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Only in Oklahoma: Kate Frank retired but never quit
[April 23, 2007]

Only in Oklahoma: Kate Frank retired but never quit

(Tulsa World (OK) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Apr. 23--A retired Muskogee teacher who was reared on a farm where she "practically taught herself as a child" was named the first National Retired Teacher of the Year in 1972.

Kate Frank, 82, received the honor in Washington from Pat Nixon, a retired teacher herself and the wife of President Richard Nixon, after she was chosen from among 50 states' retired teachers of the year. She also received a trip for two to Hawaii from the National Retired Teachers Association.

"I enjoyed doing it," Frank said of the accomplishments that brought her the selection by the National Retired Teachers Association and the American Association of Retired Persons. "I didn't do it for money."

Those accomplishments included serving on the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System's board for 10 years; organizing two senior citizens clubs in Muskogee -- the Golden Agers and the Non Quitters -- serving as a member of the mayor's advisory council, the YWCA board and the Muskogee Community Council; and working in the Meals on Wheels program.

She also was the first woman president of the Oklahoma Education Association. She attended the White House Conferences on Aging in 1961 and 1971 and took advantage of being in Washington to promote

an apartment project in Muskogee.

After the 1961 conference ended, she went to the Housing and Home Finance Agency, where she told officials about her plan to build an apartment project for retired teachers and received the necessary funding.

She considered that project her greatest achievement. The 96-unit apartment complex was originally meant for retired teachers, but later was opened to anyone older than 62 who was still ambulatory.

It stands as a memorial to her -- named "Kate Frank Manor" in her honor.

It angered the retired teacher to have the apartment complex be referred to as a nursing home. "No one wants to go to a nursing home," she said.

"There's never a dull minute around here," she said. "One thing about living in a place like this is that you can be by yourself if you want to, or you can get out and mingle."

Frank, who retired in 1954 after 47 years of teaching, was a native of Muskogee. She began her teaching career in a one-room school in a Missouri mining town, where she was paid $30 a month.

"It was not a picturesque setting," she told a reporter in 1972. "I was 18 years old at the time and served as teacher and janitor for eight grades.

"My parents were farmers. I practically educated myself," she said.

"I can remember picking strawberries for a penny a box to raise money to go to the county seat to get my certificate for teaching."

She later received a bachelor's degree from Southwest Teachers College in Springfield, Mo., and a master's degree from the University of Missouri. She taught business education at Muskogee High School for nearly 40 years.

Marriage never appealed to her, she said: "I said 'no' three times. In those days I had the willpower to say no. Today, no one comes along."

She told a reporter after she won the award at age 82 that "I want to keep on serving, especially the elderly. I don't intend to quit.

"If anything was ever important to me during my life, it remains important. I don't quit on anything."


Photograph research by Rachele Vaughan


Gene Curtis 581-8304


Gene Curtis is a former managing editor of the Tulsa World.

Copyright (c) 2007, Tulsa World, Okla.
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