A Life Remembered

She put others first

She put others first

October 03, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." The story takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at someone in the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Diane Franks, who died Sept. 25 at age 57. Her obituary appeared in the Sept. 27 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

RANSON, W.Va. - Diane Franks' husband, son and daughter said she was their family's backbone.

Franks - who died Sept. 25 at age 57 - organized reunions of relatives living in North Carolina, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Florida and New Jersey. On behalf of her immediate family, she remembered everyone's birthdays.

"To take charge was her personality," said her daughter, Shannon Keiper, 32. "She was the one who held this family together."

Daughter-in-law Angie Franks, 37, said Diane crocheted and collected dolls, but nothing beat spoiling her four grandchildren with gifts and affection.


Franks' colleagues in the Jefferson County, W.Va., school system said she also was a central figure at work.

School district records indicate she served 21 years as a bus driver and was employed there 27 years overall, including three years on extended disability, said Donna Kidwiler, the district's payroll supervisor.

As president of Jefferson County's School Service Personnel Association for 10 years, Franks helped negotiate salaries, solve problems and do other things for well over 200 employees.

"She always made sure everybody was treated fairly and got what they deserved," said Terri Young, a cafeteria manager who is the current president. "If you thought you were done wrong, but you really weren't done wrong, she would explain it in a way that made you feel good."

For a while, Pete Dougherty was president of the school board and regularly talked with Franks about the concerns of the association, whose members include bus drivers, maintenance workers, cooks, secretaries and aides.

He said she started with "the best of being a bus driver" - safe transportation and well-being - and added "a personal responsibility" to see that children's other needs, such as good meals and clean schools, were met.

Diane's husband, Gary L. Franks Sr., 62, said her brother taught her to drive a bus.

"You have to have a love of children and a lot of patience," said Angie Franks, who has worked as a substitute bus driver.

"She had a very gentle heart," Kidwiler said.

After she stopped driving a bus, Franks spent three years as a bus aide and a switchboard operator in the school board office, then went on disability leave.

She had diabetes, but she died because of complications from heart surgery she had on July 22, said her son, Gary L. Franks Jr., 38.

Kidwiler said she hugged Diane Franks the day before her surgery and told her she loved her. Franks asked Kidwiler to pray for her because she didn't think she'd survive, Kidwiler said.

Franks still was in the hospital in August when she and her husband celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary.

Gary L. Franks Sr. said the couple met while attending Charles Town (W.Va.) High School.

"She was a sweet and wonderful woman," he said.

Asked what quality he gained from his mother, Gary L. Franks Jr. said, "Putting other people before yourself."

Young, the school service personnel association president, said she had a fitting example in Franks.

A few times, Diane Franks was nominated as Jefferson County's Service Employee of the Year. But whenever a committee interviewed the nominees, Franks praised everyone else instead of herself, Young said.

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