In loving memory of our dear friend and coworker…
Rest in peace, Frank.
1922 – 2016
The life given us by nature is short, but the memory of a life well spent is eternal. Cicero
Although the difficulties of dealing with Hurricane Sandy have taught us many lessons, there’s perhaps no more important lesson than this: What makes a company strong is not its walls and windows (or its computers and roofs); it’s the people.
And today, we’re celebrating one of our favorite people: Writer’s Relief veteran Frank T. is turning 90 years old (see interview below). Instead of retiring to Florida and playing shuffleboard, Frank’s here with us: lifting boxes after the storm, rescuing stray cats (and deer), making wisecracks, dancing through the office when a good tune comes on, negotiating with the salespeople, swapping recipes for vegetable dishes (spinach! broccoli!), and keeping everybody in line.
We’ll post a few teasers from our favorite Frank stories here, and the complete Frank stories will be included below!
I have fond memories of dancing with Frank at my wedding. Luckily my photographer captured the moment!
Despite his height and what some people claim his age to be, Frank is a sharp-witted, sly ten-year-old.
Frank asked to speak to me one day last year. I thought perhaps he wanted to slow down or retire. He said: “Ronnie, I’d really like to learn how to send and receive emails the way everyone else here does.” At 89 years old, Frank was able to send and receive his very own email for the first time in his life.
I look at Frank and I think of him as more than just a coworker: He’s a grandfather, a brother, and a friend.
When things go wrong (which they inevitably do), Frank keeps our moods up and reminds us that it’s not the end of the world, which is usually exactly what we need.
Ninety? No way! Frank’s appearance belies his age. He’s our caretaker, in the broadest and best sense of the word: caring for us, caring about us.
Frank: In His Own Words
Have you ever been interviewed before?
No, this is a first—at 90 years old!
Where and when were you born?
I was born in Fairview, New Jersey, on November 9, 1922. My father was a barber. Behind the shop there were five little rooms, and that’s where I was born. The house has since become a bank in my honor.
When I was three, my father bought a house on 90th street in North Bergen. From there, we moved when I was about eleven to Cliffside Park, New Jersey. And that’s where I live now.
Tell us some of the other jobs you’ve had.
My first job was as a watchman when I was 16 years old for a construction company. My father got me the job. I went to school, then I went to the construction company until 8:00 at night, then I did my homework. My father insisted upon it. My father only went through the third grade in Sicily before he started work to become a barber.
I finished high school, then the war was on—1941 or 1942. My number came up and I went and took my physical exam. The doctor said, “I want you to stand on this desk.” He called five or six other doctors over. He told them: “Jump up and down on your feet,” and I did. And he said, “You’re 4F [flat feet]. They’ll never take you in the Army.” I said, “You have to take me.” I felt bad about not going because all my friends were over there. So I got a job for the Navy Medical Supply Depot.
After the war was over (we were all temporary hires so that men who were overseas could have their jobs back), they said they were sorry to let me go but they had to.
I liked accounting and I wanted to go to college, but my folks needed the money so I couldn’t do it. I was working for Sears and they went ahead and asked me to go to work in New York. I worked there about a year, and they transferred me to the accounting department. My parents were not well and needed me to take care of them. When they passed away, I had to pay for their funerals, but I did manage to go Columbia for one semester. Turned out, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I told my boss: “I’m learning nothing.” So I went to Pace, and I went for two years when my job transferred me. They said I was qualified to be a traveling auditor, so I had to stop going to school. I did that for about a year.
Then they called me into the Philadelphia office, and they said, “We want to give you a store in Asbury Park, New Jersey.” But not long after, they restructured the individual stores and eliminated the position I was in across the board.
I went back to being a traveling auditor. I was even better than I was before. I uncovered one store’s scheme to short the company $30,000.
From Sears, I had jobs here and there. About eighteen or more years ago, I had a friend who was in a choir. He introduced me to the music director who taught them so beautifully. He said, “I want you to come to one of my concerts.” He was such a nice man. He was Ronnie’s (the Writer’s Relief president’s) father. He said, “My daughter’s opening up an office. Can you go help her out?” I told Ronnie I would work for her for free, but she said, “I insist on paying you money, otherwise you don’t work here.”
After Hurricane Sandy came through, I said, “Ronnie, if your father were here to see what you’re doing now, he would be so honored and proud.” Within a couple days, Ronnie got us a new office to work in. Within a week, we’re starting to get back in business. She’s accomplished so much. It’s been really nice working with her; she’s a very kind, dear person. She’s done a lot for me, and I can’t do enough for her.
You’ve been working at Writer’s Relief for a long time, so it’s fair to say that you must like it here (and we like having you here!). At 90 years old, what motivates you every morning to come to work?
