his first drum lesson (thankfully, all documented on video!). Nothing brought him more joy than to be with his “grands” and “greats,” delighting in the antics of Asher, Adriana and Carter at every opportunity.
In 1975 Ace met the love of his life, Betty, and as he often explained, it was truly a case of love at first sight. They married in 1977, and Betty became not only a loving wife, but a wonderful step-mother to his children. Ace and Betty enjoyed his professional gigs, all family gatherings, theater performances, and their beloved summer respite in Cape May, NJ. When at age 50, Betty suffered a massive stroke, Ace’s daughter remembers trying to console him and his response was, “my Betty gave me 16 wonderful years, and thank God I still have her.” Their lives went on and so did their trips to Cape May. Always jovial, with an unfaltering commitment and a song for every moment, Ace lovingly tended to Betty’s every need until her death in 2010 at age 69. As years passed, he was at times asked if he were interested in dating or companionship and his thoughts on the subject were always the same: “I had a wonderful wife – I had my Betty and who could want more than that?”
During the last year of his life, Frank lived at the Philadelphia Protestant Home (PPH) and quickly became the talk of the town. Dubbed “Friendly Frank” by the residents, (yet another incarnation of nicknames) he was instantly embraced by both residents as well as staff. Comparing the experience to “a scene straight out of Our Town,” Frank kept his door open receiving a steady stream of passers by stopping for a chat, inviting him to an event, or listening to him play his piano – an instrument he began to teach himself to play later in life. Frank acquired a wide circle of friends at PPH with whom he shared meals, trips to the gym, performances, tailgate parties, and other social events offered onsite. Yet no experience during his time there quite compares to that of a chance realization occurring during the 2017 Christmas season when Frank received an annual Christmas card from his long time friends, Dot and Ed Kelly. Low and behold, the card’s return address read “The Philadelphia Protestant Home!” And further, akin to the premise of a Hallmark Christmas movie, Ed Kelly lived on the same floor and sat at the table next to Frank within the dining room! The Kellys had been avid fans during the 20-year stint of “Ace and the Professor,” and in addition had become dear friends to Ace and Betty; however, they hadn’t seen one another for several decades. Their reunion was truly priceless – not a dry eye in the house! Thereon, Frank and Ed were the last to leave the dining room as they resumed their friendship with tales of yesteryear, current events, and family.
Though deeply grieving, Frank’s family is aware that the last year of his life was a miraculous gift. His health had been failing, yet his move to PPH enabled him a comeback! The social engagement, in addition to the care of a stellar staff, imbued their father with a life force that had been fading. It afforded his children and family the opportunity to focus on enjoying their father at PPH events as well as many family outings – among the most memorable: a night with the Phillies, complete with VIP passes, trips to the shore, the Eagles Super Bowl win, his radio debut, reuniting with the Kellys, and a reunion with fellow “Ace Midnight and the Night Riders” band member, Tom Gallen, after a 49-year hiatus! The wonder of Frank’s last year serves as a great comfort to his family as they hold each memory close to their hearts.
Francis Joseph Daniel McGuigan departed this life leaving a legacy of love, forgiveness, and joy immeasurable. The leader of the band has returned to the ultimate encore performance and if you listen closely, his song resounds.

Funeral services will be held on Saturday, December 1st at 11:30am at St. John the Baptist, RC Church, 146 Rector Street, Philadelphia. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the National Inclusion Project.

Phone: 215-543-9339