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Brent Frenchak writes:
This story about my hero is about a very special person who has, against all the odds, persevered, stood strong and made it happen. My hero is humble, yet very dynamic; he has lived his life with integrity and led by example. My name is Brent. I now live in the Sacramento, California Region.
"Whatever a man's mind can conceive, he can achieve!"
-- Thomas Edison

FAMILY HERO:
HARRY N. FRENCHAK
by Brent from Sacramento

My Hero, My Dad 2007 (My Mother)
My hero is my father, Harry N. Frenchak. The most incredible man I have ever known. He has touched countless lives and I think of him as a quiet giant. His father was a steelworker in Butler, PA, an immigrant from Austria who was in his own right a hero. My father loves the quote by Thomas Edison and often said it to me as I was growing up: "Whatever a man's mind can conceive, he can achieve!" He would always explain, "Brent you can do whatever you set your mind to!" He has always believed in me. He lives his life by example.

At age 20 or so, with three children, my father had worked his way up rapidly to the dairy manager position at the local grocery store, but he knew he had a greater calling and purpose and set out to make it happen. My mother, Gloria, the most unbelievably supportive wife and mother, worked at a national insurance company as a secretary. One day my father went to visit her and ran into one of the managers. In conversation my father asked, "Do you have any positions open?" After looking at my father's application, the wise manager explained the situation like this: "You have a strong, steady and impressive work history, but no formal college education or insurance experience. If you get 30 college credit hours, I'll give you an opportunity to get into the company in an entry-level position." The manager went on to say as he walked out the door, "Harry, you come see me when you have the 30 credit hours, then we will talk further." I am sure the manger may have told many other potential prospects the same thing knowing that they would never go and get the credits. He did not know my father!

My Parents Gloria and Harry (My Mother)
My father did exactly what he had to do, in spite of having 3 infant children, working full-time at the grocery store, and on top of that having to make a 1 1/2 hour drive to Youngstown each night to attend classes at the college. Somehow he made the grades and completed the 30 credit hours. He went back to the manager at the insurance company who was very surprised to see my father. The manager was so impressed he offered my father the claims adjuster position. My father was relocated to Florida where he completed his BS in Business and moved up to the manager position. Before you know it he was working at USAA and we moved to San Antonio, Texas. I'll never forget that trip. We drove a 1962 Buick my father bought from my mother's dad for a couple of hundred dollars. We barely made it, but I remember, as a little boy in the back seat, the strength my father had and how I always felt so safe with him. At USAA he was the fastest moving employee in the history of the company. While working hard to earn his Master's degree from St. Mary's University, finishing at the top of his class, managing to be the greatest dad of all time, never once did he ever turn me away when I asked him for his time, even though he knew it would mean another sleepless night of study for him.

My father made promotion after promotion, finally to Senior Vice President, which was as high as he could go without having served in the military. At the same time, he completed his CPCU, which is a difficult insurance industry certification, equivalent to a Master's in insurance. He became president of the CPCU, served as president of the United Way, and was indoctrinated into Who's Who in Insurance.

He taught me everything I know. First and foremost, to live with integrity and consideration for others, always to give 100% to whatever I do no matter how small or big the job or if anyone will ever notice, because, as he would say, "Brent do it for you, because it makes you feel good to do the best work you can do!" My father retired from USAA and went on to be the Chief Executive officer at several large insurance companies where he continued to be brilliant. He saved the companies he worked with countless dollars and he saved many jobs. My father retired several times just to have another company which desperately needed his skills approach him; finally he made a decision to retire for good two years ago.

My Mom and Dad (My Mother)
My father has helped many people throughout his life; he is a devout Christian and family man. Never have I seen him drink or curse or tell a lie. He has always adored the love of his life, my mother, and has been her loyal and faithful husband for 48 years now. They are just as happy today, if not more, than the day they were married. They have been a terrific team, both super stars!

My father took me camping, was a scout master, coached Little League, taught me how to golf, and play racquetball; there is nothing I cannot do. I have seen him with tears of disappointment when I made a few terrible goofs, yet he always supported me and made me feel very important, always giving me the boost of hope I needed to get through the very tough times in my life. My father was gentle and demanding and I love him so much for not writing me off, but picking me up and setting me back on solid ground when I felt so defeated. My father has the best laugh and the sweetest smile, he was never political, always humble and considerate. He is my hero!

My Dad with my Daugter Jessica - Last Dance (My Mother)
My mother informed me just a few months ago that my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. I told her she had to be mistaken. I have visited them several times and just two weeks ago they drove out to visit me and my family in California. I was in tears and in awe of my parents’ strength, faith, wisdom and courage. My father hated going to the doctor or taking medicine. He has walked 4 miles every morning all of his life, never smoked or drank. He is unable to walk now and recognizes he has the illness.


My Family in 1968 (My Mother)
He is so courageous knowing what lies before him. My mother loves him more than ever, in spite of the embarrassment caused by some things the illness brings on that my father is beginning to do. She comforts him and helps him keep his dignity and independence as much as she can. My father will always be my super star and my hero and I would like to thank him with all of my heart and soul for always being there, for all he took the time to teach me, for his patience, leading by example, and his gentle sweet heart. My heart is happy with the many, many sweet memories and, at the same time, sad and weeping that such an illness could take my Superman Dad so quickly without notice. It seems so unfair, but as he was pulling out to go home and I saw him wave with that big beautiful smile and the twinkle in his eye, I felt him sending me a clear message that everything would be alright.

My hero, my father, will always be in my heart as the greatest man I have ever known!


Written by Brent from Sacramento
Last changed on: 3/30/2007

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