The idea that—you know—the work is something that I like. It’s enjoyable for me. I tell you, people are very nice here except for Ronnie (just kidding!). The thing is that I enjoy it. Now that I hit 90, I’m starting to feel it a little bit. People tell me I don’t look like 90—but I tell them I am. I’ve lost my whole family—my brothers, my sister died when she was 16 of leukemia. I think that getting up and going to work every morning helps me have a good attitude.
Your vitality and good nature are so inspiring. What’s the secret to a long, happy life?
Compromise. Life can be a little cruel, a little rough. But if you roll with the punches and think positive, things will get better ninety-percent of the time.
What are your hobbies?
Dancing—I used to pay a dollar a week to the Knights of Columbus club and dance. I also rescue stray cats. I don’t know why—I don’t even like cats. But when I saw how helpless they were, I said, “This can’t go on.” At one point I had twelve cats in my house, and no room on the bed for me because they took over. I was working with a shelter group; I signed all the cats over to them. Eventually, the group came and took the cats and placed them in homes. Now I just have two in the house (and four in the yard). They’re the most beautiful calico cats you ever saw. I’m trying to get help for them.
What’s it like to be the most popular guy in the office?
Everyone here is so smart—Ronnie has chosen some very remarkable people to work for her. She has some really good people here. It’s wonderful to work with everyone.
The Unedited Frank Anthology by The Writer’s Relief Staff
Frank asked to speak to me one day last year. I was a bit nervous because he rarely asks for a private meeting. I thought perhaps he wanted to slow down or retire. This is what he said to me: “Ronnie, I’d really like to learn how to send and receive emails the way everyone else here does.” At 89 years old, Frank was able to send and receive his very own email for the first time in his life.
Despite his height and what some people claim his age to be, Frank is a sharp-witted, sly ten-year-old. When I was first introduced to Frank, I was told not to believe anything he said. “No, don’t,” he agreed with a big grin. Bright and early, he comes to work cheerful to start the day and wishing everyone a good morning. It is a joy working alongside Frank. Every day he offers words of kindness, encouragement, and mischief.
When I first came to Writer’s Relief, I sat right behind Frank. Being my anxious and forgetful self, I forgot his name and kept calling him Fred. Frank being Frank was gracious and never corrected me. I very soon discovered that everyone thought the world of him. There seemed to be an endless stream of women coming into the office and giving him big hugs. Finally, I asked, ”Is your name Frank or Fred?”
“It’s Frank, but you can call me Fred if you want to; just don’t call me late for dinner.”
Another time, I came into the office and the light was out over his desk. “Your light is out,” I said, stating the obvious.
“It is? I thought I was going blind.”
His great sense of humor and quick wit make him a joy to work with.
Working with Frank is always an adventure. My favorite story to tell when I’m recounting the goings-on of this office to family and friends is of the wily old man who sneaks up on me at my desk and just gives me a nod or a wink. From that I know…it’s time to change some light bulbs. I’ll grab the ladder, and he’ll have in his hand three or four fluorescent bulbs, and we’ll be off to the races—exploring the forsaken lands of the file room or giving the gift of light to the Mancave and beyond. While I’m up on that ladder, we engage in some of the kookiest conversations ever conceived by man. Frank’ll tell me stories about his adventures in the park, feeding deer; his time spent growing up in an Italian household—and from then on the language changes and we’re speaking Italian, our own language for private comedy and joy. Some days work can be a chore, but when Frank comes around my desk, I know my day is about to get infinitely better. I know we’re going to take some time to bond over our common background and to escape, for a moment, to a place a little less demanding and a little more fun. I look at Frank and I think of him as more than just a coworker: He’s a grandfather, a brother, and a friend.
- Frank takes a few trips to the Jersey shore each summer to visit with old friends and walk the boardwalk!
- When I had leukemia, he told me about his sister—diagnosed in the late 1930s—there was little doctors could do. When she had a transfusion, Frank would hold up the bag for her.
- His younger relative planted some lovely green plants in front of Frank’s house—and took good care of them—turns out they were not “potted plants” but pot plants!
- And, of course, he is a wonderful advocate for the cat population of Cliffside Park!
- He’s talked about the difficulties of the Depression.
I don’t really have too much of a story, but I remember that on my first day here, Frank was one of the first people to come over and introduce himself and welcome me to the office. It was really nice and reassuring because I was understandably a little nervous about starting my new job; but after he did that, it put me at ease. It was a really nice gesture, and I think it speaks well about who Frank is.
