Frank E. (Ellsworth) Elliott of Vineyard Haven and Venice, Florida, died peacefully at his home on Sunday morning, April 28, 2013 after a 12-year struggle with the complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was 82.
As he joyfully shared in his memoir, “The Fresh Kid – A Lower Middle-Class Odyssey,” Frank started life’s journey with humble beginnings in Hartford, Connecticut, to become a business leader, developer, entrepreneur, visionary, and all-around inspiration to his children and many others. With an impish twinkle in his eye, he filled a room, loved working a crowd, and shared his joy of life. Quick with the wit and a nonstop quest for knowledge, Frank loved to intellectually engage those he came in contact with, whether they were his colleagues or his kids and their friends. He never missed a chance to raise the bar in discourse or to challenge one to follow their own path in life.
Resident of Vineyard Haven seasonally and year-round since 1969, he was active with the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, supporter of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society and Vineyard Village at Home, and a lover of the Island where, until Parkinson’s made it impossible, he, with his wife, Stephanie, had surely walked every Land Bank property as soon as it became available.
Born in 1930 in Hartford, Connecticut, career moves centered him in the Philadelphia area. His six years with the Philadelphia Regional Office of the Housing and Home Finance Agency (HUD) culminated in his appointment as Assistant Regional Administrator finalizing Grants-in-Aid applications in six Mid-Atlantic States and the District of Columbia.
There followed 11 years with the Korman Corporation, a major Philadelphia builder/developer, in various top executive posts, years very exciting to him both for the challenges and the people he so enjoyed working with.
Then came a new career combining development with gerontology. As founder, President, CEO, and majority stockholder, Frank led the design, development and management of an early privately held Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) which included 300 apartments for older residents, 236 bed geriatric health care facility, 24,000-square-foot community center, and two small inns.
The health care facility included a wing designed, built, and decorated for the care and comfort of Alzheimer’s patients. Based on then new research, it was a first effort to achieve this at the local nursing home level.
Staff of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania joined him in a nationwide study to refine actuarial statistics on the health and aging of the growing over-65 population being served in CCRCs. Such refined actuarials were much needed if CCRCs were to contract with residents wisely for the long financial term.
In a further innovation, he obtained recognition from the Internal Revenue Service that a major portion of entry and monthly fees in CCRCs be deducted by residents on their personal income taxes as the health costs that those fees in fact were.
Frank tried his hand at politics in the mid 1970s with a run for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania’s Democratic Primary. Ever a trailblazer, his candidacy resulted in the liberalization of the State’s nominating process.
He founded and was first Chair of the Bucks County (Penn.) Housing Authority, and served as Commissioner on the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority. Uniquely, in the turbulent mid 60s, troubled by poverty and festering racism in an area of rundown ex-war housing held by disinterested absentee landlords, he persuaded the owners to sell, the Bucks County Government to buy, public utilities to rapidly improve facilities there and reasonable housing to be established. His name appears on a plaque there for this pioneering.
A sailor at heart, he taught himself sailing. He skippered a 1905 Crosby Catboat on the Delaware River, a “floating playpen,” when the children were young, and later a Soling at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club where his fellow racers often kidded that his ubiquitous orange wool cap was easily confused with one of the course buoys.
A lifelong interest in “show biz” included starring roles in college years in Hartford summer stock at the Oval in the Grove. He and Stephanie have been supporters of Sarasota (Florida) Opera for more than 20 years.
Amused by his own circuitous efforts to trace his family’s genealogy, he wrote “Chasing Asaph,” a tongue in cheek account of the effort to track down one elusive ancestor. That tract now resides at the Simsbury (Connecticut) Genealogical & Historical Society. His recent book, “The Fresh Kid” was written during his 12-year struggle with Parkinson’s Disease.
Frank leaves his wife, Stephanie, and his daughter, Krista, both of Vineyard Haven, and three sons, Brad with his wife, Robin, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Warren of Amherst, and Richard and his wife, Christine, of New Hope, Pennsylvania. Also much loved are ten grandchildren.
Anyone wishing to contribute to Frank’s memory may send a gift in his name to the Class of 1954 Scholarship Fund at Central Connecticut State University which he helped to found. The address: CCSU Foundation, Inc., PO Box 612, New Britain, CT 06050-0612. Alternatively, gifts in his memory may go to Maxwell School of Public Administration at Syracuse University, 200 Eggers Hall Syracuse, NY 13244.
A celebration of Frank’s life will be held at our home on June 15 at 4:30 pm. Friends wishing to join us are asked to bring a small potluck item and an anecdote or memory to share.