A Tribute to Frank from Pearl Hirshfield
So I will share just a few personal observations and memories.
We first met Frank in 1959 through our mutual friend and fellow activist, Richard Criley, who was living in Chicago at the time. Dick brought Frank to our house to talk to Hy, my husband, and to me about helping form a Chicago committee as part of the national effort. They had established the national Committee to Abolish HUAC the year before and Frank was facing time in prison for defying them.
A year later the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights was organized.
To say we were impressed with Frank is an understatement. Here was a man, sincere, warm, charismatic, who was dedicating his life to those principles most of us are only able to work toward.
Through the following years Frank's speaking tours around the country brought him to the Chicago area and gave us the opportunity of hosting a fund-raising event and great pleasure of Frank staying over as house guest.
Over time Frank became part of our family. We grew to know and love this gentle, kind man who shared tender stories about his children, his life and work.
We learned Frank liked lime (we had only lemon on his first visit) in his drink. We learned to wake him in the morning with a touch on the shoulder since he took his hearing aid out at night. Other than those delicate requests I don't recall anything that Frank took for granted. He was the best of guests and the most delightful. Our only complaint was the visits weren't long or frequent enough.
Frank called our home his "home away from home." I suspect he had a "home away from home" in every state in the Union. But ours was the most authentic proved by the fact that even his dog Pepper acknowledged it. When Frank drove from L.A. and visited our home in 1967 with his wife Donna and Pepper, (neither of whom we'd met), Pepper trotted in, took one look around and marked his territory -- on our new couch! Frank was mortified! The onus was on poor Donna when Frank turned and said, "I told you we should have left him in the car!"
Frank was a fascinating storyteller. Everyone who knew him knew how much he loved good listeners and we were the best. He would ferret out our interests, engage us in conversations about art, literature, music, whatever (he especially loved Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and dance music of the era) and somehow, invariably, and before we knew it, we were discussing "issues." I don't know how he did it.
When Frank was guest speaker at the Unitarian Church in Evanston, across from our house, the meeting was broken up be strategically placed agents in the audience, shouting, engaging in physical confrontations, and totally preventing Frank from continuing.
Imagine our surprise to find out one evening when Frank asked us to turn on the TV so he could see one of his favorite shows, that this show was a weekly series that glorified --- The F.B.I.!!!
But it was Frank's disarming honesty and passionate care for the ideals on which this country was founded, and his love and concern for others that set him apart. He was a true patriot. He will always be a hero to me and I'll always remember to have a lime in the refrigerator when mixing his favorite drink. Here's to you, Frank!!
--- Pearl Hirshfield