Garrett mourns deaths in local family

January 16, 1994|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

OAKLAND -- Hundreds of mourners, braving near zero-degree weather, crowded into St. Paul's United Methodist Church yesterday to pay their respects to three members of a widely known Garrett County family -- two of whom were killed in a highway collision last week.

They came to the small red brick church on East Oak Street -- even filling makeshift seating in the basement -- to find comfort in their mourning and to make sense of a tragedy that has devastated not only a well-known family but also a close-knit community.

Wakes for the family members Thursday and Friday night each (( drew more than 1,000 people to Durst Funeral Home in Oakland, a county seat with about 2,500 residents. Oakland's radio station, WMSG, broadcast yesterday's services.

Earlier last week, Paul J. Frantz, the county's chief deputy clerk, and his sister, Pamela R. Ashby, a reporter for Garrett's weekly newspaper, the Republican, and three other family members were en route to a Grantsville funeral home when the van they were riding in was struck head-on by a delivery truck on Route 219 near Accident. Mr. Frantz and Mrs. Ashby were making funeral arrangements for their mother, Elva Frantz, 69, who died Monday after a long illness.

"I don't think there is a soul in our community who doesn't know what happened," said the Rev. Louise Knotts, interim pastor of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Oakland, who delivered the sermon.

Three other family members in the same van were seriously XTC injured and remained hospitalized yesterday. They were the victims' father, James E. Frantz, 74, a former Garrett County sheriff; a brother, John B. Frantz, director of the Garrett County office of emergency management, and another brother, James E. Frantz, a Washington County school administrator who lives in Rockville.

The delivery truck's driver, Alvin R. Lewis Jr., 23, of Terra Alta, W. Va., also was injured and remains hospitalized. Maryland State Police said the accident remains under investigation.

"It's been a terribly difficult week . . . depleting our reservoirs of strength. The good news is God is here to replenish and see us through," the Rev. Doyle E. Payne, pastor of St. Paul's, told mourners.

During a 90-minute service, he and four other ministers, representing churches the family attended, recalled the lives of the two accident victims and their mother.

"I loved this family," said the Rev. Don Matthews, pastor of Oak Grove Church of the Brethren, which Mrs. Frantz attended. "There wasn't a time when I didn't leave that home when I didn't feel blessed."

The Rev. Ray Ursin, former pastor of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Oakland, who flew from Saskatchewan for the services, and the Rev. Allen Ridenour, former pastor of St. Paul's, gave personal accounts of Mr. Frantz and Mrs. Ashby.

Mr. Frantz, 45, the father of two boys, played basketball and was on two softball teams. He enjoyed his family, especially taking the boys fishing and water skiing on a recently purchased boat, Mr. Ridenour said.

"It was evident that he loved to help people. He always greeted everyone. He was always pleasant and had cheerful words. . . . He loved sharing life," he said.

Mr. Ursin elicited chuckles when he recalled some of the names Mrs. Ashby, 42, responded to: "Mom," "Hon," "Sis," "Trivial Pursuit Partner," "Scuzzbucket." "One of the 'Pointless Sisters,' " "Chuckles," "Yo."

"She felt better putting herself down than putting herself above others," he said. "She always joked, laughing at herself rather than [acknowledging] the great qualities, which she most certainly had. She believed in others more than she believed in herself," Mr. Ursin said.

"This is beyond my comprehension," said funeral-home owner Mark Durst. "I don't think I've even absorbed the entire thing. Pam Ashby and her husband, Joe, have been very close friends [of mine] for 20 years. That certainly has made my job much more difficult."

The community has established trust funds for the children of Mr. Frantz and Mrs. Ashby, who had a son and two daughters.

"There's going to be constant support for the families," said Marcette Danner, an art teacher from Swanton who was organist for the funeral. "There are no denominations at a time like this. Garrett is a wonderful place to be when you need support."

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