By BILL BUSH
Bernard Frank had plenty of reasons to kick back and relax when he retired almost 14 years ago.
The Youngstown native had been second-in-command of a small fighting boat in the Pacific during World War II; he had earned a degree in industrial engineering from Ohio State University; and he had taken over a jewelry store from his father-in-law, brought it out of bankruptcy and turned it into a successful downtown business for a half-century.
But when he retired in 2000 at age 76, Frank decided he still had something to give. He applied to be a substitute teacher in the Bexley City Schools.
“They said, ‘When do you want to start?’ I said, ‘Tomorrow,’” Frank said.
Now, at 89, he is a math tutor, putting to work his minor in math from Ohio State. He figures he has worked with more than 100 kids, mostly one-on-one. Sometimes he gets paid, other times not, depending on the parents’ situation.
“What Bernie brought to the table was, he could do it on an as-needed basis and charged on kind of a floating scale,” with the bottom of the scale being free, said Harley Williams, principal of Bexley secondary schools.
Frank said he always gets paid: “I get paid in the heart. When you’re paid in the heart, you don’t spend the heart. When you get paid money, you spend it.”
Frank will talk your ear off. And he has built up a lot of stories over 89 years.
He was born in 1924 in Youngstown to a dad who “really did very little; he had jobs and made very little money,” and a mom “who was one of those first ladies who went out into the world and became a working mother” to help support them, he said.
In 1942, he moved to Columbus to attend Ohio State. Back then, “Anybody who wanted to go could go” because it cost very little, Frank said. “I was a rich kid at Ohio State whose mother and father didn’t have any money, but I didn’t tell people.”
There were no college deferments during World War II, and on his 18th birthday, after only three months of college, “I decided that I wanted to join the Army and not be drafted,” Frank said.
But he soon realized that by the time basic training was over, he’d be ripe for the invasion of Europe that everyone knew was coming.
So he went back to the enlistment office and said he needed to join the Navy, because his dad and grandfather had been in the Navy (which was true) and, “They were having fits” that he had joined the Army (which wasn’t true).
The Navy was happy to have him and, because of his college experience, sent him into the officers’ program. Eventually, he found himself in the Philippines, second in command of a fighting boat, the USS APc-8, which looked like an armed tugboat.
His scariest moment came when the boat hit a reef in the Sulu Sea and looked like it was going down with no one around to help. Frank put on three life jackets thinking that was better than one. But they got the boat free and limped to safety.
After the war, Frank returned to OSU and got his degree. He married and took over Lynn’s Jewelers at 171 S. High St. from his father-in-law.
There were a few missteps, such as when Frank accidentally dropped a bag containing $25,000 in diamond rings — more than $49,000 in today’s dollars — in 1989 near Town and High streets. A man found the bag and returned it.
After closing the store in 2000, Frank went to Columbus State Community College to brush up his math skills, got a teaching certificate and became a substitute teacher.
Frank goes beyond just being a tutor, said Williams, of Bexley schools. “As much as he’s done with the students in math, I’ve also been as pleased with just the intergenerational experience he’s been able to provide our students.”
Eighth-grader Nicole Beckman, 13, said she “was in a little bit of a rut these past few months” with her math, “and then, just recently, I started getting better when I started working with Bernie.”
“He helped me realize that some answers don’t make sense, and you have to go over everything and make sure that it’s right.”
Hannah Dolen, 14, also in eighth grade, said lots of stories get mixed in with the math work.
What about? “Everything. His whole life,” Hannah said.
Frank and his wife, Nancy Ann Frank, had three children. His wife died 11/2 years ago after 62 years of marriage.
“I cry for her quite often,” he said.
He tutors about two days a week now. He’d like to see more retired people tutor and plans to continue for at least 10 more years.
“Until I’m 99,” he said. “If I get there and I want to go longer, I will.”