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Richard 'Dick' Frank, husband to Hillsborough courts clerk Pat Frank, dead at 85

TAMPA — Richard "Dick" Frank respected the English language and tried to instill that respect into every person he came in contact with.

Even in his final days, the former district appeals judge gave lessons.

"A nurse misused the words lay and lie and he corrected her mid-heart attack," said Stacy Frank, a Tampa lawyer and Mr. Frank's eldest daughter. "He was just a vibrant person."

Mr. Frank, 85, of Tampa died Friday night after a long illness. His wife, Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank, said his three daughters were with him at home when he passed away at 10:25 p.m.

"He just kept saying 'I love you' to all of us," Pat Frank said.

Born in Detroit, Mr. Frank spent part of his youth in Washington, D.C., before he was drafted at age 18 to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was a member of the liberation force in 1945 at the Dachau concentration camp in Germany. "He never glorified it, and he didn't really talk about his time in the Army," Stacy Frank said.

But he did bring back a 15-foot Nazi flag from an occupied French city, said Pat Frank. "He shimmied up a flagpole to get it and was so proud that it didn't have any bullet holes in it. It's still pristine."

Back in D.C., Mr. Frank continued his education, eventually attending Georgetown University Law School, where he sat next to Pat Frank in a contracts class.

"He asked me, 'Would you like to study and have a beer?' " she recalled. "I said, 'Sure.' And he told me, 'Great. Find a date and come along.' "

The gumption intrigued Pat Frank. They married during Christmas break in 1951. After graduation, Mr. Frank practiced in Washington before moving to Florida so Pat Frank could be closer to her roots.

Jack Boggs, a local attorney and longtime neighbor, said he remembers when the Franks moved to Tampa.

"We were both lawyers and we had to take the Florida Bar exam together down in Miami," said Boggs, 81, of Tampa. "It's a lot scarier when you are four or eight years out of school."

They began working opposite sides of labor law: Mr. Frank for unions and Boggs for companies.

"He was such a good lawyer, so honest and so straightforward," Boggs said.

At the time, representation of unions wasn't very popular, said Jim Porter, a Tampa lawyer and Frank family friend. He believed in "standing up for the little guy."

Stacy Frank said her father once represented the waiters union. "We'd go the Columbia and all the staff would say ,'It's Mr. Frank.' We got great service."

Meanwhile, Pat Frank entered politics, serving on the Hillsborough County School Board, in the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate.

Pat Frank said her husband was devoted to his three daughters, teaching them to cook, hunt, fish and appreciate the outdoors.

"He was the one at home who held it all together while Pat was out campaigning," said former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis. "He was an outstanding lawyer and a wonderful husband and father. He helped raise three strong women."

In 1985, then-Gov. Bob Graham appointed Mr. Frank to the 2nd District Court of Appeal. His stern nature, sense of fairness and love for the English language colored his 14-year career.

"He was always very strong willed. He never held back and was very outspoken in his views. Of course, he moderated when he got to the bench," said former University of South Florida president and former state Sen. Betty Castor.

Retired lawyer Fred Karl said he remembers Mr. Frank as extremely fair.

"His opinion, even though it was against my client, was decent and fair," Karl said. "He was very much in charge, very stern and very intelligent."

Mr. Frank rose to chief judge and served on the state judicial disciplinary board during his tenure. He faced discipline of his own when he was reprimanded for lying under oath during a Bar complaint he filed against his former son-in-law. The ruling, stemming from Stacy Frank's divorce, was issued after Mr. Frank retired in 1999.

Pat Frank joined the Hillsborough County Commission in 1998 and became clerk of courts in 2004.

She said her husband's health declined during those years and a rapid progression began five years ago.

"He has been in ill health for so long," Castor said. "He was a strong guy so he held on for so long."

But friends choose not to dwell on Mr. Frank's 10 years of health problems.

"He was a brilliant, brilliant man with a wonderful sense of humor," said Thalia Potter, a former legislative aide to Pat Frank. "He was a man of stature. He served quietly. And he was so supportive of (his wife)."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

. Biography

Richard "Dick" Harlan Frank

Born: Aug. 12, 1926

Died: June 8, 2012

Survived by: His wife, Hills­borough County Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank; daughters Stacy Frank, Hillary Frank Aubin and Courtney Frank; and grandchildren Courtney Weber and Collier Richard Weber.

Funeral services: 10:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, at 509 N Marion St., in Tampa.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to LifePath Hospice and LifeLink.

Richard 'Dick' Frank, husband to Hillsborough courts clerk Pat Frank, dead at 85 06/09/12 [Last modified: Sunday, June 10, 2012 12:18am]
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