Frank J. & Marjorie L. Conrad
Frank Conrad moved to Sarasota in 1933 where he opened an electrical appliance and contracting business. During WWII, he installed electrical distribution systems at Florida Navy Bases. In 1948, he was a Director of Citizens Bank. In addition, he was a Director of the Sarasota Bayfront Center, which he helped form to study the redevelopment of the Sarasota downtown area.
Frank was the President of Kiwanis and the Sarasota Kiwanis Foundation and was a co-founder of the Sarasota Welfare Home, now known as the Pines of Sarasota. He was a Charter Director of the Sarasota YMCA and a Director of the Chamber of Commerce and the Community Chest. He was a member of the Sarasota City Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and was on the Board of Adjustment for the City of Sarasota.
Frank was a lifetime member of the Elks Club, a charter member of the Field Club, a member of the Tiger Bay Club, and a charter member and Director of the Sarasota Yacht Club.
Frank Conrad’s greatest joy was his family. He enjoyed a long marriage with his wife Marjorie, had 2 children and 5 grandchildren. Frank discovered fishing and that became a lifelong passion. His favorite place to fish was Longboat Key. Frank and Marjorie deeded the immensely popular Beer Can Island to the State of Florida in the hopes of sharing the natural beauty and splendor of the island flora and sandy white beaches with the public for years to come.
A pioneer who always smiled
There are quite a number of people on both sides of it who think Bowlees Creek is some sort of Iron Curtain, separating Manatee and Sarasota counties and the cities of Sarasota and Bradenton as enemy entities. There are others who think the two communities are neighbors, and act neighborly. Frank Conrad was one of those.
You may have noticed that he died not long ago, at an age most of us envy. And all of us would admire his great spirit — friendly, outgoing, cordial, neighborly.
I first met him years ago in one of those noncredit, evening division courses with which Manatee Community College has enriched us all these years. It was billed as “Current Economic Trends.” I don’t remember the name of the teacher, who was an earnest young man not from the college faculty. I do remember Frank Conrad.
I soon wondered, as I am sure the teacher did, why he bothered to take the class. He was knowledgeable on many things, especially the current economy. He did not try to show off his knowledge or upstage anybody. He would enter discussions. And the young teacher soon learned that he had a good resource.
I was editor of The Bradenton Herald at the time, immersed more in local matters than national and international issues but aware of my need to know. I had learned a long time ago that my natural tendency to argue could help keep conversations going, and that from conversations I could learn.
Sometimes I didn’t argue, just asked questions. Either way, Conrad was always willing to pursue any topic which came up. In the classroom or outside during the break. Or afterward if there were matters unresolved. So, fortunately, was the teacher. It was enjoyable. Conrad made it so more than anyone else in the small class.
He was an active member of the Kiwanis Club of Sarasota. I was involved with its Bradenton counterpart. We ran into each other at some district meetings. He was heavily involved in that club’s operation of the Sarasota Welfare Home, now more charitably known as Pines of Sarasota. When it came to fund-raising talk, he would discourse on the wonders of The Pines. I would praise our club’s pioneers for taking over the Bradenton Trailer Park from the city and making both a public service and revenue source of it.
Frank was a persuasive speaker. At one time some of us in the Bradenton Club actually talked about starting a similar home. And to the credit of my club’s leaders of the past, we did keep a respectable number of nonaffluent widows at their old rates when, primarily under the leadership of Joe Garrot and Judge Robert Hensley, we completely rebuilt and modernized that aging park and raised the rent.
I would not claim that Conrad and I were closely associated. But from my part at least, there was a continuous interest and respect. We did have lunch a time or two, traded notes occasionally on civic matters. One of the things I remember is that he always smiled when I saw him.
He had an interest in Manatee County beyond the civic. His daughter Linda, one of two, married Robert Firkins, who, as did his father before him, has sold a whole lot of automobiles here. Frank loved his daughters and grandchildren, liked his son-in-law. And nearly everybody else.
He was a pioneer businessman in Sarasota, coming there in the ’30s when few would have thought it would become what it is now, showing faith and optimism in the depth of the Depression, as well as confidence in himself.
Frank Conrad helped make Sarasota what it is today. Smiled all the way. Left his thumbprints all over the place. It’s a pity we don’t have many like him left.
By: John Hamner
To contact Frank and Marjorie’s family, please contact Bill Saba at email@example.com