Some people live their lives in such a way as to have little or no impact on those around them. There are those who contribute little outside of their own homes. This was not the case with Frank Innes, a resident of West Philadelphia who died July 13th after losing his fight to cancer.
In fact, not only was Innes adored by his wife, Mary and son Matt but he was highly revered and cherished by the residents of the West Philadelphia community in which he lived for over 3-decades.
Known for his cheerful disposition and sense of humor, community engagement, church participation and his willingness to always lend a helping hand when needed, Innes has made an indelible mark on those whose lives he touched.
“He was a ‘Johnny-on-the-spot’ when things were needed,” said Fran Byers who worked closely with Innes as part of the nonprofit group ‘Friends of Clark Park’.
“Frank and I both have been active with Friends of Clark Park for many years and both of us are past presidents of the organization.”
“He worked with me on a number of projects in Clark Park including ‘Bark in the Park’ which is a series of about 25 dog contests, and he has been an announcer for the contest for many, many years,” said Byers.
Oh, but that wasn’t all: “He participated in our annual Veteran’s Day Ceremony in November, he used to sing at the Christmas Caroling by candlelight in the park. He had a splendid singing voice; he also helped with the refreshments during our Charles Dickens Birthday Party every year – he was just an all around wonderful person who could always be counted on.”
It would seem that with all of his community engagement, Innes would be too tied up for anything more. Not so. Innes was a very active participant at Saint Mary’s Hamilton Village, the Episcopal Church at Penn where he worshipped and had deep roots.
“Frank was a longtime member of the Parrish,” said Rev. Mariclair Partee Carlsen, Rector of St. Mary’s Hamilton Village on Locust Walk.
“He was married here in the early 1980’s, his son was baptized here, and I’m really honored that we have the privilege of holding his funeral mass here as well,” said Rev. Carlsen.
“Just about every lay leadership position that we have, Frank served in. He was on the vestry a number of times, he was a warden, he was our treasurer, he was a bit of a historian because he was a history buff and so he would write articles on the different artifacts in our sanctuary and in our Parrish for our Parrish newsletter.”
Innes had a long reach in the community he loved.
“Ever since he died, I’ve met so many people in so many different realms in West Philadelphia, and throughout Philadelphia, who knew him through his involvement in the community whether it was Clark Park or the Boy Scouts, Neighborhood Bike Works or as a local committee person. He did just about everything,” Carlsen said.
Innes will be missed by many, many people but none more than Mary Brewster, his wife for more than 35 years.
During our interview I asked how she and Innes met. “That was kind of a funny thing,” she replied with a laugh.
“It was a sort of bicycle ride, and someone had told me that Frank had led this Christmas Carol ride on South Street, but you had to have a costume,” said Brewster.
Brewster said she wondered what kind of costume anyone would have on a December night in the dark.
“I took a coat hanger and wrapped some orange and silver tape around them and made coat hanger wings for myself,” she said.
Entering the party, in her custom made costume, Brewster turned heads – but not for the reason she might have hoped.
“I was the only person wearing any kind of costume,” she said laughing at the memory.
“I just remembered the look on Frank’s face. Oh, my God! I was trying so hard to fit in and, well, anyway, it was weird!
The two then met again at another party and, well, the rest is history.
Brewster said it was Innes’ smile and his voice which were two things she always adored about her husband.
“His voice, when I think about it it makes me cry. I love his tenor voice. It was just a beautiful sound that really struck me. I could listen to him sing forever,” she said.
“He was a guy who, you know, if somebody asked for help, he’d say, ‘Oh, I’ll do that’ or if there was an errand to run, he’d say ‘Oh, I’ll get that.”
When asked how she would like her husband to be remembered, Brewster’s voice began to tremble with emotion as she contemplated the answer.
“I would say to remember that he had a good heart. I think that about summarizes it, he had a good heart and it showed itself in many ways,” Brewster said.
The Memorial Service for Frank Innis will take place on Saturday, November 6th at 10 p.m. at St. Mary’s Church Hamilton Village, located at 3916 Locust Walk. 19104
Our hearts go out to Mary and Matt. Frank, indeed, was a wonderful person and contributed to the joy in many, many people’s lives by his kindness and by his involvement in so many of the events that take place in the community each year. God rest his soul, and bring Peace to his family and friends. - Bob and Claudia Christian, co-publishers University City Review and Philadelphia Free Press