Georgia Franklin: A special tribute to love of her life

Bonnie Bucy • Updated Nov 30, 2013 at 12:50 AM

This time of year becomes extremely hard for people who have lost a loved one, especially if that loved one is a spouse they've shared many happy years with or a child regardless of age.

Those are losses one feels for the rest of their days, but particularly in the first two or three years after the loss takes place.

Georgia Franklin got a double dose in the last two years. Her beloved husband of 52 years, Don Franklin, died two years ago Nov. 21, 2011 and their oldest son, Don, also died 10 months later at age 52.

“I didn't believe I could survive it,” said Franklin. “I couldn't believe God would take my husband who'd done nothing but good for others all his life and then my son in less than a year. I went into deep depression for the longest time.”

Franklin said she would never have believed she had so many tears inside her as the amount she's shed.

“I cried all the time all the months I was taking care of Don before he died, because it hurt me so to see him in the horrible condition he was,” she said. “I can't believe the rivers of tears I've cried over the last two-plus years.”

Although she is still going through many days of sorrow and more tears, Franklin realized she had to do something with her life and pulling herself up out of the doldrums was dictatorial toward accomplishing any of that.

“I had always kept myself in good physical condition and was walking eight miles a day when I had time to do it prior to Don getting sick. I decided it was time to get back to me, because Don was always urging me to stay in shape,” said Franklin. “And, I figured it was what he would want me to do. So, I've worked out an exercise routine in conjunction with walking that doubles the impact and takes less time than walking the whole eight miles.”

Then, she kept running into people who have known, respected and loved her late husband, and she wondered what she could do to preserve his memory for her, her family and his friends. She got to looking around at all the walls with pictures reflecting her husband's various stages in life, like his fame on the football field both as a player and a coach, his stints as a teacher, his years at Castle Heights and as personnel hirer at TRW, service on the Lebanon City Council, the Wilson County Commission, the Wilson County school board and the many other things he was involved in through his life.

Then, she got the idea to put a memory book together to preserve the memories of Don Franklin's unique and respected life. This would be available to all family members for their collections, as well as any friends who were interested in having one. Besides, it gave her a project to work on that kept her mind and her hands busy.  The result is a slick publication entitled “The Life and Legend of Benjamin Don Franklin” compiled and penned by Georgia Franklin.

The interesting book is written in Franklin's own personal style and intermixes feelings with actual dates and events. Like the fact “Don Franklin was born on Feb. 19, 1936 to Milbra Anderson Franklin and Comer Franklin in Jacksboro. He was one of five children, two girls and three boys. He made his entrance into this world weighing 12 pounds. Because of his size, he was taken to Knoxville to have X-rays made of his shoulders to see if they had been injured in the delivery. He was fine, and thus began his life as always being larger than most people in his growing-up years. Don was 6 years old when his father passed away from a stroke.”

Don Franklin's mother moved her family to Lebanon to be closer to family, and because she thought the school system was good. She bought a house on the corners of South Hatton and South Greenwood. Don loved growing up there, because there were so many children and they had all of the Cumberland University campus to play. His mother rented out rooms to Cumberland students to supplement her Social Security income.

“Don began working at an early age, picking up any job he could find,” said Georgia Franklin in her book. “He would collect iron and sell it and made enough money to go to the movies on Saturday. He loved going and seeing the westerns, as this was all they showed back then. His love for the old westerns existed throughout his life.”

Georgia told how two men in Lebanon helped Don become the “fine young man” he was. They were Tennessee Supreme Judge Allison Humphreys and Sen. Bill Baird. Judge Humphreys would repair anything that broke for Don and spend time with him.

“Bill Baird gave Don his first job mowing graves at the Cedar Grove Cemetery,” Franklin said in her book. “He gave Don jobs all during his growing up years. One was hiring him as a police officer when Don was only 16 years old. Don took this job very seriously. Don's football coach, Joe Gwen Atkinson, loaned Don his 38 Special. Can you imagine how hiring a 16 year old on the police force and giving him a gun? Coach Atkinson told Don when he finished being a police officer that he could return the gun. Don did this in 1963 when he finally gave up working there to become employment manager at Ross Gear/TRW and began working seven days a week.”

Don started playing football at an early age when he attended McClain Grade School. He went on to star on the Lebanon High School team from '50 to '54. A tackle, who weighed 285 pounds, Don was so large his coach wouldn't let him practice with the rest of the team, but would wait and turn him loose on the opposing team on Friday nights.

He went from there to star on the football team from the University of Georgia, where he received a scholarship, but was so homesick he transferred to Middle Tennessee State University, where he finished his football career and began working on his master's degree. While in school, Don was named first team All Mid-State in football; first team All OVC Defensive Tackle and Little All American. He was then recognized in 2008 as an MTSU Golden Raider and the first to be inducted into the Lebanon High School All Sports Hall of Fame.

He also taught at Watertown High School and coached football there for 15 years.

September 1959 started several events in the lives of Don and Georgia Franklin. They married, Don started his first teaching job at Castle Heights Military Academy and after renting an apartment for six months, they went looking for a house because they didn't want to pay rent anymore. They found one and paid $6,035 for it in early 1960. A boy, a set of twins with a boy and a girl and then another boy followed, the couple had four children in three years.

Don's first political job was as constable. That was when he had just begun playing football at MTSU and going to school. He served in that position for four years, as a city alderman for eight years, on the Wilson County school board for eight years and the Wilson County Commission for four years.

“He loved every minute of his political life because it was for his beloved Wilson County,” said Georgia.

Don worked for TRW from 1963-70, both in Lebanon and Lafayette, Ind. when he got a call from Castle Heights wanting Don to come home and teach and coach football in the senior school. Their children went to Castle Heights, including their daughter, Jennifer, when she reached ninth grade.

There were so many accomplishments in Don Franklin's life, and Georgia has touched on most of them in her tribute to him. She's included essays by her granddaughters, a lot of pictures, samples of the beautiful poems and articles Don wrote and dozens of human-interest items and observations.

Georgia is now concentrating on herself and doing what she feels Don would have wanted her to do...and that's moving on with her life. She has the exercise part of it working. She's getting things in order at her house as it's a big house for one person, but she's determined to stay there where they were so happy for all the years since they built it.

“I still cry a lot and probably will for a long time,” she said. “Some things I've changed like the time before last when the big barn needed painting, I painted it. This time, when it needed it, I paid to have it painted. After all, I'm not as young as I used to be.”

Don had promised to pay their granddaughter Missy's way through college. Georgia is fulfilling that promise and is so proud that Missy is now a junior at East Tennessee State University.

Georgia said she will go on substitute teaching. She's already been called 60 days to teach since school started in August. She's tutoring special classes at College Hills Church of Christ, as well as being signed up to help serve food on Wednesday nights and other nights during the Christmas season for special parties and functions in which the church is involved.

“Don Franklin was the absolute love of my life,” she said. “We did everything together, and I will miss him terribly for the rest of my life. He took such good care of me and his family.”

Anyone interested in the book Georgia Franklin has assembled on Don Franklin or has questions or comments for her may contact her at 615-507-9796 or email her at frankling201277@yahoo.com.                                                                                                 

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