GARNER — – Carl William Franks, Sr., accomplished a lot in his 87 years, a large majority of them spent as a Garner resident dedicated to the town. But his son Carl Franks Jr. said two achievements stood out in his father’s mind: starting and growing Pop Warner Football, and driving the reorganization of a then-sagging Garner Chamber of Commerce.
Franks died peacefully in his home on Tuesday, April 22. The James R. Stevens Award winner and former town alderman left a legacy of instrumental contributions to Civitan, the Chamber of Commerce, Pop Warner Football and the Trojan Club to go along with his legacy as husband, father and grandfather.
Franks also served as the first police commissioner for Garner.
“When I was growing up, my father was very involved in a lot of civic organizations,” Franks’ daughter Connie Hawley said. “He was very community-minded, and he really liked helping others. If he saw something that needed to be done, if he wasn’t physically able to do it, he’d find someone who could do it.”
Franks’ post-Army careers ranged widely. He initially worked at the Old Ambassador Theater and Palace Theater in Raleigh. Later he and a neighbor ran a business called American Home Products, which sold household items like awnings and fixtures.
He worked for the state in the property management division for a stretch, and then T.O. Creech Concrete (curb and gutter construction). After Tom Creech became ill and died, he went to work for Wake County Schools, running special projects for the planning and facilities management division.
But it was his unpaid work for which most in Garner knew him best.
A servant’s life
“If there was opportunity to serve this town, he was there,” said Mayor Ronnie Williams. “Carl loved this town because he knew as I’ve always said if you’re good to your town your town’s going to be good to you.”
Franks had moved to Garner in 1955, the same year he married his wife of nearly 59 years, Marie Russel Franks. He quickly became a part of the local scene. He helped found Civitan in 1959 and remained an active member for decades, and became an alderman in 1961, where he served two terms until 1969.
Around 1970 he began to spearhead a movement to revive the Garner Chamber of Commerce, which Williams noted had seen weak participation. The chamber, he said, is what it is today because of Franks.
“Carl never took no for a answer,” Williams said. “And he and Tom Creech were able in those days to cling to the chamber concept, keep the chamber alive and sort of rebuild it.”
While helping adults connect through the chamber and helping others in the community as key founder of Civitan, Carl Jr. noted his father’s contributions to younger Garnerites especially through sports.
“I know that he enjoyed people. He enjoyed his relationships with people,” Carl Jr. said.
Carl Jr. took part in one of the organizations his father founded, and that organization proved a catalyst for what became his life’s work. He gravitated toward football early as he grew up in Garner, and would later play at Garner High School and Duke University. He would bounce around as an assistant coach including stops at Duke and Florida before a head coaching stint at Duke. He later worked as an assistant at South Florida for nearly a decade and is now coaching at Bethune-Cookman.
“When you know the energy, the time and the caring he put into Pop Warner Football...that was something in which he took tremendous pride,” Carl Jr. said. “He gave a lot more young kids an opportunity to experience organized team activities and all the great lessons that come along with that: teamwork, hard work, dedication (and) commitment to a task.”
In addition to Pop Warner, he also helped start the Trojan Club, the booster for Garner High School football and other athletics.
When he wasn’t working or pouring himself into the town, Franks liked to play golf, fish, play bridge and take his family to Atlantic Beach. He also read, and although he didn’t get to go to college, his brainpower impressed both of his children.
“Everything I say is extraordinarily prejudiced,” Carl Jr. said. “But he was one of the smarter people I knew. He was able to do a lot of different things. He was able to learn what was needed to get the job done. Always fascinating to me was his intellect.”
A Raleigh native who grew up on Old Wake Forest Road, Franks joined the Army in 1952 and served in the Korean War. Like most of his generation, Carl Jr. said, he spoke little of that experience.
“That is the generation. They did not discuss a whole lot of their experience. Nor did they complain about a lot in their life,” Carl Jr. said.
Hawley, his daughter, remembered her father as very dedicated to providing for his family. He did more of the same when his wife suffered a stroke.
He also brought a sense of humor, she said. He was even somewhat of a practical joker. Hawley recalled him pulling her husband’s chain on the phone and giving his grandson a book for Christmas that shocked him when he opened it.
“Family was a huge part of him,” Hawley said. “Caring, supporting, just being there. It was a wonderful example for me to follow.”
In addition to his wife and two children, Franks is also survived by six grandchildren.
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