Janet Hommel Mangas: Let’s be Frank

My dad’s birthday is today. Frank Ray Hommel would’ve been 91.

I’ve been flirting with the idea of writing a book called “Let’s Be Frank: 89 Ways to Leave a Personal Legacy When You’re an Ordinary Joe.”

Or maybe: “Let’s Be Frank: A Few Small Ways to Live an Awesome Life When You’re an Ordinary Joe.”

I’m sure you can relate as you mourn your family and friends who have passed. Sometimes I’m not sure what I miss most — the physical hugs, his voice, the “I love you” passed back and forth, listening to him play music on the upright piano or Gibson guitar while singing an old song, or belting out a new one he just made up.

I miss his ever-present storytelling, dad jokes, teasing and laughter — so much joy in his laughter. I miss the love in his voice when he talked about his brothers and sisters and his mom and dad. I loved how after living in his Greenwood home since 1955, he still referred to the farm on State Road 135 as “down home.”

Dad (to me and my six siblings), Frank (to his siblings, family and friends), Grandpa and Uncle Frank (to his grandchildren and many nieces and nephews) and Mr. Hommel to the many young ‘uns he coached.

Dad was an organically true optimist. He could always find the good in every situation. Once when we were in a local church for a grandchild’s Easter play, a woman that was sitting near dad noted after the performance that she was appalled that a little black bug ran across the carpet. Dad quipped with his friendly smile, “Oh, I saw it and thought it must be an angel bringing a message.”

He loved God and he loved and cared for his wife Betty — “Bet” — even when it was desperately hard with her Alzheimer’s mood swings. When the U.S. shut down because of COVID-19 in March of 2020, he quickly adapted to using technology and talking and singing to mom via FaceTime.

His mom, who we called Grandma Hommel, referred to her firstborn of eleven as her “ambassador.” Dad play music across Johnson County and throughout Indiana for nearly 70 years — I remember singing as the Hommel Sisters at Clowes Hall, at the State Fair on the radio and for numerous residents senior living facilities when I was in elementary school. Dad was still bringing smiles with his guitar/piano playing and singing along with his storytelling into his last 89th year.

He loved people deeply — and we all loved him back.

Happy second birthday in heaven dad — I’m sure it’s way better than the humorous Hallmark card and can of Redskin Spanish peanuts that you would’ve received from me.

I can only imagine you today in a heavenly gig session with King David, probably borrowing his 4-8, gut-string lyre and composing new worship music — always with some humor — and with your contagious smile.