A small gathering of St. John residents trickled in to the St. John School of the Arts on Saturday, April 30, to the sounds of Michael Banzhaf on the flute, with a single purpose: to honor the school’s late founder, Ruth “Sis” Frank, by dedicating the school’s performance hall to her.
Those in attendance came to honor Frank and all that she did for St. John, the island she called home since 1959.
“Anything dealing with the memory of Sis Frank, I feel compelled to support,” said St. Johnian Elroy Sprauve, who helped co-found the SJSA. “She’s given so much to so many.”
Frank was remembered for her way of quietly accomplishing great feats. Sprauve, who recalled the late SJSA founder as “our beloved Sis Frank” more than once during his speech, characterized her as someone who didn’t find it necessary to tear others down in order to build herself up.
“In her very quiet way, she was able to communicate her passion,” said Sprauve. “Her love for the children was complete and sincere.”
That love was evident nearly up to her death on Thanksgiving 2010. SJSA board of directors president Ronnie Jones recalled Sis’ unassuming attempts to donate to the St. John tennis club into 2010.
“Sis never passed by the tennis club’s tennis tournaments without calling somebody over to take some money for a donation,” said Jones. “She was special all of her life. The impact she’s made on us we cannot let go to waste; if we keep up that spirit, we will be a better community.”
St. John School of the Arts co-founder Elroy Sprauve, SJSA board of directors president Ronnie Jones and the school’s executive director, Jan Kinder, recall fond memories of SJSA founder Sis Frank at the Saturday evening, April 30, dedication of the school building in Frank’s honor. A Kat Sowa portrait of Frank, who passed away last Thanksgiving, was unveiled, along with a plaque proclaiming the SJSA building the “Sis Frank Performance Hall.”
Frank got her start bringing music and the arts to St. John children with the steel band program, Steel Unlimited, in 1970. Frank managed the group, bringing them to Lincoln Center and the Rose Bowl. It seemed evident that Frank was destined to do great things on St. John from the day she arrived, SJSA Executive Director Jan Kinder explained.
“As she was looking over to St. John from the Red Hook ferry dock, a double rainbow formed right over St. John,” she said. “She interpreted this to mean she was in the right place and good things were going to happen. And how right she was.”
Those in attendance at the dedication raised their glasses as a portrait of Frank, painted by local artist Kat Sowa, was unveiled, along with a plaque dedicating the school’s building as the “Sis Frank Performance Hall.”
Frank would have celebrated her 87th birthday on Monday, May 2, prompting the audience to sing
“Happy Birthday.” A moment of silence was also taken for those in attendance to remember the SJSA founder and how she touched their lives.
Those who knew Frank realize that she probably would have been uncomfortable accepting such a public honor, but the dedication of the school’s building in her name was inevitable, explained SJSA Assistant Director Kim Wild.
“She wouldn’t have liked the fuss, but tough,” said Wild, laughing. “This is what everybody on St. John would want.”