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Dec 28, 2011 3:21 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Bill Frankenbach Remembered By Family And Friends As 'Colorful Character'

Jan 4, 2012 10:35 AM

Family and friends of the late William A. “Bill” Frankenbach filled the pews and flooded the doorway of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Southampton Village on Saturday to pay their respects to the longtime face and voice of veterans throughout the South Fork.

Under a cloudy sky and a light drizzle, Mr. Frankenbach’s flag-draped casket was lifted off a white Agawam Engine Company fire truck and carried into the South Main Street church as his relatives stood together, arms over shoulders.

“America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America” bookended the funeral service, during which Mr. Frankenbach’s patriotism and even his love of infomercials were remembered fondly.

Mr. Frankenbach’s role at Southampton Village’s Fourth of July Parade and Veterans Day and Memorial Day services, was, for decades, as familiar as that of the American flag or the National Anthem. The lifelong Southampton resident, who died at his Post Crossing home last Wednesday morning, December 28, at age 82 after suffering a heart attack, often dressed in a stars-and-stripes tie and patriotic socks, as well as his military regalia. The local fixture had a love of his country that ran deep, family and friends recalled.

“Bill was an extraordinarily special friend, not only to me, but, I think, to this whole community,” fellow veter-

an and village resident Marty Gilmartin said last Thursday. “He was a big man, and not just physically. He had a big heart. He loved his country. He loved his veterans. He certainly loved his community. But mostly, he loved his family.”

Mr. Frankenbach was known for having a bright personality.

“Every community has their colorful characters, and he was one of our colorful characters,” Village Mayor Mark Epley said of his late friend. The mayor, a U.S. Navy veteran himself, had befriended his fellow village resident many years ago through local veterans organizations. Mr. Frankenbach would have a tear in his eye every Veterans Day and Memorial Day when recognizing those who had served the country because it meant so much to him, the mayor recalled.

Born on February 21, 1929, at Southampton Hospital, Mr. Frankenbach became a Korean War veteran and the chairman of the Village of Southampton Commission on Veterans Patriotic Events and perennial master of ceremonies at the annual Fourth of July and Veterans Day parades in his home village.

“I don’t think people truly appreciate what it takes to keep that parade going,” the mayor said, noting that fundraising efforts alone must reach about $50,000 or more. “Just to keep that going is a true community benefit. He’s going to be missed, truly missed.”

Mr. Frankenbach and his wife Colleen, along with a few other families, actually took out mortgages on their homes one time in the 1960s, the mayor said, in an effort to ensure the continuation of the Fourth of July Parade. The Wednesday after the parade, he would host a post-parade debriefing on his porch, the mayor recalled. Mr. Frankenbach organized the parade for 49 years up through 2011, succeeding his father, William, who had overseen the parades for the 35 years prior. The main room of the Veterans Memorial Hall on Pond Lane is named after the younger Mr. Frankenbach and his wife.

Mr. Frankenbach was in the service from 1947 to 1952 and was a crew member on a B-29 and B-50 Superfortress. He was a radio/gunner, part of a reconnaissance squadron. He went on 17-hour missions flying from Puerto Rico to Alaska and back. “We would jam enemy radar up and down the coast of the United States,” he was once quoted as saying.

After the military, Mr. Frankenbach attended Cornell University to study floriculture and ornamental horticulture. He operated the William A. Frankenbach Garden Center on County Road 39, where Mecox Gardens is now, for 39 years before selling it in 1995.

He also was unafraid to speak his mind, especially on matters involving his country, those close to him recalled.

“He’s outspoken. He had no problem telling people exactly how he felt about things. He didn’t care if you agreed or disagreed with him,” Mr. Epley said. One time, for example, Mr. Frankenbach yelled at a man who had a George W. Bush mask on a chicken head, the mayor said.

Earlier this year, Mr. Frankenbach was the leading voice of opposition against a pitch by the Southampton Garden Club to donate 16 cherry trees to the village to line Agawam Park. Mr. Frankenbach argued that the trees would block the park’s war monuments and obstruct the view of Lake Agawam from the Veterans Hall. The club withdrew its plan shortly afterward, citing Mr. Frankenbach’s objections.

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Let's not also forget the "Voice of Mariners Football" for many years with WLNG radio.... Rest in Peace Bill, you will be missed by many.
By mother of firefighter (18), Southampton on Dec 28, 11 3:28 PM
Thank you for your kind words about my father.
By susan steinke (3), southampton on Jan 11, 12 9:05 PM
RIP Mr. Frankenbach.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Dec 28, 11 4:24 PM
RIP Mr. Frankenbach, you were an icon in the community. Thank you for all you did..........
By rjhdad (73), southampton on Dec 28, 11 4:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you for your kind thoughts
By susan steinke (3), southampton on Jan 11, 12 9:07 PM
Southampton lost one of its most patriotic people today - - William A. Frankenbach - - he will truly be missed by so many. Rest In Peace, Bill.
By Robert I Ross (250), Hampton Bays on Dec 28, 11 4:38 PM
The visiting hours will take place on Friday from 2-4 & 7-9 PM at Brockett's. Firematic and American Legion Services will begin on Friday at 7:30PM.

A Funeral Service will begin on Saturday at 10 AM at St. John's Episcopal Church here in Southampton. Interment with military honors will follow at Water Mill Cemetery. Memorial donations to the Southampton village 4th of July Parade; PO Box 1234, Southampton, NY 11969, would be appreciated.
By Robert I Ross (250), Hampton Bays on Dec 28, 11 4:39 PM
Bill was a valuable, involved community leader, businessman and patriot. His stewardship and active involvement in the Republican Party over 50 years made possible prudent, responsible leadership in town and county governmentat at decisive times in our local history.

