Batavia - Wanda A. Frank, 89, of Batavia, passed away Wednesday, (January 27, 2016) at Genesee County Nursing Home, in Batavia.
Ms. Frank was born June 5, 1926 in Lockport, a daughter of the late Albert J. and Dorothy (Bennett) Taylor.
Wanda was the force that revived Batavia Players, in 1975. She was instrumental in bringing dinner theatre to the Treadway Inn with a series of plays called “Pick Your Era.” The group earned enough seed money to be able to present their first book musical, “Fiorello.” Many more plays and musicals followed, with Wanda in a variety of roles, from Director to Producer to actor. She sat on the Batavia Players’ Board of Directors and held the position of President for many of those years.
A local radio personality, Wanda began her Batavia broadcasting career in 1967, with a daily show entitled “Frankly Speaking,” aired over WBTA. She interviewed local guests, often about the arts, and also conducted radio interviews with celebrities who were appearing at Melody Fair.
Throughout her life, Wanda was a champion of local theatre and taught many Genesee county youngsters in various classes such as “Saturday Stage.” She presented Career Day options at St. Joseph’s School, directed plays at Oakfield-Alabama high school, at the First Presbyterian Church and United Methodist Church. Wanda frequently reviewed performances by Batavia Rotary Club, Genesee Ballet Repertoire Company, Batavia Players and local high school productions.
When many people would consider retiring, Wanda embarked on an academic career, enrolling in Genesee Community College. She graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Theatre Arts at age 71. In an interview by Jamie Mash of the Daily News, for an article about a documentary featuring local seniors, entitled “It’s an Age Thing,” Wanda declared, “One of the reasons I went to college was to get a job. You can’t get anything without a degree. So I said, ‘OK, I’ll get one.’ So I did.”
In addition to her job at WBTA, Wanda held a variety of positions in Genesee County. According to Linda Blanchet, who followed Wanda, as Director of Go Art, “Wanda was an unyielding advocate for the arts in Genesee County during her time as Executive Director of the Genesee Arts Council in the 70's and early 80's. She worked tirelessly with County and State Legislatures to secure funding for the arts from her first office in the basement of City Hall. She directed many plays and musicals, some written by her, as fundraisers for the organization.
She initiated the Annual 4th of July Picnic in the Park which has been a hometown staple for over 35 years, bringing main stage entertainment to our community including the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Amherst Saxophone Quartet. She was instrumental in bringing the State funded Affiliate Artist Program to Genesee County, in which New York City based performing artists took up residency for a week and performed in various venues throughout the County. Many may remember popular tenor Tonio DiPaolo who visited many times.”
In addition to her Arts Council duties and on-air programs for WBTA, Wanda worked in the Sportsman’s Gallery at Genesee Country Museum, worked on the census in 2000, and was employed by Genesee Works, Inc. (formerly Green Thumb, Inc.) as a field Assistant, helping to find jobs for other seniors.
She also became a playwright. In 2007, Genesee Community College presented three one act plays, written and directed by Wanda Frank: “7th Decade Stretch,” “Peach Basket” and “The Last Rooster.”
Not all of Wanda’s efforts went unrecognized. She was the recipient of several awards The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce named Wanda one of their ‘Geneseeans of the Year’ in 1993. In 2004, at the Go Art! Gala, Wanda was honored as one of the recipients of the 4th Annual Community Arts Award. In 2009, Genesee Community College honored Wanda as one of four inductees into their Alumni Hall of Fame.
Despite being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2002, Wanda A. Frank continued to be a staunch supporter of the arts, a tireless volunteer, and an accomplished seamstress. She shared her talents and her time with youth, teenagers, adults and seniors. She touched many lives in the Genesee County area. She was one extraordinary, classy lady.
She is survived by a daughter, Denise (Lyle) Ritter of North Andover, Mass.; grandsons, Robert Howard (Sarah) Frank II of Dayton, OH, and Joel David (Mary) Frank of Lockport; great-grandchildren, Gracy Anne Shelly Frank, Jeffrey Russell Frank, II, Patrick Xaiver Frank, Connor Robert Frank, and Lauren Elizabeth Frank; a brother, Robert Taylor of Franklin, KY; a sister, Tanya Sherman of Bluefield, VA.
Wanda is preceded in death by two sons, Jeffrey Russell Frank, I, and Bruce Allen Frank.
There will be no visitation and at Wanda’s request, services will be held privately at the convenience of the family. Those wishing may make memorial contributions in Wanda’s name to Go Art, 201 East Main Street, Batavia, NY 14020.
Arrangements were entrusted to the H.E. Turner & Co. Funeral Home, 403 East Main St., Batavia. Please leave a condolence, share a story or light a candle at www.bataviafuneralhomes.com.