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Jul 8, 2009 11:57 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village honors Bill Frankenbach

Jul 8, 2009 11:57 AM

Bill Frankenbach, the chairman of Southampton Village’s Commission on Veterans Patriotic Events, was in for a surprise on Saturday, July 4, during the village’s Independence Day parade.

He was on Jobs Lane announcing the floats over a public address system as they approached the reviewing stand. Before he knew what was going on, a bevy of local, state and federal officials surrounded him, and U.S. Representative Tim Bishop presented him with an American flag that once flew over the Capitol. Then Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley read a proclamation recognizing him and his wife of 56 years, Colleen, for decades of service to Southampton veterans.

And a big announcement was made: The meeting room at Veterans Memorial Hall on Pond Lane would be named “The Frankenbach Room.”

“It’s a very big surprise,” Mr. Frankenbach, 80, said Tuesday. He said he was excited, overwhelmed and brought to tears.

Mr. Frankenbach, who served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, has organized the village’s Fourth of July parades for 47 years. “My father ran the parades for 35 years before me,” he noted. His father, also named Bill Frankenbach, was a Marine in World War I.

Veterans Memorial Hall was originally an American Legion building, and Mr. Frankenbach recalled walking from school as a child to the Legion Hall to see his father there playing cards, bowling or having a cocktail. He waited tables there every Thursday night for four years as a teenager. He also played a cornet for the veterans. “They asked me to play a tune,” he said. “I wasn’t very good, but I was just a kid.”

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 said.

After the military, Mr. Frankenbach attended Cornell University to study floriculture and ornamental horticulture. For 39 years, up until he sold it in 1995, he owned William A. Frankenbach Garden Center on County Road 39, where Mecox Gardens is now.

Mr. Frankenbach is past president of the Southampton Rotary Club and the Southampton Chamber of Commerce. He is also commander of Southampton’s American Legion Post and president of the Eastern Long Island Chapter of the Korean War Veterans.

Brendan O’Reilly

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