For the past several years, ever since that fateful day in 2001, when so many unsuspecting souls tragically lost their lives, I have come to associate, in both my mind and heart, the date, September 11, with such thoughts as that of "loss," "destruction," "grief," and most of all, "death." I really did not need, or want, anything more to be added to the haunting significance of this date, to keep its dramatic impact in the recesses of my memory.
But the specter of September 11 has loomed large once again in my life, with even more of a personal significance than ever, for this is the date that our little "Kingdom by the Sea" known as Pacifica lost its one and only "Emperor," and it is also, coincidentally, the date that I lost one of the best friends and colleagues that I ever had in this town. September 11, 2008 is the date the Emperor of Pacifica, frank d. winston, died.
For a man who preferred that his name be written without capital letters, his impact on other people's lives was definitely in big capital letters! The man in the wheelchair, wearing the crown, and with the deep resonating voice, was one of a kind. He was an out-of-the-box, over-the-top, larger-than-life type of guy. Frank, with the twinkling blue eyes and the million-dollar smile, was a giver, a creator. and a doer. He was the most able-bodied disabled individual that I had ever met. And although he was legally blind, he had more "vision" than anyone I have ever known.
I knew him for the better part of two years. Having been introduced to each other by a mutual friend, we hit it off from the very beginning. As my sainted mother would have said, "We got along like a house on fire!" His was a mind that could turn out 60 different ideas a minute! It was exciting to just sit and listen to his ideas and even more exciting to act on them. Our mutual interests, shared background, and political involvements made those two years some of the most intense times that I have ever experienced in Pacifica.
He brought me back into the Pacifica Democrats, after my absence of many years. He made me a part of the Pacifica Historical Society and introduced me to a multiplicity of adventures, people, and opportunities, with interesting challenges and even more interesting results. He was the mentor who was a "long time coming" into my life. That was my Frank. I shall miss him dearly.
Whenever I was asked to describe our association and working relationship, I would say, " I play Bailey to Frank's P.T. Barnum. We had so many things going on at the same time that it was like a three-ring circus. But somehow we always seemed to pull it off without a hitch, thanks to Frank. Together we put on productions, sold tickets, thought up marketing campaigns, sold more tickets, rode in parades, sold even more tickets, threw events for hundreds at AT&T Park, and hosted political gatherings for our government leadership on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and in the state Senate, state Assembly, and Congress.
Even though Frank and I had worked at KNBR-NBC at the same time back in the day as show hosts and producers, our paths never crossed. He worked during the day and I worked during the night. Frank was a lawyer. I was a writer. Our various career paths would not cross again for 30 years, and it would not be in big San Francisco but in small Pacifica that we were finally destined to meet.
Frank had a long and interesting life. He apparently never let physical problems get in the way of living large. Frank said, "I'm gonna live till I die." He lived life his own way, on his own terms. For a man confined to a wheelchair 95 percent of the time, Frank was the poster boy for Redi-Wheels. He went everywhere. Frank's condition never stopped him from being on the go 24/7. I could call to him at 10 o'clock in the morning and find him up in Sacramento, at 4 o'clock in San Francisco, and at 7 o'clock back in Pacifica.
But more important, if it were not for his being in a wheelchair, you would never have known that this bright-eyed, quick-witted, charming, educated man was operating with a body ravaged by the deleterious effects of diabetes. The disease, which would eventually impair the overstressed, weakened heart that finally stopped beating, had caused all his toes to be amputated, hence the need for the wheelchair, and also took its toll on the rest of his body, leaving him almost totally blind. But to look at Frank and talk to him, you would never know it. His spirit was that large and his mind was that great!
After graduating from Georgetown University Law School near Washington, D.C., Frank taught law at the University of San Francisco (USF) while working in San Francisco as an immigration attorney. He had a long and successful career in San Francisco. He was president of the San Francisco Lawyers Club in 1982, and the founder and commissioner of the Northern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. He was the president of the B'nai B'rith Bay Area Chapter in 2006-07, and was active in the Bay Area Council for Soviet Jewry for many years. (He once led a group of about 300 lawyers to the Soviet Union in 1972 to observe the Soviet court system and meet with Moscow lawyers.)
Frank could speak with the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the powerful and the weak, all with equanimity, and also with a good sense of who he was and what he wanted to do.
Frank's local involvements were so many that it is really impossible to enumerate them all, but I shall name a few: president of the Pacifica Democrats, host and executive producer of the Pacifica Historical Society's Channel 26 WAVE Award-winning program, "Footprints of Pacifica," the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce "2008 Volunteer of the Year," board member of the Pacifica Historical Society, contributing columnist for the Pacifica Tribune ("Frankly Speaking"), founder of Jewish Heritage Night at AT&T Park in San Francisco, producer/master of ceremonies for the yearlong 50th Anniversary of the City of Pacifica events, and Pacifica School Volunteers teacher to the students at Oceana High School, a job that gave him great pleasure in helping students achieve more and be the best that they could be.
Frank was all about tomorrow and what great things it could bring. For Frank, the glass was always half-full, not half-empty. In spite of his disability in later years, Frank lived for Frank and lived for others. That's the trick and he knew it. His life touched so many people in so many ways that I know there are people I have never heard of, and certainly have never met, who also must have shared a close personal relationship with frank d. winston. He had that type of effect on people he came in contact with. He made you feel as if you were the only one in the room when you were with him.
Frank's approach to life was an inspiration, a lesson in how to live and how to die. There was never any time for whining or bellyaching for frank d. winston. He took what life handed him, like a man, all the way to the end. Life really was a banquet to Frank and he partook of it shamelessly. He will be greatly missed by more people than I'll ever know. Of that, I am certain.
There is a saying that "he who dies with the most toys wins." In frank d. winston's case, I would say it is "he who dies with the most friends wins." By that measure alone, Frank is the winner!
Shalom, dearest Frank, shalom.