Frank Batchelder – 90 Years Young and Still Giving Back
Born July 22, 1922, in Orange, NJ, Francis “Frank” Batchelder was the oldest of three children. When Frank was only 15 his father died unexpectedly, leaving the family in a precarious financial situation. Without any family income the bank foreclosed on their home and his mother was forced to place the children with family, friends and a foster home until she could get on more solid financial footing. Frank remembers the kindness of a local scoutmaster as well as the nearby Presbyterian Church and YMCA, all of whom assisted his family: it’s a lesson in helping others that Frank was to remember throughout his life.
Upon graduating from high school, Frank began college at Cornell University in 1941. Within two months, the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor dragged our nation into war – including Frank and thousands of other young men and women. Frank enlisted in the Navy See Bees, a division involved with naval construction efforts. After an assignment in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Frank was placed in the V-12 engineering program at the University of Michigan. Upon completing those studies in 1943, Frank was commissioned an ensign and spent his final tour of duty on the Eniwetok Island in the Pacific, involved with additional testing of the atomic bomb after its use in 1945. Leaving the service in 1946, Frank returned to Ann Arbor and completed his BS in Engineering.
Then Frank headed back east. His first job was as an engineer/geologist with the C.W. Lauman Co., the largest water well driller in southern New York. Frank remembers being a bit lonely at that time so he became active at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, pastored by George Buttrick, one of the great preachers of that era. His Christian faith was ignited at this time and has continued throughout his life.
Frank’s next career move was with American Cyanamid Company where he was head of the water supply department for its large Lederle Labs campus in Pearl River, NY. While at a company picnic, he met Kitty Richards, a veterinarian tech in the research department. After dating several months, the young couple became engaged and then married on September 15, 1951. This year they will celebrate their 62nd wedding anniversary!
Frank and Kitty settled into the Pearl River community, building a home and getting involved with the local Lutheran Church. There they stayed for the next 30 years, raising two children, Susan, now a real estate professional in Alexandria, Virginia, and Tom, now an administrator at Harvard University. American Cyanamid continued to promote Frank. He commuted for ten years to their Manhattan office as part of their engineering department. Next it was on to Croll-Reynolds Engineering Company in the role of Chief Engineer, working closely with American Electric Power (AEP), one of the firm’s top clients.
In 1971, AEP came beckoning – asking Frank to join a new environmental engineering department where Frank helped grow the department and lead their compliance efforts under the new Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. When AEP announced in 1980 that it was moving its headquarters to Columbus, OH, it was clear that the Batchelders were about to start a new chapter in their lives. After a short company assignment in Canton, they moved to Columbus in 1984 where Frank finished his career as a senior staff engineer with the same environmental engineering department he had helped establish back in ’71.
Retiring in 1987, at the age of 65, Frank transitioned quickly into his second career – that of volunteer extraordinaire. It began modestly. His first job was to chair the annual stewardship campaign at his and Kitty’s church, North Broadway United Methodist Church, where the campaign set a record for annual member pledges. From there he served three years on the church’s board of trustees, followed by three years on its investment committee which had oversight responsibilities for the church’s endowment funds. He served on the Memorials Club, and he and Kitty became active in the church’s Couples Club. With many of those friends they began an active period of travel – wintering in Destin, Florida for 15 years and taking 7 trips to Europe as part of Educational Opportunities Travel.
Moving to Wesley Glen Retirement Community in 2004, Frank and Kitty quickly became a center of the social and volunteer life there. A computer geek at heart, Frank soon was asked to oversee Wesley Glen’s four computers available to residents, and he gladly helped residents with their own personal computers. He also has served on the Workshop Committee comprised of residents that use the center’s woodworking shop to fix small furniture and appliances for fellow residents. A member of the Resident Welcoming Committee, Frank educates new residents about Wesley Glen and the many activities and services it offers. As part of the Education Committee, Frank has helped organize outside speakers to address a variety of topics to the residents (travel, finance, history, etc.), and as a member of the Marketing Committee, Frank often is helping host lunches and other special events for prospective residents. Two years ago Wesley Glen management asked Frank to serve on a residents’ advisory task force to help design and equip their new Wellness Center.
Always on the lookout for activities to stimulate his ongoing thirst for learning and serving, Frank is active in the Westerville Senior Center where he assists the Computer Connection group as well as the Digital Photography Group. And in 2008, his own bout with prostate cancer prompted him to join a Prostate Cancer Support Group at Riverside Hospital to encourage other men newly diagnosed with that disease.
Wow! When asked what drives his passion in volunteer activities, Frank responded immediately, “to help other people. When I see a need, I want to help solve it. I’ve received such pleasure over the years in helping others get more enjoyment out of their lives and it gives me great personal enjoyment in my own life.” Frank’s early exposure to others helping him and his family surely has contributed to his incredible energy and passion for helping others.
Frank Batchelder: Christian, husband, father, engineer, volunteer. 90 years young and still going strong. Frank has invested his life and energy in serving others; it has made all the difference to them – and to him!