Franklin Walker

June 22, 1931 - September 1, 2019

Franklin Walker Penn passed away on September 1, 2019. A Celebration of Life Service will be held Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 2 p.m. at Edgemont United Methodist Church, 1330 Eauclaire Avenue in Florence.

Frank was born June 22, 1931, in Messina, New York. He was the son of James and Marion Walker Penn. When he was a boy, the family moved to Sheffield where his father assumed a prominent position with Reynolds Aluminum. While a student at Sheffield High School, Frank was in the Naval Reserve. Upon graduation, he completed boot camp at Bainbridge, Maryland, and later was called into active duty during the Korean War. After discharge, he married the vivacious Jean Harrison. He described his marriage as 63 years of fun. They welcomed two daughters, Amanda and Susan, and two grandchildren, Christian and Allyson Dunkerly. They were also the proud in-laws of Ben Strickland, who played 1st string center for the Auburn University Tigers, with Frank and Jean regularly cheering from the stands. Frank was a life-long member of Harrison’s Chapel United Methodist Church, which he helped build. He led the singing there for many years. More recently, he worshiped at Edgemont UMC where he made many friends who enjoyed his beautiful tenor voice singing out the hymns.

He was highly skilled and competent at many occupations, including iron worker on the construction of the Wilson Dam Bridge and Lift Lock, Brown’s Ferry Nuclear Plant, and many others. For his contribution to the Space Race, he helped construct NASA’s Saturn 5 test stands at Red Stone Arsenal and the Vertical Assembly Building for the Saturn V rocket for the Apollo program at Kennedy Space Center. He later was employed by Reynolds Alloys where he retired as maintenance engineer supervisor at various production sections.

When time allowed, he was an avid sportsman and fisherman. After his retirement, he and Jean journeyed to Booth Bay Harbor, Maine, every fall when the leaves changed color and the lobsters were biting. Known as Chipper Skipper, he caught lobster with a rod and reel from the pier to the amazement of the locals who had no idea such a feat was possible. He also enjoyed pets. Beginning with Pogo, a collie mix, there was a long string of cats and dogs over the years for him to spoil.

He is preceded in death by his parents, his wife, her siblings and their spouses, as well as a younger brother Jimmy who died early in life. He is survived by his children, grandchildren, and a brother, Joe Penn, and his sons who reside in Georgia.

Frank Penn always exhibited good humor, optimism, kindness, and integrity. He led an impeccable life. Congenial was the best word to describe him. He set an example that his children, grandchildren, and a bevy of nieces and nephews strived to emulate. He was the anchor that steadied many ships. It should not be forgotten that he was quite handsome and possessed a marvelous singing voice. At gatherings he could be persuaded to sing “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and he often presented a brief history lesson beforehand to his younger listeners about the harshness of the Great Depression. The fanciful song offered a portrayal of the hardships of that time with hoboes drifting from place to place in search of food and shelter, their dream of a utopia. The lyrics included the following lines:

“Oh the buzzin’ of the bees in the cigarette trees,
The soda water fountain where the lemonade springs,
And the bluebird sings in that Big Rock Candy Mountain.”  Friends and family, who loved and miss him, know for certain he has made his way to the pinnacle of that mountain.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Florence VFW food bank or the Wounded Warrior fund.

Celebration of Life

September 4, 2019
2:00 pm

Celebration of Life

Edgemont United Methodist Church, Eauclaire Avenue, Florence, AL, USA

September 4, 2019 2:00 pm

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9 Comments on “Franklin Walker Penn”

  1. When I was a teenager he and Mrs Penn always invited me to stay for the weekend with Amanda. He was always so funny and kind! Their welcoming home was one of the most precious memories of my younger years.!

  2. Susan and Amanda. So sorry to hear about Frank. I have so many fun memories of your parents visits to Vegas. The story telling and laughter still put a huge smile on my face. Your dad had this infectious laughter and grand humor. Often we both would need to leave the room to catch our breath from laughing so long and intently.

    You were fortunate to have such a generous and gifted father who loved you so much. I know you will miss him, but those memories will be lovingly unforgettable.

    My best to you and the family in the days ahead. Love, Ruell

  3. Dear Penn Family, We are deeply saddened to hear about the passing of one of the greatest men it was our pleasure to know, Mr. Frank Penn. Frank was the model of a true Southern Gentleman. His laughter and smiling face lit up every gathering he attended. The first time we visited Frank and Jean in Florence they proudly drove us around their beautiful community, but the added enjoyment of the drive was Jean’s vocal concern about Frank’s driving, with her warning to him “Frank, slow down! You’re going to kill these kids ! ” We tried our best to control our laughter! Frank just calmly said ” OK Sug”. Please know that Frank will always be remembered as one of the kindest, loving, and generous men who ever lived. Our thoughts and prayers and love are with you all at this sad time and forever. With all our love, Glen and Stacy Dunkerly

  4. Susan and Amanda, . Sorry to hear about the loss of your dad. I loved the beautiful stories Susan shared with me. I never got to meet him. He sounded like a wonderful man. You both have many memories to hold onto and cherish. Sending prayers for you and your family to find peace and comfort during this difficult time. Love, Colleen

  5. We have long term friends of Susan and Amanda …their are are close friends and family …we wish them peace during this time …Loce Ya’ll , Rick and Susan .

  6. I worked for Frank at Reynolds he was one of the good guys. Sorry for your loss but he is building another bridge.

  7. We should all aspire to the level of humanity and humility evinced by Frank. I am so glad we were able to share a little time with him last fall in his “Happy Place” (Navarre Beach). As was typical, he was entertaining us with fond memories, colorful stories and even flirting a little with the waitress! Know Amanda and Susan will carry on his legacy of caring and compassion. What a wonderful testament to a life well lived!

  8. I remember the first time I met Uncle Frank and Aunt Jean. Frank met us at the door, with the warmest grin, and while Aunt Jean officiated, for she was talking to us from a couple of rooms away, long before we even got into the house, he was there with the offered hand to show you the way, or give you a drink, or a chair. And then he stood in attendance,
    in happy suspense, as Aunt Jean continued her narrative. He was ready to fill in any blank – the word Aunt Jean was
    looking for, the detail she struggled to remember – the place, the time, the date, the distance, the name – never interrupting her, ever completing, correcting, fulfilling her intention. And until the day she died, that is what he did.

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