Frank was born in Fort Plain, eventually settling in Amsterdam. The particular area of Amsterdam in which Frank called home is where the story begins. Frank spent most of his life on the South Side of Amsterdam which at one time was an area filled with families living in a close-knit neighborhood. Names were well recognized during that time. The South Side in its early years consisted of many small businesses including markets, restaurants, shoe repair shops, a coal company, a feed store and even a freight train running through what is now considered a bike path.
Frank was the real deal of a person who appreciated where he lived and the value of friends. I might even venture to say that he was "Mr. South Side." After graduating from high school in 1941 Frank, like many young men from the area, decided to enlist in the Navy, serving his country proudly during World War II in both the South Pacific and Philippines. In 1945 Frank was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received. It was also during his time in the Navy that Frank showed an interest in boxing, reaching the point of receiving a Golden Gloves Award. After his service in the Navy Frank continued to box locally, becoming a well recognized fighter.
Frank not only dedicated himself to the ring but also to his belief in a strong work ethic and family values. Frank never stopped working from Alco, General Electric, Grand Union, the Green Thumb program, and Hill & Marks. It wasn't until Frank was in his middle 80s that he stopped working. It was in 1974 that Frank's wife Helen passed away at a young age leaving him with the challenge of raising a son and daughter. Again Frank dedicated himself as he did with boxing and working to raise a family. I'm sure it must have been difficult at times but Frank endured the challenge. The end result was in the pride of his children and their success.
One thing I've always admired about Frank was his ability to make friends. Most importantly were his South Side buddies. Whether it LaCucina's, Shorty's, Armory Grill or the coffee shop, Frank was there to share in a conversation of laughter with friends. It is through my encounter with Frank while sitting on a bar stool in Herk's Tavern that I took note of what true friendship is all about. We never discussed politics nor did he speak of any particular person in a negative way. No, that was never a thought in Frank's mind. Instead we would sit together for long periods of time listening to Frank Sinatra songs while sharing a favorite beverage. Suddenly Frank would begin to sing aloud the lyrics to "You Make Me Feel So Young." Frank knew every word to the song without ever missing a beat. Sometimes other friends would join in to sing but we all knew it was Frank's song. When it was time for me to leave Frank would insist I stay a little longer. The phrase he would say is, "One more, we go."
For those unfamiliar with Herk's Tavern it is a place that has existed on the South Side for many years. It's something of a place where everybody knows your name. If you ever watched the old episodes of the television series "Cheers" a man by the name of Norm would visit his favorite bar on a daily basis finding a favorite beverage waiting for him. All the patrons in the bar would yell out his name "Norm." Well, Herk's Tavern has lost their favorite person by the name of "Frank." Everyone knew Frank and everyone loved him. When Frank came in, the owner Flip would be ready to serve him. Frank would find a small bottle of OV (beer) sitting waiting for him. The connection between Frank and Flip became a special friendship that would last right to the very end. Of course Frank had many friends such as Rogo, Mike, Nickie, Vince, Felix, Joe S., Joe P., Nile, Angelo and on and on and on.
Frank also remained very active throughout his life by way of walking on a daily basis. I recall stopping my car on occasion and rolling down the window just to say hi to Frank as he scurried along throughout the neighborhood. It was only during his final couple of years that Frank was no longer able to walk and care for himself. However thanks to the power of a strong supportive family and friends that Frank was assured of the best care possible. The longevity of Frank's life and the love for his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, relatives and friends is what made him special to me.
It was about three or so weeks ago when I last visited Frank who was in the nursing home at the time. We sat together talking of good times with good friends. It only took mentioning the two names of Flip and Rogo that would once again bring a smile to his face. Whether my conversations with Frank were brief or long one thing was for certain in that you never left his presence without hearing those final words "one more, we go." You see, Frank never wanted anyone to leave. It was his kindness and friendship you couldn't refuse. It's now an empty barstool at Herk's but the memories will live on.
Well, here's to you Frank ... "One more, we go." A South Side buddy I'll never forget.
Until next time -- hold that thought.
MIKE LAZAROU is an Amsterdam native and a regular columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.