I met Fran in the early 1980’s when I was volunteering for a special seminar event whose objective was to transform the quality of your life. It only took moments before I could grasp the depth of his nature and I wondered just how this 19 year old was so already, willing and able to make a difference in the world, offering his undaunted leadership skills with tactfulness and wit. I was pleased when I was placed on his logistical team, where I could, hopefully, absorb some of his enthusiasm and uncanny ‘spice for life’.
Fran was a handsome man, blond hair, blue eyes, with contoured muscles defining his pale freckled skin. Although teen pock marks scared his pleasant face, he, nor anyone, pondered much about it. At 26, I was sure I’d have to leave him to his current girlfriend’s delight. Besides, I was invited by Fran’s older brother, Tim, to be part of the team. Tim was a romantic ‘crush’ I had that led me to believe the team might spark a better ‘getting to know you’ alternative. Yet most of my attention fell to Fran as I watched him and his brother both work tirelessly through the evening managing the team, both motivating and inspiring the team to move quickly and work as generously as they.
The three hundred chairs we carried from a back storage room were quickly lined straight like solders one by one as we counted the exact number to be sure of proper fit. Pencils and notebooks were placed under the chairs, again all perfectly aligned. More tables and podiums were brought in, microphones and speakers set up in perfect order and arrangement. Tests were performed, lighting was formatted and final logistics were completed by midnight. Tired and worn as I felt, I would again be motivated (by Fran of course) to return the following day for more of the same.
Fran liked hiking, and climbing. He often climbed trees in the neighborhood and, sometimes, recklessly climbed telephone poles for fun. He could hardly contain his exuberance — faulting an occasional risk. He always had a bright smile that expressed both his joy and passion.
I joined another event a year or two later, utterly motivated, again, by his elated report of the event which he had just completed. Now, Fran joined a support team whose purpose was to motivate the newest participants to complete the event tasks over a six day span. He said he would be there for me to support my completion of the event tasks. Tasks that included mountain repelling, a six to eight minute mile run (all uphill), and then move hand over hand while parallel between cliffs one hundred fifty feet high! This wonderful health project was designed specifically to get us beyond our fears and commit to an extraordinary life. Fran was a lifesaver during the event for me, a true hero, again serving the participants with his vibrant energy and enthusiastic lust for life. He called to me whenever I felt exhausted and fearful, edging me to go on. “You know you can do this, Laura”, he’d exclaim, “I’m here for you”. I don’t think I would have gotten through some of the tasks if it were not for him.
He made chick peas and pasta at 1:00 am one morning. Tim and I woke to find him scurrying in the kitchen amidst the pile of dishes left in the sink from two days prior. Finding a small pot under the mess he was able to salvage it using lots of dish soap and a Brillow Pad someone left on top of the sink. Water from another pot was already boiling, ready to accept the hard shells of pasta waiting to cook. It didn’t take long for him to mix in his concoction together, unconcerned about any expertise one might want to find in a good home cooked meal – he simply pored chick peas from a can on top the cooked pasta and quickly ate it with the same enthusiastic, yet elegant, manner of a very hungry king being served a royal buffet.
He wore his black Stetson Fedora hat the following day when he left his house. Sometimes he curled the rims up on all four sides– just for fun. That day, he and Tim took photos of each other climbing trees near the train station nearby. Two brothers so close since the loss of their father a few years back. Tim, although a year or so older, looked upon Fran as the safe haven, the security he lost when his father passed away.
Fran forgot his hat at my house that evening — he departed briskly, singing some song I never heard before. In the morning I took the train from Brooklyn to Manhattan where I worked. Tim met me at the station on the way back. The station attendant who spoke on the subway loudspeaker said there would be major delays due to a terrible accident. Apparently, they were removing a body found in the train tracks which would cause big delays in train service.
That morning we received a phone call from Fran’s girlfriend, Chris. She asked to speak to Tim. When I handed him the phone the look on his face told me something terrible happened. His tears flowed as he listened to her tell the story of his brother climbing the telephone pole that over looked the train tracks below an, apparently, lost his footing and fell eighty feet to his death. Fran made the newspapers that day, and Tim was never the same after that moment.
Yes, Fran was someone I admired. His enthusiasm for life was far beyond what I have ever seen before. If only I could have half the amount of ‘life’ that he had! Sometimes I feel motivated just thinking about him, other times saddened by the loss of such an extraordinary human being. Fran will always be in my heart forever. Today, more than 30 years later, his hat still hangs in my closet. From time to time, during nostalgic moments, I place the black Stetson on my head and look into the mirror. When the mirrored image looks back at me, enthusiastically — I know Fran is still with me.