For the better part of the last 14 years, Win and Barbara “Bobbie” Frank have given of themselves to the town of Occoquan.
The gift of so much of their time and talent to the historic little town on the banks of the Occoquan River was something town leaders knew they could always count on.
When the Franks recently decided to move permanently to their second home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, many in the town of about 800 people were caught by surprise and saddened.
“They are the first family of Occoquan,” said Occoquan Vice Mayor James O’Connor.
“They can’t be replaced,” said Occoquan Town Councilwoman Pamela Konwin. “They’re a great team.”
“What I really like about them is that they are always ready to help,” said Claudia Cruise, the town clerk/administrator.
“They have done so much. They both have volunteered in the town since they came here,” said Occoquan Mayor Patricia Conway. “They will really, really be missed.”
The Franks’ involvement in Occoquan began as volunteers for the town’s craft shows. Soon, Bobbie Frank was coordinating the events, a task that was more of a full-time unpaid position than anything else. She did that for nine years.
“The average [town] taxpayer doesn’t realize how much they save because of the craft shows,” O’Connor said. With Bobbie Frank at the helm for so many years, the craft shows always came together with minimum clinches. The town garners much of its budget from craft show revenue and has maintained its 5 cents per $100 assessed value for many years.
Bobbie Frank soon took other steps to get involved in her town. She served on the Occoquan Architectural Review Board and she ran for the Occoquan Town Council where she has remained for the last 11 years.
Konwin, who is serving her first term on the council, said she often turned to Bobbie Frank for guidance and advice.
“I had a mentoring relationship with Bobbie,” Konwin said. “She has been very supportive and she is very smart.”
Win Frank had already retired from two careers by the time he and Bobbie moved to Occoquan. That didn’t stop him from taking on the job of Occoquan town treasurer in 1992. It was Win Frank who moved the town from paper ledgers to computerized records. He also did much more.
“[Win Frank] has been out grant man and our project manager and just a jack-of-all-trades. He served on the public works committee and the budget committee,” O’Connor said. “He had a great ‘can do’ attitude. We could ask him to do anything.”
It was Win Frank who did the work that enabled the town to receive grants to improve its Mill Street with brick sidewalks, gaslights and curb replacements.
It was Win Frank who also made the town’s new boardwalk along the river and its new docks a reality.
“The town is in as good of shape as it is because of them,” Conway said.
“They always saw things through,” Cruise said. “They are both detail-oriented people.”
“[Over its 200 years of existence,] the town has been through floods and fires,” Bobbie Frank said. “It will be able to get along just fine without us.”
The Franks said the decision to leave Occoquan was a difficult one.
They bought a vacation home last fall in Kent Narrows, Md. While their town house in Occoquan had a wonderful view of the Occoquan River, the water was not nearby. Their house in Maryland is right on the water and the Franks quickly fell in love with the view and their new neighbors, the abundance of waterfowl.
They wanted to stay.
“Even though we love Occoquan, we are ready for this new adventure,” Bobbie Frank said. “We are ready to slow down somewhat.”
If the Franks do slow down, it likely will not be by much. Win Frank has already gotten involved in a Queen Anne’s County, Md., committee that is updating its comprehensive plan.
Bobbie Frank has taken steps to continue her work with children in the Kent Narrows area. She has been an elementary school tutor through the Retired Senior Volunteer Program for many years.
The Franks said they plan to return to Occoquan often, especially when the second phase of the riverwalk project is completed.
“[Win Frank] won’t be able to stay away,” Bobbie Frank said.
And even though they left town last week, they already have promised to return to volunteer at the spring craft show in June.
“We are losing two great people. They both had such a vision for the town,” said Sharadindu Kundu, co-owner of the Garden Kitchen in Occoquan. “We will miss them and hope they do come back and visit.”
With budget season approaching, the town had to move quickly to hire a replacement for Win Frank. Linda Dunnigan began working as the new town treasurer last week.
The council is currently accepting applications for town residents interested in filling out the final year of Bobbie Frank’s term on the town council.
Staff writer Aileen M. Streng can be reached at (703) 878-8010.