Faces in the Crowd – Frank Rowley

November 1, 2018

By Gene Bodnar

When Greg Rynearson and Al White announced in a video on Facebook that Frank Rowley was running for Governor of Michigan, I knew I had a great candidate for a “Faces in the Crowd” article.  I asked Greg to give Frank my phone number and ask him to contact me.  A day later, Frank and I agreed to meet at his home for this interview.

Frank Rowley

Frank Rowley

Before conducting the interview, Frank (aka “Oldugly”) gave me a tour of his three acres of land, where a branch of the Tobacco River runs through it.  Beautifully landscaped, the land consists of his home, which with the help of his wife Sandy and family, he renovated and expanded into a lovely home.  There are two additional small buildings on the land – a railroad themed “Reading Station” especially for Sandy.  Also in his shop is Frank’s “Pout Room,” which he built for himself.

I joined him in the Pout Room – a cozy, well-lit room furnished with a desk and two comfortable swivel chairs, lots of books, many trophies, walls filled with photos, awards, and memorabilia.  The room also contained a stack of oversized photographs, some experimental, many beautiful, and all fascinating – the results of one of his favorite hobbies.
Frank was born in Lodi, Ohio in 1942.  In 1944, the family moved to Clare.  A year later, they moved back to Ohio.  Then, the following year, they moved back to Clare – the place Frank has considered home ever since.

He attended Kindergarten in Clare.  Then First through Eighth Grade at the Pratt school on Eberhart Avenue.  In his freshman year of high school, he lived with his grandmother in town so he could attend the Clare public school system.  A year later, the schools consolidated, allowing Frank to attend school while living with his family again.  He graduated from Clare Public Schools in 1960.

Exactly ten days later (he keeps meticulous records), he joined the Air Force, commencing with basic training.  For the next 13 years, he was an aircraft mechanic and crew chief.  Over his career he was stationed at Pease AFB, NH, Biggs AFB, TX, Bunker Hill (now Grissom) AFB, IN.  Then he spent a year with the 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron in Vietnam.  Back stateside he became the Night Flightline supervisor for the 17th Bomb Wing at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH – a job he truly loved.  Unfortunately, the Air Force had other ideas and cross-trained him as a Logistics Planner.  Soon after that, the Bomb Wing closed.  (Hey, it wasn’t my fault.”)  He was then transferred to Offutt AFB, NE.  After a year or so with the 55th Strat Recon Wing, he was transferred to Headquarters SAC, where he finished out his career.

After precisely 20 years and 11 days, (he keeps meticulous records) he retired from the Air Force in 1980.

During his career he was privileged to have been in all fifty states, and many places around the world.  Everywhere he went, the met many honest hand-working people.
In 1975, Frank met Sandy.  They have been together for 43 years, and married for 39 of those years.

After his retirement from the Air Force, he decided to attend college.  He acquired a Bachelor’s Degree in General Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  Back in Michigan he completed a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at Central Michigan University.  (He told me that the MBA stood for “Mediocre But Arrogant.”)
In 1982, Frank became a real estate salesman, selling in the central Michigan area.  This was a job he held for only two years, and yet he was named “Realtor Associate of the Year” from the Clare/Gladwin area for one of those years.

After that, Frank enjoyed a few years working as a counter man for Seiter Electric.

Following this, Frank worked two years for Ron Kunse at Gateway Air Service.  (“Airplanes and Trucks.  Drivers and pilots.  That is hard to beat.  Makes me smile to remember it.”
From 1992 to 2001, he had a successful run as the Manager for the 322 apartments of the Canterbury and Oxford Apartments in Mt. Pleasant.  (The evening he left that job Sandy looked across the dinner table and warned him, “If you are under my feet more than three days out of any week, I can convince any judge in the United State it was justifiable.”  She’s way too good a shot, so Frank immediately started to seek other employment.)

