Frank Elton Washburn, Jr. was born in Greensboro, NC on June 24, 1945, to Frank Elton and Helen Vincent Washburn. Helen died when her infant son was only 8 days old. Helen, a college professor who taught Latin, Greek, and Bible, was much respected by her peers as a woman of unusual spiritual depth, intellect, and beauty. Frank called her “Mother”. He told me that the thing he looked forward to most was hearing his mother’s voice for the first time when he got to heaven. Frank’s father later married Dorothy Reed, and she became Frank’s “Mama”.
Young Frank excelled in school, both in academics and sports. He lettered in several high school sports and graduated with honors from George Washington High School in Danville, VA.
Next, Frank attended John Wesley Bible College in Greensboro, NC, a school founded in part by his mother Helen. He was Valedictorian of his graduating class.
While attending John Wesley College, Frank married Jeanette Williams of Greensboro, NC, and they had a son together, Frank Elton Washburn III.
Five years later, after they divorced, he met and married me, Sandra Paynter Washburn on May 11, 1973. We first met when I was a sophomore at UNC-Greensboro, and my roommate and I got weekend jobs at Pizza Hut. Frank was a task master of a manager and insisted on perfection in customer service and restaurant cleanliness. He earned the whispered nickname “Little Hitler” from his employees.
Frank went on to earn degrees in Theology, American History, Criminal Justice, and Respiratory Therapy, with teaching certifications in math and history. He has degrees from John Wesley College, Guilford College, NC State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
While he was studying for one or the other of his numerous degrees, Frank worked in many different professions: tutor, plumber, fry cook, repo man, construction worker, hot dog vendor, landscaper, and even biker bar manager.
Frank became a teacher and coach at Oxford Orphanage in Oxford, NC, in 1976. He taught various subjects and coached soccer and baseball. Here he honed his mentoring skills while working with these students. He loved the kids and they loved him. It wasn’t unusual to see “Washy”, coming across the courtyard with a child hanging from each arm, each leg, and several wrapped around his waist. These were some of the best years of his life.
I was an art teacher at JF Webb High School at the time and was often at OO doing art activities with the kids.
However, Frank always found himself most drawn to the restaurant business, primarily working in management with Pizza Hut. This preference for restaurant work was much to the chagrin of his father, who referred to it as “that pizza joint”. Frank often said that pizza sauce ran though his veins instead of blood. He loved the happy hum of a well-run restaurant. He enjoyed meeting and conversing with lots of different people. But most of all, he loved mentoring people, helping them become their best selves. His enthusiasm and humor were contagious, and people naturally gravitated towards him. He demanded perfection in his employees, but even moreso in himself.
Frank and I had Avery in 1982, and moved to Chattanooga, TN shortly after that. Frank took a management job at Pizza Hut and was promoted on a regular basis. By the time he retired he was an operations specialist for the company, doing quality control inspections of over 200 restaurants in the southeastern USA.
During his retirement years, Frank suffered from several debilitating illnesses and his overall health declined. Despite his physical challenges, he loved to stay in communication with his friends and colleagues through social media and email.
I was his caregiver for seven years prior to his passing.
Frank has two sons.
Dr. Frank Elton Washburn III is a podiatrist who lives in Columbia Station, OH. Frank III did his undergraduate studies at UNC-Greensboro, where his soccer team won three national championships. He later graduated from the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine. Frank is married to Jenna Sigafoose Washburn. They have three children who are the apples of Frank’s eye: Frank Elton Washburn, IV, Rachel Christine Washburn, and Jack Glen Noel Washburn. All three children are scholars and athletes.
Reaves Avery Washburn is an award-winning filmmaker and a world-traveling wilderness television producer. He graduated from Columbia College in Chicago, IL, then relocated to Los Angeles, CA, where he has produced films and television series for numerous production companies and television networks. He divides his time between Chattanooga, Los Angeles, and the rest of the planet.
Over the course of his life, Frank tried to maintain three guiding principles.
First, his faith in God and his duty to share his faith with others was always significant to him. He was an ordained minister who actually pastored a flock in the early years. Even after his career took a different path, he was always willing to conduct a wedding or a funeral.
Second, Frank loved teaching and mentoring people. He could spot the outstanding attributes in individuals he taught and supervised, and worked with them to instill confidence and proficiency in these areas. The many tributes he received during his illness stand as testimony of this.
Third, Frank loved physical fitness and tried to maintain his body through a variety of activities. In high school and college, he was a wrestler. he ran track, and played baseball.
Later in life Frank participated in martial arts, aerobics, and body building. He competed in the Mr. Chattanooga competition for 50 years and above. He was a longtime member of the YMCA.
Visitation is 4:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. Thursday, April 29, 2021 at Williamson & Sons Funeral Home. Services will be 11:00 A.M. Friday, April 30, 2021 at Williamson & Sons Funeral Home. Burial will be private.
Condolences and memories can be shared at www.williamsonandsons.com.
Arrangements are by Williamson and Sons Funeral Home, 8852 Dayton Pike, Soddy-Daisy, TN 37379.
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