CELEBRATION OF LOVE AND REMEMBRANCE (4-7-2012)


FRANK R. (FRANKO) HARGADON
Franko would have been 83 on his birthday yesterday. He was born April 6, 1929 in Baltimore, Maryland, to teenage parents Alma Egger and Francis W Hargadon. An only child, he was cherished by his parents and grandparents. As a young boy he had a little white dog which he obviously loved very much. Every time we would se the Cesar dog food commercial with the beautiful little dog he would go “awww...”  He attended Catholic schools and after graduation from high school he worked at Johns Hopkins Hospital. During this time he took business classes at the University of Maryland and also became active in local theater groups.
He was bitten by the acting bug and in 1955 at the age of 26, he moved to New York City to pursue his dream of an acting career. He took acting lessons, acted in summer stock, and appeared in off-Broadway productions. I remember his talking about a musical adaptation of Alice in Wonderland in which he played the "mock turtle." He said it was great fun! I believe it was at this time that he became “Franko” - a stage name, as it were. He began to realize that his struggles were not getting him to the success level he had envisioned and expected, so he fell back on his business training and worked in accounting for several firms, eventually working in the NYC Board of Education. It was during this time (1965) that our happy partnership began and spanned over 45 years.
In the fall of 1971 he took a leave of absence from the Board of Education for “spiritual renewal” and spent the winter in Key West. I joined him there for the month of January (1972) and witnessed his rejuvenation on this island in the sun.
In the spring of 1972 Franko returned to NYC and helped pack up for our move to Tallahassee, Florida, where I had just been hired at FSU. Since he was at first unemployed, he spent time “fixing up” the house. Eventually he worked as an alcohol and drug addiction counselor at the Appalachee Community Mental Health Services, Inc.
In 2000, after he had retired and I had retired, we moved to Hattiesburg where he made new friends and expanded his “extended family.” After undergoing quadruple bypass surgery in 2002, he had some good and happy years. He came to love my family and they, him. We spent many happy Sundays with Benny and Willie Ruth and their kids and grandkids, and he especially loved Willie Ruth's creamed corn. He also enjoyed the times spent with my brothers Reggie and Ray. In later years he experienced  a slow decline in his health. Still, he was always cheerful and optimistic and never complained, although he suffered greatly in his last years. Among cherished friends over the years were Jimmie Clark and the Vardamans, the Imbragulios (George, Francis, and Helen), Linda Howell (the angel of mercy at Livewell), and his exercise buddies at Live Well - Charlotte and Charlie, Theresa, Gary, Michele, Betty and Tony, Frank, Modena, Miss Lucy, Judge Taylor and others I may have overlooked; Live Well staff, in addition to Linda, Tom, Christy, Jennifer, Ryan, Chris, Annette, Jeanie, and Brad. Thank you all for caring.    
Franko’s life was important because he touched so many lives and had such a great influence on so many people over the years, He is mourned by friends from coast to coast and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast. Condolences and memorials have come from all over the country.
Franko was an intelligent man - one of those rare persons who actually read and followed instructions. And he would try anything - when we moved to Tallahassee and bought a small house near the FSU campus, he undertook the complete renovation - inside and out - he replaced shingles, painted and even bought a sewing machine and sewed sheets into living room curtains! He got so good on that machine that he made us both caftans - all the rage at the time, and they felt so good and warm in that cold house! Not surprising since in NYC he had gone through a “knitting phase” making hats, gloves, scarves, etc.
Franko was organized. He kept up with his expenses by entering every purchase into his computer - and his checkbook always balanced. As a child of the Depression, he had to know where every penny went. He planned our weekly menus up to his last year and also did most of the cooking, including that delicious Sauerbraten which his mother had taught him how to make. On Monday we had pasta; Friday, some kind of seafood (probably from his Catholic upbringing); and Sunday was roast beef cooked his special way. The other days varied but they were always planned a week ahead.
Franko had broad interests in music, theater, literature, psychology, philosophy, and ethics. He loved people - he never met a stranger and he did love spirited conversation. It was as a teenager that his many talents began to emerge. His amateur (in the best sense of the word) efforts included writing fiction and poetry, painting, and acting, of course. Early on he loved computers and he spent many happy hours there every day, and he began every day by communicating through e-mails with our dear friend Ed Koehler. Franko was mostly self-educated (with a few years of college attendance) and was widely read in literature, psychology, philosophy and as a hobby he was devoted to science fiction. He explored Zen Budhism in the writings of Alan Watts. He investigated the world of Religious Science - “a correlation of the laws of science, the opinions of philosophy, and the revelations of religion, applied to human needs and aspirations." He was greatly moved by Leo Buscaglia’s “love everybody” pop psychology. Franko loved many kinds of music - Leontyne Price singing Puccini, Johnny Mathis singing Come Saturday Morning, and Judy Collin’s haunting melodies. He delighted in Stephen Sondheim’s musicals. One of his alltime favorite songs was Send in the Clowns. He loved baroque trumpet music, Debussy, Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik, and any Chopin or Liszt I happened to be practicing at the time. One thing he didn’t care for - virtuosic violin concertos - they made him “nervous.” In NYC we came to love the ragtime music of Scott Joplin. Franko’s favorite rag was Solace: A Mexican Serenade. The piece is a slow tango.
Franko was a compassionate man - he really cared for others. In Tallahassee in the early days of the AIDS epidemic he saw people suffering and dying alone with no help, often deserted by their own families and he was determined to do something to help. With a friend he organized the first AIDS support group in north Florida - Tallahassee AIDS Supports Services. They provided counseling, assistance, and education. This group eventually grew to include a number of surrounding counties in north Florida and is now known as Big Bend Cares, Inc. One PWA [Person With AIDS] he was counseling made a deep impression on Franko with his quiet acceptance of his fate. After the man’s death Franko was moved to write as a eulogy/tribute, the poem, Too Late. I would like to read the poem now. 


Some friends who couldn’t be here have sent their kind thoughts; and please feel free to share your thoughts and comments.
I would like to end our celebration of love and remembrance with these words of comfort from the Requiem Mass.
Requiem aeternam dona eis
  Domine, et lux perpetua
    Luceat eis.
(Grant them rest eternal, O Lord.
  And let light perpetual shine upon them)
Pie Jesu, Domine, dona eis requiem,
  Dona eis sempiternam requiem.
(Blessed Jesus, Lord and God,
  Grant them thine eternal rest.)
And from Shakespeare:
Goodnight, Sweet Prince
and flights of angels
Sing thee to thy rest.
Requiem aeternam, Franko, my dearest eternal friend.


--Dale L. Hudson, April 7, 2012