A man of highly diversified skills, he eventually became a substitute teacher, now teaching for over 16 years in Beaverton Rural Schools.    He teaches all subjects to all grades from kindergarten to 12th grades.  He starts every class with a DJOTD (Dumb Joke Of The Day) written on the blackboard.  I listened to quite a few of his dumb jokes.  (And if you know him, you probably have, too.)  Each one of them evoked a groan out of me, sometimes something worse.  For example, Frank handed me a quart-sized canister that had cartoon-like drawings on the outside that consisted of trees all around it, with the heads of bats protruding from the tops of the trees.  Opening the canister, I found an assortment of AA and AAA batteries.  (Get it?)  Frank is so persistent with his dumb jokes that he’s even managed to open up extremely introverted classroom children to his sense of humor.

Frank is also a talented photographer, especially at digital photography.  In his small studio he does portrait work for a few special clients.  As I mentioned, the Pout Room contains many examples of his work.  One picture shows several girls riding bicycles in single file on the top edge of a railroad track.  Of course, this is a highly unlikely feat to perform in itself.  Even though the photo looks real, that’s not the clincher.  Upon closer examination the 12 girls riding the bikes are all the same four persons, just duplicated in perspective.

Frank also takes all of the official portraits for the Clare Police Department.  He assures me that he has not experimented with these (he keeps meticulous records).

Another one of his hobbies was Go-Kart racing on a national level.  From 1967, he has participated in both Sprint and Road Races from Ohio to California, and he has won many trophies to prove it.  From one race he recalled, he has a prized Second Place Trophy from a road race in Kansas.  In that hour-long race, the soles of his leather shoes were literally burned through from contact with the exhaust system of the kart ahead of him.

Frank makes and collects quill pens – the feathery ones that were once used by people like Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.  While a fan of fountain pens, he also writes with Palomino Blackwing #602 pencils.  Why?  They are made of graphite that is reinforced to prevent breakage; they sharpen evenly and easily; and they are made of layered lacquer for a smooth finish.  He gave me about a half a pencil to take home.  Since then, I’ve experimented with it, and I can see his point.  (Get it?  His DJOTD is rubbing off on me.)

Frank is also a sort of poet, but I’m not sure exactly what sort.  He says, “If life was more permanent, I would take it seriously.”  Here, I offer an excerpt of one of his lengthier ballads, which are usually written when he is bored while waiting for Sandy to finish shopping.

Rudolph the brown-nosed reindeer
Had a very sticky nose,
And if you would ever see it,
You would even say, “Eww!  Gross!”
All of the other reindeer
Used to groan and call him names.
They wouldn’t let poor Rudolph
Play in any running games.
Then a week before Christmas day
Rudolph broke a leg.
“Santa, I’m sorry, it’s so bad I can’t pull a sleigh.”
All of the other reindeer sobbed and cried, “Oy, vey!”

I asked Frank why he decided to run for Governor of Michigan.  He said that he is worried about partisan politics in this state.  Candidates are expected to spend way too much just getting elected, with many of them promising things they could never fulfill.  He believes that there are so many things that need to be fixed, and all that is needed is common sense.

For example, use public monies for public schools, not private schools.  He admits that he is not an expert in most of the areas that need to be fixed, but he would surround himself with folks who have proven that they can indeed fix things.  His whole idea is to “get the job done.”  Of course, some things need patching, but the ultimate goal is to achieve a long-term result that satisfies permanently.  He says that what is done should make our children and grandchildren proud of what we pass on to them.

I asked Frank if he expects to win the election.  He said, “Realistically, that would be highly unlikely.”  He would be happy to get one vote per county.  Better yet, one vote per precinct.  Ideally, he would like to get 2 million votes, because there are 4 million registered voters.  This would guarantee a win.  Of course, he is disgusted with all the money spent just on campaigning, so he is practicing what he preaches by keeping meticulous records of his campaign expenditures.  So far, he says, he’s spent not quite $8 in registering as a write-in candidate.

A man of many talents, Frank Rowley would more than likely make a great Governor of this great state of Michigan.  I triple-dare you to vote for write-in candidate Francis L. Rowley.

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