<< (Back) In Memory of Frank

For Frank and Mary


Wednesday, June 28


Words are a contrivance; at best a crude translation of life, death, sorrow, sadness, grief and loss. Trying to express the meaning of the sudden ripping away of Frank Giamartino from our local community and from the world at large, makes it clear how inadequate words can be.

There is no way to convey that feeling under the tip of my breastbone that has lingered since I heard the news of Frank's death over a week ago. Some might call it nausea, but I call it spiritual dyspepsia, and even Frank's well-stocked armamentarium of remedies will not relieve the discomfort. Time may help a little.

Although we have lost someone who has helped to create the identity of our community, we must remind ourselves that it is his body and his physical presence that will move on. That's because Frank, along with countless other caring and remarkable people, have become the glue that holds all of us together.

When that glue is well placed it hardens and remains forever. We will always be held together by Frank, because what he left behind is a hint of the nature of immortality, showing us how trivial flesh and blood really are.

We must all tell our Frank stories so that we can keep his spirit alive, because it is that unique spirit that will make our community a better place and the memory of that spirit will enrich the lives of all of us.

Frank and Mary came to the area about the same time that my wife Susan and I came here. Mary was the chief pharmacist at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and Frank began working for a local pharmacist. Susan and I both worked as nurses at BMH and we got to know Frank and Mary because of their theatrical gregariousness and because they were just such good and caring people.

It almost seemed as though they knew everyone in the community before they moved here. They have always been the kind of people that would never question the need to include everyone in their life, no matter their politics or any other worldly connection that others might consider an impediment to friendship.

As powerful a community figure as Frank was, he and Mary have always been a team. Good men and good women who weave the fabric of a community are interwoven themselves and to talk of the deeds of one without the other is a serious omission.

A number of years ago, there was a need to rally the troops to Montpelier to stop political action that was threatening local pharmacies. Frank and Mary hired a bus, a comfortable bus with a bathroom and plenty of refreshments, and filled it with supporters who were willing to fight for the cause. It was something they knew had to be done and they did it.

Frank and Mary have also taught all of us about our obligations as good citizens. I suspect that if you were to add up the money, free drugs and all kinds of services that they have donated over the years, that sum would exceed the current debts of the town of Brattleboro.

Their gifts have been more than the mere donation of goods and services. They are the kinds of donations that create community. All of us have the ability to offer similar gifts, no matter how much time or money we think we have or don't have.

Last winter, my wife and I cared for a terminally ill friend in our home. He was someone who was automatically enrolled in the new Medicare D drug program. I foolishly believed that the enrollment would happen the way it was supposed to, but I also knew that I could count on Frank to tell me if something had to be done.

Sure enough at 8 p.m. on a January evening, I got a call from Frank. There were a few details that needed to be tended to finalize the Medicare D enrollment for this person. I asked Frank if he was still at work and he said, "Yes, I've got to deal with these issues. People need to get their medications." He wasn't whining or complaining, and he was actually his usual upbeat self, although sounding close to physical exhaustion.

That phone call made clear to me, for probably the thousandth time in the past 25 years, the depth of Frank's commitment to people he would never meet, people he felt obligated to help, simply because he could.

Goodbye, Frank. At least you will not meet up with those who created Medicare D. They are in a different place.