Grandpa Frank Sr.

August 1, 2011

The end of June saw the end of a 93-year-old man about whom we have spoken a bit, but not nearly as much as you should know. Great Grandpa Frank Sr. was a wonderful, caring man. He stepped beyond small-minded boundaries for love and that made him special.

Your great grandmother Dorothy, by all accounts I have heard, was an amazing woman. Hard working, loving and kind, she was raising a son alone after a divorce. She worked at the local rubber factory with Vera, the woman who would later become an honorary grandmother to me and my siblings. Dorothy was Belgian. The Italians in her home town that was literally divided by train tracks—Italian on the south, Belgian on the north—were likely to see everything about her as being wrong. Divorce was not readily accepted in those days, and her being Belgian wouldn’t have helped her cause.

Frank Sr. loved her. His love shows in photographs he took of her while she posed in the pin up girl fashion of the day. Things may have been difficult, but he didn’t seem to notice. He was always a very positive person, so I can almost imagine him telling her not to worry. The romantic in me believes that he must have. The realist in me knows from conversations with Frank Sr. that he did love Dorothy and saw no problems with their love. He told me, in his gruff voice while moving his hands for emphasis, that her child, with the name of “John”, already had half of the name of many in his family. It seemed that most of them were named either Frank or John. All the boy needed was the last name, and Frank Sr. supplied that by adopting him. With his Dorothy and her son having Frank Sr.’s Italian surname, their problems were solved.

The problems were solved because he simply refused to see it any other way.

Frank Sr.’s marriage to Dorothy was a happy one. He was running the Wander Inn, the tavern formerly owned by his father. Locals laughingly but affectionately called the place the “Wander Inn and Stagger Out.”

Frank Sr. created an amazing menu. One of my favorites was his goulash. I loved that stuff. I also loved the soup he called passadoin, that obscure cheese noodle soup he served at Christmastime, which you and I researched to find a recipe. I could easily become addicted to that soup, even if it does smell like vomit.

Dorothy delivered three more children, but the marriage was too short. Dorothy died of breast cancer at the age of 39, leaving Frank Sr. to raise four children on his own.

He did a good job. The most difficult part of his being on his own was the period of the late 1960s after the Wander Inn burned. Your Grandpa Frank was away at college, but he came home to help Grandpa Frank Sr. rebuild the tavern. He finally finished college with his Master’s degree in 1981, just weeks before I married him. It was an honorable thing your Grandpa Frank did, postponing his own dreams to help rebuild the livelihood of his father.

Always remember—family first.

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