Shank was first and foremost, a man of God

September 10, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." This continuing series will take a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about J. Franklin Shank, who died Aug. 31 at the age of 80. His obituary appeared in the Sept. 1 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

For as long as she can remember, Carolyn Shank Motz said, her dad always answered the home telephone the same way - "Good morning (afternoon or evening), this is the Shanks ... how may we help you?"

And he meant just that, she said. Those weren't just hollow words to him.

J. Franklin Shank died Aug. 31 after a brief illness. He was 80.

"Dad was so polite and set such a good example that it made the real world kind of frightening," Carolyn said.


Right to the end, Franklin was active in his community, his church, his civic organizations and his businesses. But with all those responsibilities and commitments, he always had time for his family.

"You could always go to dad for solid Christian wisdom," said daughter Ann Shank Rohrer. "He was never too busy for us, or anyone else for that matter."

Elaine Shank, Franklin's wife and companion for 59 years, said he was an ideal husband.

"But first and foremost, Franklin was a man of God," Elaine said.

Carolyn echoed that with a comment she recalled hearing from a member of the family's church, St. Mark's Lutheran Church on Washington Avenue.

"Someone said that everyone should live their lives like he did and if they did, the world wouldn't have any troubles," Carolyn said.

Longtime friend Randall Williams, said Franklin was simply one of the kindest human beings he ever met.

"Whenever I would see Frank sitting in a meeting, I always knew that the right decisions would be made - he was just that kind of person," Williams said.

Born and raised in Hagers- town, Franklin was a member of the Hagerstown High School class of 1944. But like so many young men of that era, he wasn't there to get his diploma because he was serving with the U.S. Army during World War II.

"His mother got his diploma for him," Elaine said. "There were a lot of mothers getting diplomas for their sons that year."

Classmates all through high school, Elaine and Franklin met in Luther League at church. They were friends and dated off and on.

When Franklin came home in 1946, the relationship deepened. "I was working at Better Homes Inc. and Franklin had a job at the H.L. Mills Store as assistant manager," she said.

Quickly promoted to manager of that store, Franklin took another big step in his life and married Elaine in 1947. Carolyn was born in 1949 and Ann arrived in 1950 when the couple was living in an apartment on Broadway.

"When the Mills Store became Grand Union, Franklin made the move and built the store on Jefferson Boulevard," Elaine said. The Towne and Country Supermarket was the family's enterprise from 1957 to 1987.

"I worked in the store ... the girls did, too," Elaine said. Mostly, Elaine was in the bakery department and operated the small post office branch in the store.

Carolyn remembers folding pie boxes when she was about 12 years old. "I wrapped meat, too," she said. "I remember how much I hated the cow tongues."

Ann worked with her mom in the post office branch and bakery. When she was older, she recalls helping out when employees were on vacation.

Pies were always a staple at the store. Elaine said there were six women in the bakery who baked pies.

For about 10 years, the family lived in a house on Gilbert Avenue which was conveniently close to the store. Then the current home in Spring Valley was built.

While busy with family and the store, Franklin was also a faithful member and past president of the Hagerstown Lions Club. He also was past district governor of District 22 W Lions Club, past president of the Mid-Atlantic Food Dealers, past president of the Hagerstown Chamber of Commerce and served as a director of the National Grocers Association of America.

After selling the store in 1987, Franklin became involved in real estate. But he always made time for his family, which by then included six grandchildren who lovingly called him "Pappy."

Franklin also regularly visited shut-ins and people who were hospitalized or in nursing homes, Elaine said.

"He always went to viewings and funerals of store people," she said. "Franklin said it was his duty to visit people who were unhappy or lonely and he did it."

Ann said her dad often would stop in the gift shop and pick up a magazine for the person he was going to visit.

That spirit of caring for others goes back to Elaine's description of her husband as a man of God, first and foremost. He looked forward to going to church, no matter what.

"We'd be getting ready for church on Sundays and he'd be out in the car with the motor running," Elaine said.

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