A true patriot, Bill was a caring, active veteran with a distinguished record of military service. His was a life well-lived and he leaves behind a devoted family and a legion of friends and admirers.

Our condolences ...more
By JimmyKBond (156), Hampton Bays on Dec 28, 11 4:40 PM
Thank you for your support and kind words about my father.
By susan steinke (3), southampton on Jan 12, 12 10:10 AM
Rest in peace Mr. Frankenbach, you will never be forgotten.
By USCG_WIFE (6), Northern Michigan on Dec 28, 11 7:20 PM
I worked at SHGC for a number of years. He treated the staff with respect and that I remember many years later. RIP sir.
By joegti10 (8), East Moriches on Dec 29, 11 4:49 PM
Is this the gentlemen that was on WLNG every morning at 8:15 in the 70's and 80's, and owned the garden center and Christmas stonre on CR 39? Or am I confusing him with his father?
By BruceB (142), Sag Harbor on Dec 30, 11 1:57 PM
Bruce, this is the same gentleman.
By sandydog21 (195), Southampton on Dec 30, 11 2:14 PM
Maybe we can get those beautiful cherry trees at Agwam now.
By btdt (449), water mill on Dec 30, 11 4:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
So the Press writes an article remembering a man who loved his community, the United States Military and all our Veterans, and obviously gave back for most all of his life to both...and you find the need to write that???? I hope it made you feel better. Happy New Year!
By srk (15), southampton on Dec 30, 11 5:20 PM
Why not?

"He was also a tough bird who was unafraid to speak his mind, especially on matters involving his country, those close to him recalled this week.

“He’s outspoken. He had no problem telling people exactly how he felt about things. He didn’t care if you agreed or disagreed with him"

I'm a tough bird who is unafraid to speak my mind, too, especially if it involves my country or my community. I'm outspoken and have no problem telling people exactly ...more
By btdt (449), water mill on Dec 31, 11 10:33 AM
3 members liked this comment
Why not?

Why not is a matter of decorum. A matter of politenes, and respect for the deceased.

You don't go "tete-a-tete" with a celebrated man who has just been carried from his deathbed, to his final resting place. It's just not the time, or the place.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Dec 31, 11 11:08 AM
This article was mean't as a memorium on a man who has not only served his country admirably, but more so how he lived his life and howm he served his community. This was not the place to belittle the man over some damn trees. As a veteran mysself, you can take those trees and stick them where the sun doesn't shine.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Jan 1, 12 3:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
Really? All that Mr. Frankenbach did for Southampton & you write about trees?

Shame on you.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Jan 3, 12 5:42 AM
it's a reference to one of mr. frankenbach's more cantankerous episodes. he was a bit pissy at times. but this is not the forum for such morbid "humor" if you find that funny btdt. let him rest in peace.

lots of death in the paper this week...maybe it will be black with white print....
By em (51), east hampton on Jan 3, 12 7:47 PM
God bless you Uncle Bill. Thanks for everything you did
for our village, town and country. And to you btdt of Water Mill have the guts sign your name.
Jim Frankenbach
By JFrank (2), Southampton on Dec 30, 11 6:44 PM
My name is James Albert Frankenbach Jr. My Uncle was a great man who put his country and community first. To btdt, how dare you make derogatory remarks about a decorated veteran. You should be ashamed of your self. R.I.P. Uncle Bill
By James Frankenbach (1), Southampton on Dec 30, 11 6:49 PM
Jim its obvious that bltdt or whatever his fake name is does not know how to commend or let someone rest in peace. This idiot probably never served his country either and he probably was at Wall Street with all the other idiots, Mr Frankenbach did a hell of lot more in one year than this idiot in his whole life. Mr Frankenbach thanks for your Service and also Thanks for the Army - Navy game trips in 1979 and 1980.
By MACDADDY (49), SOUTHAMPTON on Dec 31, 11 6:55 PM
R.I.P. Mr. Frankenbach you will be truly missed!
By GASMAN (7), SOUTHAMPTON on Dec 30, 11 10:33 PM
1 member liked this comment
Oh, come on isn't his son, young Bill, going to continue the tradition just like his father did when his father died back in the oh was it the late forties or early fifties? Anyway Frankenbach's have done it for more than 75 years.
As much as we might miss someone we all know there is someone to step up into our shoes.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Dec 31, 11 7:33 PM
1 member liked this comment
Man, I remember when Bill would come to John Duck's He was funny, yet sincere and humble, a true East End icon. Still miss those Thursday Rotary meetings...Rest in peace, soldier...
By **HBQueenBee** (46), Hampton Bays on Jan 5, 12 11:16 AM
1 member liked this comment
This is great;
Z defending a Republican with uncharacteristic gallantry
Dummertime chiming in in her typical fashion with uninformed non-sequiters
And some guy in Water Mill wants to re-open the cherry tree debate here. (I'm against, we just got rid of all the overgrowth blocking the monument)

I hope Mr F is having a chuckle up there.
Peace y'all
By smacw (240), New York on Jan 10, 12 10:53 AM
1 member liked this comment
Y'know, that is just a blazing display of intellect. If you think for one moment I'm defending a "Republican", you're a j*****s. If you think "gallantry" on my part is "uncharacteristic", you are not only ignorant of my person, you probably don't know what the word means from a sociological standpoint.

Thanks for bringing politics, to a simple human issue of decorum.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jan 11, 12 7:05 PM
Look up "irony" and "hypocricy" in the dictionary. When you have, contemplate privately, and don't don't sully further, this forum on Bill Frankenbach's life and passing with your vitriol.
Thank you,
By smacw (240), New York on Feb 1, 12 7:48 PM