I think you will agree: Dr. Rene Frank’s brilliant musical compositions proclaim his legacy. He was a sacred music genius. Shaped by a German classical education, forced from his native land by Nazi oppression, and fire-bombed out of his home in Japan, he, and his wife Louise, made their way to the United States and Fort Wayne Bible College. At FWBC, he intentionally refocused the upheaval, trauma, pain, and uncertainty of everything he had previously known, into expressing his newfound faith in Christ through 20th-Century musical idioms. In my head, I can still hear the concert choir singing his unique, Ho! Everyone that thirsteth; Come ye to the waters…
A great deal of what I know about living a fulfilling life, as well as the wonderful world of music, I owe to him. Though an exacting composition professor, and a no-nonsense musical mentor, he loved being a personal confidant and an engaging, caring friend. I, like so many others, was privileged to experience both the genius, as well as the human side of Dr. Frank.
Yes, the genius side literally rewrote the last four measures of my choral arrangement of the hymn, Man of Sorrows, What A Name!, an arrangement commissioned for the California choir tour. I had struggled for days, in vain, on those final measures. He did them in three minutes. And, when I asked him if it was wise for me to join YFC musical ministries for a couple of years after graduation, his wise, human side said, “Only if you plan to stay for five years. It will take one year to figure things out, and another year to just get started on what you want to accomplish. That gives you three more years to really do something well. Stay for five years!” He was right. I stayed for fifteen.
I can still see Rene and Louise on their evening walk down the north side of Rudisill Boulevard, heading for Foster Park and another opportunity to “smell the roses.” I can feel him sitting beside me in the front passenger’s seat as we drove to Bloomington, Indiana, to hear Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, as performed by the Indiana University School of Music. I can smell the sukiyaki as Mary and I sat across the kitchen table from Rene and Louise, chopsticks in hand, eating from colorful porcelain bowls they had brought with them from Japan, bowls we still have. These were the precious, invaluable, unforgettable, and eternally shaping moments that provided guidance for a lifetime.
Our last encounter occurred in the Lutheran Hospital cardiac unit. Dr. Frank had experienced a heart attack, and was propped up in bed on several pillows. He greeted me, as usual, with a big smile on his face. I think he knew the end was near. His greatest concern was for Louise. We chatted and prayed together. And, I left his room wondering if we would ever meet again on this earth. But, in my heart, I was praising the Lord, as I still do, for crossing my path with a very human genius, one of the most “significant others” I have ever known.