Gerry Frank would have been proud of the production, with one exception. It lasted well over an hour.
Thursday’s celebration of life for arguably Salem’s most famous resident, always keen to limit his meetings to more than an hour, lasted nearly an hour and 45 minutes at the Salem Convention Center.
Frank might have let this one slip, given the list of dignitaries who spoke and the Broadway show tunes performed at the end.
Gérald Wendel Frank died on March 13 at the Candalaria home he built in 1955 after moving to Salem to open and manage a large Meier & Frank store. He was 98 years old.
And as you’d expect from a man as organized as Frank, he left specific instructions for his memorial services, first a private one last month in Portland, then this public tribute in Salem.
The co-executors of his estate did their best to follow his every wish, with a few surprises such as “Hello, Gerry,” a personalized rendition of “Hello, Dolly!” sung by Aimee Amend, with lyrics revised by Stephen Munshaw.
About 400 people attended the celebration in the upstairs ballroom. The parade of distinguished speakers included former Governor Ted Kulongoski and retired Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren.
Just when you thought the next one couldn’t find a better way to encapsulate just how widespread Frank’s accomplishments were and how significant his contributions to Salem and Oregon were, he did.
“If Oregon’s love and desire to have a positive impact on our state’s history could be measured in chocolate, then Gerry Frank was single-handedly Hershey’s, Ghirardelli, Godiva, See’s, Moonstruck and, well, sure, Konditorei, all baked into one giant cake,” said Kerry Tymchuk, executive director of the Oregon Historical Society.
Frank was a WWII veteran and a Cambridge University graduate.
He was a fourth-generation Oregonian whose family founded the Meier & Frank chain of stores. He spearheaded the opening of his first branch in Salem in 1955, which brought him to this community.
Frank became a fixture in Oregon politics, serving as the right-hand man to U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield.
He then became the sole judge of a chocolate cake competition at the Oregon State Fair and the co-founder of a gourmet pastry shop and restaurant. He was also the author of guides for New York and Oregon.
He has served as a board member or director of dozens of community organizations, including Blanchet Catholic School, the Cascade Pacific Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the Oregon Historical Society, the Oregon State Police Foundation, and Special Oregon Olympics. Even when he turned 90, he still held positions in 18 different organizations.
During Frank’s lifetime, Tymchuk said he believed “no Oregonian has witnessed more history, interacted with and counseled more historical figures, or helped influence more history.” history of our state than our friend Gerry”.
Frank could have lived anywhere, but he chose Salem. And even though he spent a lot of time in New York for his best-selling guidebook and traveled to some 150 countries, he always came home.
Frank left a legacy that may never be matched. He was a businessman, author, and philanthropist who helped raise over half a billion dollars for various civic projects and non-profit organizations.
“If there was a project to accomplish, money to raise, or a bond measure to pass, he always took the lead in those efforts,” former Salem Mayor Janet Taylor said. “And yet he still did all these other things…
“Where did he get all that time and energy? I learned that the magic words were artichokes and chocolate. He ate an artichoke every day and chocolate every day. I tried and I continued to gain weight.
A chocolate cake from Gerry Frank’s Konditorei, the gourmet patisserie he co-founded in 1982, was served at the end of the celebration.
The lyrics of “Hello, Gerry” based on “Hello, Dolly!”
Hello, Salem, well, hello, Portland
It’s so nice to have you where you belong
You look good, bedroom, yeah, we’re not strangers
At the ro-ta-ry, and in particular
They get strong
And yes we all knew him and we all showed him
For he touched us with his light, one true friend,
So when you cook, brothers, make your chocolate cake, sisters
Gerry will be with you until the end!
Hello, Duckies, well, hello, Beavers,
It’s so nice to hear from us today
You look good, family, we can tell the family
That no matter what we wear
He would eclipse us today
And where the world has traveled yes it has dazzled
With his sweaters and his shoes over the years
So raise a little toast, bros, toast him coast to coast, sisters
Or-e-gon’s most dazzling pioneers
Hello, Queenie, yes, hello, Honey
Yes you’ll never guess, don’t be upset, you see
They built a big structure, yes a group structure
And they lit it, and they named it after… our Gerry
And the halls of Cambridge are singing now, the bells of Stanford are ringing now
Because an angel of us finally has his wings
So, my God, family, Gerry fly free, family
Gerry illuminates the events of paradise
“So that’s what Saint-Pierre said to Gerry as Gerry walked through the pearly gates“
Hello, Gerry, well, hello, Gerry
It’s so nice to have you where you belong
You look good, Gerry, we can say that, Gerry
You still shine, you still sing,
you always go strong
You see the harps tinkle and the stars twinkle
You’re never late just on time
He look sharp angels, tell him “no golden harp”, angels
Gerry will give us chocolate cake, Gerry will give us chocolate cake,
Gerry will give us chocolate cake, Amen!
Capi Lynn is the Statesman Journal columnist. His column taps into the heart of this community – its people, its history and its issues. Contact her at [email protected] or 503-399-6710, or follow her on Twitter @CapiLynn and Facebook @CapiLynnSJ.