Keep the fire burning here until we all come back next year.
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20 years, almost a generation later, we will be gathering together once again, to celebrate Frankie’s life; or more importantly, to celebrate what Frankie’s life means to us, through his loving and generous parents, Kelly and Jim, his brother and sister in law, Jimmy and Melissa, his God mother, Emily Gates, his extended family and friends.
The music will be flowing, the laughs genuine, the hugs warm, the smiles bright; the tradition of giving and gifting will continue to rise above the pain that must have been so great then; and hopefully, just a twinge here and there now after great work done in remembrance of him and much friendship built through another lifetime.
A Club Nobody Wants to Belong To
I read Kelly’s comment about the Newtown tragedy – “this is a club nobody wants to belong to” – and felt the pain that must have been.
Sitting down with Kelly, I thought this mother would tell me how she felt when the world crashed down on her and her family.
Instead, Kelly was on a mission to thank the ones who pulled her family through and to share with others about how she survived the most unimaginable pain one can ever encounter, the loss of her son, so prematurely!
This is even more important to her on this day when the country grieved for the tragic, violent loss of innocent, young lives in Newtown; and close to home, the tragic loss of Alec Jocob Torchon, who died accidentally of mixing alcohol and drug.
Kelly shared how the daily calls from Jerry Beemiller, another parent who suffered the horrific pain, right after Frankie’s passing helped them learn how to put one foot in front of the other to find the way out of darkness.
For Kelly, reaching out to others who suffered so much and who is in the same club just as others who had reached out to her is one important way to continue Frankie's legacy.
This is not an unimaginable pain, this is a pain that nobody ever imagines
If not for Frankie’s father, Jim Poulos, Kelly’s beloved husband and life partner, Kelly said she would not have been able to climb out the black hole. She described how Jim, trying to figure out how this tragic accident could have been prevented, put all his energy into campaigning for, and eventually, the completion of building of the divider along highway 37.
Averaging 7 deaths annually, crossover fatal collisions have ceased in the ‘Blood Alley’ stretch of highway 37 since the completion of the divider. I say a prayer for Frankie and his parents every time I drive along that picturesque but was also murderous stretch of highway.
Believing Starts When We Are Young
“Someday I hope to have a major positive influence on people and share all the love I have received.” – Frankie Poulos
Kelly talked about Frankie’s best friend, Austin Wondolowski; how as a young man, he stood by Frankie’s family; and throughout the years, to remember and honor Frankie. As a founding member of Frankie Poulos Foundation, he helped Frankie live his dream.
She is grateful of Frankie’s Tree at Novato Youth Center which lights up each Christmas to start Frankie’s season. She talked about how Josh Reed, a high schooler years ago, and now the Facility manager at Novato Youth Center, established a personal connection to Frankie through his mother, Veronica, and has become the guardian of Frankie's Tree for the past years.
She talked about the young kids in Sinaloa Middle School, led by their teacher, Janet Lucas, arranged for the teddy bear drive for the Novato Human Needs Center’s kids’ shopping day, year in and year out. Having youngsters remembering Frankie while doing good deeds is extremely fulfilling to Frankie’s family.
The annual gathering of friends, family, young and now grown musicians and students at Frankie’s night, celebrating with gatherings, stories and music keep Frankie’s memory alive and bring tremendous joy to Frankie and his loved ones.
Having survived this, Kelly makes a point of sharing and giving back. She was amazed by Ric Torchon, father of Alec Tochon, for starting the Alec Torchon Foundation to educate youth and their families on the deadly consequences of alcohol and drug use. Kelly reached out to his family, hopefully to do what Jerry did for them, to provide support and help ease the pain from a fellow club member.
Afraid to ask, but I did: ”I always wonder how you feel when people ask you about Frankie?” It’s almost an untouchable subject for me when I see her.
Amazingly, Kelly said time and being able to give back and share helped tremendously throughout the year. There used to be only pain, but now they are able to remember Frankie for what he was, kind, fun, talented, energetic and mischievous teenager just like any other teenager.
Love has always been there, but life and laugher are back
Kelly and I marveled at how she seems to be able to find so many kind-hearted people to help them through the challenges in life. We figured that charitable hearts are like magnets that attract - we surround ourselves with people who are just like us.
Through the loving expanded family, close circle of friends, the supportive community and the good deeds done through Frankie Poulos Foundation, Frankie’s loved ones are able to live again with triumph, love and laughter!
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Keep the fire burning here Until we all come back next year