The first week I was working here (while I was still quiet and awkward and didn’t know anyone yet), Frank came into the kitchen while I was pouring some coffee and told me he needed to borrow money. He was very convincing, and I felt bad, so I asked him how much he needed and then he started laughing, patted me on the back, and told me he was only kidding. That’s when I realized he was the office prankster (he might be 90, but he’s truly young at heart), and since then I’ve also realized that Frank should win an Academy Award for his fantastic acting. I really believed him, and I was like, “It’s so weird that this man is asking me for money at work…”
Since my first day at Writer’s Relief, Frank has passed down—well, more like partially passed down but mostly made up—crazy tales that leave us cracking up; he continues to brighten our days with laughter. I have never met a 90-year-old with so much pep! Seriously, if you saw the way he flies around this office, you wouldn’t believe it either!
I have fond memories of dancing with Frank at my wedding. Everyone was on the dance floor having fun, then Frank, the ladies man, grabbed me with one arm and a coworker with the other and, without skipping a beat, danced with the two of us. Luckily my photographer captured the moment! That picture portrays the true essence of Frank: a fun-loving man with a heart of gold and a smile on his face (except for billing time—he needs his game face to complete his tasks). To this day Frank reminisces about the great time he had at my wedding.
Whether I need a sympathetic ear, advice, or just want to converse about life, Frank cares and is always there to listen. He’s like my adopted grandfather. I want to wish him a wonderful 90th birthday and many, many more years of good health, crazy antics (not too crazy though!), laughs, and fun times with friends! Here’s to you, Frank! =)
It was tough to resist sharing a Frank story that ends with a dirty joke, but I hope this cuts it.
Starting a new job is always nerve-racking, especially when it’s your first real gig after college. No matter how comfortable the environment is and how inviting your coworkers are, it’s impossible to avoid those first-week jitters. Even so, having Frank at the next desk quickly alleviated my nervousness. He answered any questions I had in a light, sarcastic tone that removed my embarrassment at not knowing certain things, and his sense of humor really helped me relax in my new office. When things go wrong (which they inevitably do), Frank keeps our moods up and reminds us that it’s not the end of the world, which is usually exactly what we need. He’s always ready with a warm “good morning,” something that is valuable yet which seems increasingly rare.
90? No way! Given the mischievous glint in his eyes, the hint of a smile playing on his lips, the exuberant bounce in his step, Frank’s appearance belies his age. Not to mention his passion, compassion, and unstinting generosity. Perhaps above all, he’s our caretaker, in the broadest and best sense of the word: caring for us, caring about us. Among other responsibilities, he opens the doors to our office each workday and provides us with the equipment necessary to do our jobs, whether in the form of paper, pens, printing cartridges, or by offering an encouraging word at precisely the right moment.
His largesse extends well beyond the office, extending to the animal kingdom at large; for example, he’s a noted activist on behalf of abandoned and stray cats. Early this past summer while walking in a park near his home, Frank happened upon an apparently abandoned fawn huddled on the ground in the woods. Convinced that the fawn was injured, dying, or sick, he sought help from a park policeman and passersby. When he returned to the scene with reinforcements, the fawn was no longer there.
After hearing his account the next day, I mentioned I’d read somewhere that standard procedure for a doe is to lick the fawn to remove all traces of scent, then park the young animal under a fern or other camouflaged location while she tends to her business of foraging for food or whatever. Frank stared at me in disbelief, aghast, and stunned by the mere suggestion that it was ever okay for a mother to abandon her young, no matter how compelling the reason. Frank would absolutely NEVER do that. After all, he’s our caretaker, the absolute best!
I remember dancing with Frank at Pam’s wedding reception. For a man his age, he was really spry, I must say! He and I were the masters of the dance floor that night. It was also the only time I ever saw him dressed up.
I’ve known Frank for twenty or more years and the first thing that comes to mind is his willingness to help others no matter what the task might be.This last summer I asked him to water my garden while I was on vacation and water he did! Rain or shine…he wasn’t going to let my flowers suffer while he was in charge!
I wrote this poem after I heard Frank had a car accident.
It’s happened once before.
Sirens wailed their tune
as I walked up the block to work.
“It couldn’t be—
It can’t be.”
The sad music brought me to the scene.
“You can’t take him away from me—
I just met him.”
And I didn’t think someone I worked with
would have this effect on me.
But I had to continue
about my working day
as if that was going to work
in distracting me from the fact
he’s not here.
Where’s his greeting smile
and joyous heart—
All but locked up in a numb body in a paralyzing room.
I wonder if my actions tell what he means to me
how he’s like the grandpa
all the other grandpas want to be,
and all the grandkids are jealous
because they want such an incredible one like him.
I wonder if my heart will ever speak
before it’s the last time.
I was so glad he pulled through!
I’ve never met either of my grandfathers, or have even been told much about them. But I like to think that they were as lively and funny as Frank is.
