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Stacy Frank, attorney and daughter of Hillsborough Clerk Pat Frank, dies at 61

Attorney Stacy Frank of Tampa died June 25 at 61.
Attorney Stacy Frank of Tampa died June 25 at 61.
Published Jun. 27, 2016

TAMPA — It's difficult to summarize the life of Stacy Frank.

She was an attorney and business owner, angler and hospitable party host in her off time, and constant consumer of news and political buzz, friends said.

"She was fearless," said Jim Porter, a longtime friend and the attorney for the Hillsborough County School Board. "If she believed in something, she would rather fight and lose than give in."

Ms. Frank died Saturday of lung cancer at Tampa General Hospital at the age of 61. Her mother, longtime Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank, was by her side.

Ms. Frank was born on Oct. 8, 1954 in Washington, D.C., and grew up on Davis Islands, the eldest of three daughters. Her father, the late Richard "Dick" Frank, was an attorney and state district appeals judge. Her mother was elected to several posts in county and state government and is running for her fourth term as clerk.

Friends described the family as close. Ms. Frank ran her mother's campaigns for clerk until this year, when she had to step aside to battle the cancer.

"For them, family was everything," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a family friend. "Stacy was Pat's best adviser and her most ferocious defender."

Pat Frank asked for time before speaking publicly about her daughter's passing. But she said Sunday she will continue her campaign despite the family tragedy.

"That's what Stacy wanted me to do," she said.

In her own career, Ms. Frank was a Georgetown University and Florida State University College of Law-educated attorney who worked in several fields of law, including telecommunications.

She went on to start her own business negotiating leases and construction of cell towers, work that drew criticism from those who saw the towers as health hazards, according to Tampa Bay Times files. Still, the company was successful enough that it became her primary job, friends said.

"She was at the forefront of really successful women both as lawyers and business owners," Porter said. "For a woman of her era and generation, it was unusual to do what she did."

Ms. Frank, who was divorced and had no children, made an unsuccessful run as a Democrat in the 2010 race for Florida House of Representatives District 57. She also campaigned for Hillary Clinton in 2008 and, more recently, was involved in the Ready for Hillary campaign. Her insatiable appetite for politics didn't end there, though.

She watched the news and discussed politics almost constantly, friends said. Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen, who grew close to her during the Clinton campaign, said he would often field early phone calls from Ms. Frank with reactions to whatever was being discussed on MSNBC's Morning Joe talk show.

"If she was interested in something, you couldn't stop her from talking about it," said former Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman, who Ms. Frank, after too many early-morning phone calls, knew not to contact before 8 a.m.

Her obsessive news consumption fostered a passion for minority rights and a sharp focus on every level of government, which became the topics of conversation during many a party at Ms. Frank's south Tampa home, designed and equipped for entertaining. She would often have friends from all walks of life spilling from the kitchen to the patio to the dining room, where a pool table sat in the middle instead of a dining table, Porter said.

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She also spent weekends at her home on Anna Maria Island, where she loved to fish and relax on the beach. Often, she would return to Tampa from a weekend getaway on a Sunday afternoon. But instead of winding down for the week ahead, Ms. Frank would invite her friends over for a barbecue, Cohen remembered.

"That's the level of energy she had," Cohen said, "and that's the number of friends that she had that loved to be with her and spend time with her."

Times staff writer Steve Contorno contributed to this report. Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or kvarn@tampabay.com. Follow @kathrynvarn.