MIDDLETON—On Saturday, July 6, 2019, Roland J. Frank of Middleton, Wis., passed away peacefully at home at the age of 90 surrounded by his wife and family. “Rollie” was born on Feb. 25, 1929, in Cross Plains, Wis. He attended St. Francis Xavier grade school, Edgewood High School and UW-Madison.
Rollie had a 10-year career with the Milwaukee Road, beginning as a telegraph operator at train stations across southern Wisconsin. He was quickly promoted, becoming the youngest train dispatcher on the Milwaukee Road and was the chief dispatcher in Madison for all passenger and freight train traffic in south central Wisconsin. He loved the railroad, enjoyed sharing stories of the last great era of trains, and was a lifelong member of the Morse Telegraph Club.
As a young man, an illness landed Rollie in St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison. There he met the love of his life, Helene Baggot of Portage, a registered nurse. They were married in Portage, on Oct. 15, 1955, initially resided in Madison, and later moved to Cross Plains.
Rollie left the railroad to help his father in the family business in Cross Plains, Frank’s Market, a grocery store known for its specialty meats and sausages based on family recipes. He built the business over the next 20 years, which drew customers from across Wisconsin and Illinois. Rollie was an active community leader in Cross Plains, serving on the Village Board, leading efforts to modernize local governance and village services. He was a strong supporter of a new library (along with Helene) and a swimming pool for the growing community. He coached Little League baseball and worked with other businessmen to expand the league so more kids could play.
In 1977, Rollie founded and successfully ran his own real estate brokerage business, Frank Realty, serving residential, commercial and agricultural clients throughout western Dane County. He led the creation of Suburban Realtors, an affiliation of independent real estate brokers. He retired in 1997.
Rollie had limitless energy and many interests. He enjoyed his woodworking shop where he crafted beautiful pieces for family and friends. He built radio control model airplanes. An excellent cook, his beef wellington was the centerpiece of family Christmas dinners. He loved music, particularly the Big Band era, having seen Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and others in concert as a young man. Rollie was well read, and particularly loved history, biography and poetry. He enjoyed talking politics and closely followed current affairs. He believed in the great American democratic experiment, and the duty of all citizens to be well informed and participate.
Rollie had an incredible memory and a knack for sharing a good story or perfectly timed joke. He was a people person and a great conversationalist who could talk with anyone. Up until the last months of his life he kept his connection to Cross Plains, driving from Middleton on Saturday mornings for visits at the coffee shop.
Most of all, through his 63-year marriage to Helene, Rollie was a loving and devoted husband. He was a great family man, who deeply loved his children and grandchildren. Through his example, his family learned the value of integrity, hard work, kindness, and the importance of family. He will be missed deeply, and will be fondly remembered for the twinkle in his eyes, his laughter, friendliness, intelligence and wit.
Rollie is survived by his wife, Helene; son, Matt (Kay); daughters Gina, Eileen, Mary Catherine (John Neumann) and Liz (Tom Godfrey); grandchildren, Jennifer, Natalie, Grant, Michael, Andrew, Aubrey, Cole, Blake, Jared and Lauren; and sisters, Connie (Faust) and Winnie (Durkin). He was preceded in death by his parents, Joe and Regina (Valentine); brothers, Donald and Valentine; and sister Virginia.
A private remembrance will be held for the immediate family. Online condolences may be made at www.gundersonfh.com.
Rollie’s family expresses sincere gratitude to the wonderful staff of Agrace HospiceCare. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate memorial donations in Rollie’s memory to Agrace HospiceCare, 5395 East Cheryl Parkway, Fitchburg, Wis. 53711 and/or Middleton Outreach Ministry, 3502 Parmenter Street, Middleton, Wis. 53562.
“To my Children:
Be not sorrowful that I am gone
and my earthly life is done. Be not
sad I passed away; for in you I live
each day. There is a little of me in
all of you. So you see, I’ll never really
be gone; as long as there are children
to carry on. I’ve had my share of love,
sorrow and strife, I have lived a full
and fruitful life. So do not mourn and
do not weep, for I have earned this
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