12/27/02 By BILL KOCH Daily Commercial Staff Writer
Wayne Arthur Frank, 55, boarded his 1998 1500 Vulcan Classic Kawasaki motorcycle a week ago for a scenic cruise east along old U.S. Highway 441 in the Mount Dora area. It would be his last ride. Frank, a retired chief boatswain for the U.S. Coast Guard, loved riding his motorcycle, crafting artwork from stained glass and cooking special dishes for his fellow employees at the Lake County Department of Growth Management, said Hazel Crawford, his mother-in-law.
“He was just going for a scenic drive,” Crawford said Friday. His motorcycle cruise came to an abrupt and violent when a car turned into his path at the Lakeshore Drive intersection. “It was sort of a head-on collision,” said Mount Dora police Lt. Robert Newsome. “He suffered severe head injuries.” Frank was flown to Orlando Regional Medical, where he died early Sunday from brain injuries, Newsome said. Police investigators are awaiting on blood tests from Frank and the car’s driver, Opal Taylor Mitchell, 56, of Leesburg, before deciding whether to press charges, Newsome said. “There will be charges filed eventually,” he said. The Lake County Medical Examiner’s Office, the Florida Highway Patrol and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are conducting tests and helping with the investigation. Mitchell, who was heading west on old U.S. 441, was attempting to turn onto Lakeshore Drive when Frank’s motorcycle collided with the front end of Mitchell’s car, according to police reports and witness statements. Frank reportedly flew about 30 feet after the impact and landed along the side of the eastbound lane. Witnesses told police Mitchell turned in front of Frank’s motorcycle.
Mitchell told police she didn’t see Frank’s motorcycle. No traffic citations were issued at the scene. Frank became a code enforcement officer six years ago for the county and later switched to associate planner. “He was a very loving and giving person,” his wife, Deborah Frank, said Friday. “Everyone meeting him knew he would do anything for them.” Frank’s wife said she has heard that some people will receive Frank’s organs. “We heard he had saved a few lives,” she said. Deborah Frank described her life with her husband of 29 years as “quiet. He was my best friend first. I don’t think (his death) has hit me. I just think he’s in the service and will come home sometime soon. We planned to grow old together. I’m a widow now, and I didn’t expect it. “Who does?” she said. Deborah Frank said she remembers her husband’s “dry sense of humor. He laughed at his own jokes.” She said they were planning to retire and ride together on their motorcycles. They had just bought one for her. She said she’ll never ride it or any other one again. Frank, an amateur artist, exhibited a stained-glass work of a boat during the summer in a county-employee art show. Frank’s family is planning a memorial for him 11 a.m. Jan. 11 at First United Methodist Church of Mount Dora. Frank was born and raised in Tawas, Mich. The Franks have no children.