By Jennifer CroninFree Press Staff
Frank was born in Loon Lake Saskatchewan, and moved with his parents to the East Kootenays in 1937, settling in Galloway when he was 10 years old.
Frank’s grandfather brought his family from Hungary to Canada in 1903. After losing his wife in an accident in 1909 he took the family farther west to the prairies. Frank’s mother’s family arrived as pioneers in Canada from Michigan.
As a child living in Galloway, Frank recalls how, in the winter, he would go skating on Big Sand creek and dodge the open holes. In the summer he and his friends would run logs in the pond until an adult would chase them off. Often, he would walk from Galloway through the bush to Rosen Lake, where he would go swimming at the Legion beach, and then start the long trek home again.
Frank’s father was a night fireman at the Galloway mill. At that time, the mill was powered by steam. Shavings and other waste would power the boilers, and Frank remembers his father patrolling during the night, and keeping the boilers running as well as boiling the poles in creosote.
In speaking of his mother, Frank explains with pride, “Mom worked hard all of her life at home. She would work 12 to 16 hours a day.”
Frank was the second oldest of nine children, and the only son. When asked what it was like to have eight sisters, Frank laughs as he says, “Why do you think I joined the army?”
In 1954, when he turned 21, Frank joined the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) and headed off for fall training in Wainwright, Alberta. Upon completion of his training he was off to Germany, signing up for two years with the occupational forces. He recalls the best part of being in the forces was parachuting, and the worst was the boredom. “We were there to hold the east/west line in Germany. It seemed more like training, but we were actually patrolling.”
It was during leave that Frank met the love of his life, Dot, in Edinburgh. “From the first moment I saw her, I had to know more and talk to her,” he smiles.
Frank and Dot were married while he was in the service, and they returned to Canada after his discharge was finalized. In 1963, Frank and Dot purchased their house in the annex in a five-year rent to own agreement. Together, they welcomed their two children, Bill and Theresa.
It is with such pride and love that Frank speaks of Dot. “She was very smart, she took journalism, and was a journeyman bookbinder.” He recounts the eight years that Dot spent working at The Free Press as “her social life”.
Frank’s employment was that of a First Aid attendant at the Natal and Elko mills for 10 years, after which he accepted a position with the Fernie School Board, where he remained for 22 years, retiring in 1998. “Working with the kids, I really liked that,” he notes.
Dot passed away in 2000. “She gave me the best 43 years of my life,” Frank shares.
Frank explains that he and Dot had always had the intention of helping their four grandchildren with their education, and this was a promise that he kept after Dot’s passing. “We wanted to assist them as much as we could.”
Frank feels Fernie started to change in the 60s and 70s. The “smoky coal town” as he calls it, is giving way to change. “They (the young people) are building in the annex with their own ideas – it is so fantastic! It really has hope,” he exclaims.
These days, Frank spends his time mowing the lawn, reading, riding his bike, and sharing time with his dear companion, 12 year-old Buddy, (pictured above) who he adopted from the SPCA seven years ago.
Frank attributes his youthfulness to a lesson learned from Dr. Leroux who advised him, “All things in moderation. Any one thing in excess is poison.”
As a soft spoken and respectful gentleman, Frank is a humble “face of the Valley”.