What stands out most to me about Frank is how much he likes to make people laugh. If you’re having a bad day, go talk to Frank. When you’re first getting to know him, it sometimes takes a second to realize he’s not serious. “Want me to take care of that problem for you?” he’ll say. “I’m Sicilian. I have ways.”
He’s also a hardcore negotiator. Maybe the sales reps come to the office thinking he’ll be a pushover, since he’s 90, but they’ve got another thing coming. He’s always polite, but he’s relentless. You can tell the sales reps really enjoy working with him—everyone does—even if they always walk away with Frank having the upper hand.
Frank’s also got a huge heart—especially when it comes to rescuing stray cats—and the sunniest smile you’ll ever see. His good mood is infectious—an instant pick-me-up when afternoons get long. Writer’s Relief is lucky to have him!
After my car accident, I drove around with my front-end bumper tied up to my car with some rope. I tried to get it repaired, but it seemed that the world was plotting against me; every person I inquired was asking for an insane amount of money. Without telling me, Frank found someone who said they’d fix my car for less than half the amount everyone else was asking for. Thanks to him, I am now driving around with a stellar-looking bumper and some cash in my wallet. He is one of the most selfless people I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with. Happy birthday, Frank. =)
What I admire most about Frank is that he might be 90 years old chronologically, but that in no way describes Frank’s “real” age. Age is clearly just a number to him. At 90 years old he works every day in an office with people less than half his age, constantly battles with various companies for the best deals on office supplies, and is always trying to keep up with the latest technology, (e.g. email) among a various lot of other tasks he completes in the office.
Frank constantly keeps us on our toes in the office. You never know when he might enter the room with a one-liner that will knock you off your chair. Then just as quickly as he leaves the room leaving you questioning, whether or not you can really believe someone 90 years old could have such a quick wit. But it’s not just the work or humor that Frank brings to the office which makes him a special person. There’s not a day that goes by where he doesn’t ask me how I’m doing or what is going on in my life. All these things make Frank the special coworker, but more importantly the special person he is. I can’t imagine Writer’s Relief without him. Happy 90th, Frank!
I love working with Frank because he knows how to cheer people up. If he knows you’re not having a great day, he’ll crack a joke to make you smile. And not only that, but he’ll check in with you for a few days afterward to make sure that you’re feeling better.
I’m sure I’m not the only one here that sees Frank as their surrogate Italian grandpa, but does it get any truer than him telling you he’s putting you on a prayer list so you can find a husband?! LOL. Anyway, to say that Frank is a pleasure to work with doesn’t even do it justice. He’s given me the pen/highlighter out of his hand to keep on several occasions when I asked to use one. OK, in the scheme of things, it may seem trivial but it’s the thought that counts. But the thing I love most about Frank is that it seems like his goal is to ALWAYS put a smile on your face. He’s always telling me I’m beautiful, even when I don’t look/feel that way, which means way more than just a simple ego boost; you know that he really cares about your well-being. On top of that, he’s got a stellar sense of humor and an even quicker wit than me. (I have truly met my match!) One can only hope to maintain the level of class, intellect, and cheerful optimism through their lives that Frank has, especially at 90. Although I’ve only been at WR for just about a year, his impact and influence on me is immeasurable and he holds a very significant place in my heart.
I’ll never forget the first words Frank ever said to me. On my first day at Writer’s Relief, Frank approached me in a very suspicious manner, bent in close, and said, “Listen, everyone in the office usually pays me $20 every month for ‘Frank Insurance.’ It stops me from knocking over your stuff or turning off your computer when you walk away from your desk.” Bewildered, I sat and stared at him until he laughed, patted me on the shoulder, and whispered, “You’re a good kid. You’ll do great here.”
Now, whenever I see him whispering to new employees, I slide in afterward and offer “Frank Protection” for the low-low price of $15.
I have had the privilege and joy of sitting right behind Frank for the entirety of my employment with Writer’s Relief. No one brings more good cheer, kindness, and humor to the office—any office—than Frank. He’s quick with a smile and a joke, and never frowns unless he’s faking you out for a punchline: He’ll look sad long enough for someone to ask him why he’s so glum, and then he’ll tell you that Ronnie just fired him for spiking his coffee. Or he’ll walk gleefully into our room bragging that he just got a raise and now makes $3.75 an hour. He is superhuman in his ability to never be grouchy, grumpy, or anything less than delightful. And he watches out for everyone whether they like it or not; whenever I’m feeling too busy to stop for lunch, he’ll tattle on me to Ronnie so that she makes me stop to eat. And he’ll never own up to it—he just smiles and tells me he doesn’t know what I’m talking about. He’s a great ally to have and never hesitates to do anything he can to improve everyone else’s day. I think the world of Frank.
From all of us at Writer’s Relief: Happy birthday, Frank! We love you!