PURPLE RAIN

A FRANK FRISCIA TRIBUTE

I first met Frank Friscia in the fifties at Hampshire Country Club where we both were caddies. He was very sincere, forthright, and wore his heart on his sleeve. It was a great honor for him to wear his purple jersey as a starter for the New Rochelle High School varsity football team and catcher for the school’s baseball team. Frankie lettered in both sports and his athletic prowess was often referred to well beyond his graduation.

Frankie, an almost permanent 60 year plus New Rochelle resident, got to know almost every single street in the Queen City and, fortunately, for Thornton-Donovan School, Overlook Circle was one of them. Frank spent 30 plus years on the Circle as the T-D Summer Challenge Sports Fitness Director.

Frankie became every kids’ friend. My own three children and five grandchildren were all coached by him and developed a particular affection for “Frankie Boy.” Any T-D camper or counselor knew how passionate Frank was. His love of the Yankees was all too obvious as he knew every player, knew all the stats and could sight chapter and verse of any game the Bombers had won or lost.

Frank’s enthusiasm for life was contagious and his mere presence energized all ages. His finger snapping, hollow-fist drum beating, along with an unforgettable voice, were most engaging. He was also a very proud patriot and everyone who knew Frank was reminded that America was the greatest country in the world.

About ten years ago, “Yankee Frankie” hung up his cleats and opted to spend more time with his family including his beloved grandchildren. This decision was perhaps even more timely because Frank’s health remained a major concern since his heart attack at T-D many years ago.

Not so long ago, Frank did the unthinkable – he moved to Fishkill. This was a somewhat ironic choice because for years one of his monikers was Frankie Fish. The move allowed his wife, Ginger and Frank to be nearer his daughter and her family. It was his daughter, Nicole, who informed me of his passing, ironically on Valentine’s Day. While it was not, of course, well received it was somewhat anticipated.

Frank’s wake was held in New Rochelle and scores and scores of New Rochelleans were there. It was truly a purple wave. I overheard words from others that were exactly how I would have described Frank Friscia – sincere, forthright, honest, faithful, and a loyal son. I’d uttered these exact words 60 years ago when I met him: Frank was always Frank to the end.

Every time I see a watering can I’ll think of Frankie. For 30 plus years, in his beat-up car, he would stop on his way home from Thornton-Donovan to water the flowers at his dad’s cemetery site. Frank Friscia died an uncommonly common man and to those who knew him best, an infectious Huguenot icon. Cheer, cheer for dear old New Rochelle and may the perpetual purple light shine upon him.

T-D Headmaster Doug Fleming is the author of this piece and a 60-plus year friend of Frank Friscia