Husband, father, fisherman, painter, poet. Born March 11, 1932, at Flat Island, Nfld., died Feb. 21, 2013, in St. John’s of cancer, aged 80.
Frank first spied the lovely Joyce Butt at age 12. She was 14. They were both returning to Bonavista Bay from St. John’s on a coastal boat. He’d had his tonsils out, she’d gotten her first pair of glasses.
Courting began a few years later: Frank would row his rodney from Flat Island to North Island to see Joyce most evenings, counting the paddle strokes – exactly 260. Their devotion to each other saw them through 61 years of marriage.
In the 1950s, life on Flat Island still meant no running water, electricity or indoor plumbing. But as Frank would say, “We did have ingenuity!”
The collapse of the traditional economy forced him to leave home to find employment – mainly construction in Newfoundland and Ontario – and kept him away for months at a time. In 1956, with two young sons, Frank and Joyce left Flat Island for a more stable life. They settled in Port Union, Nfld.
In 1959, with a growing family, Frank trained as a refrigeration/stationary engineer. That led to a rewarding career with Fishery Products International, where he worked for 37 years. He so impressed his employer that in the early 1980s he was sent to Norway, Germany and England to supervise the installation of electronics on deep-sea fishing trawlers.
Frank was widely read, had an encyclopedic knowledge of history, but adamantly refused to read fiction. At 70, he used his new computer skills to explore the Internet, sharing his discoveries with family and friends through e-mail round the clock. A gifted storyteller, he recounted tales of his beloved Flat Island at any opportunity, and instilled in his six children the same pride in their heritage.
An avid debater, Frank was sought out for his forthright opinions – the most unsparing of which went into family lore as “Frankisms.” But he was also an attentive listener, and when engrossed in others’ yarns he would enthusiastically say, “Yes, yes, yes, yes!” It became his mantra.
One of Frank’s most treasured pastimes was trout fishing. A true Newfoundlander, he also enjoyed his rum and relished salt fish and wild game, but was particularly fond of corned beef and cabbage. Recently, after eight weeks of radiation treatment (and the required strict diet), he said, “I’m going home now to eat a cabbage the size of my head!”
In the early 1970s, Frank’s older sons introduced him to the Grateful Dead. His younger children remember their father playing the song, Ripple over and over on Sunday mornings. Years before he died, Frank requested it be sung at his funeral. His son Don, an accomplished musician, performed a moving rendition.
Frank loved to recite poetry. A line from Desiderata by Max Ehrmann became a favourite: “The universe is unfolding as it should.” So it seems, Dad. Yes, yes, yes, yes.
Chris Samson is Frank’s son.