No matter what state he lived in, Peter J. Frano Jr. always kept a photo of President John F. Kennedy nearby. On the photo were Kennedy’s famous words: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
This was Frano’s mantra. After growing up in Huntington, he spent more than two decades of his life in the Marines, bringing his family to the Carolinas, California and later back to Huntington.
“We lived all over,” said his wife of 62 years, Sonja Frano.
Frano died on March 3 after a five-month battle with esophageal cancer in The Villages, Florida. He was 82.
Frano was born in Queens in 1934 and, two years later, moved with his family to Huntington, where he attended school. He met his wife at a high school dance.
“He lived about 3 miles away and he would walk the 3 miles to my house,” she said.
Frano, described as a “stand-up guy” by his family, enlisted in the Marine Corps when he graduated from high school in 1952. In 1955, after serving in the Korean War, he and Sonja married. They had their first child in 1956 and went on to have two more.
During the rest of his Marine career, Frano served as a drill instructor, fought in the Vietnam War, and after the war ascended to become first sergeant. Aside from his tour in Vietnam, his wife and children traveled with him all over the country.
“We as a family moved coast to coast four times in a car with no air conditioning and a dog,” she said.
One of Frano’s fondest memories was his time between the two wars when he became a drill instructor, his family said. Frano considered it an honor to teach future Marines.
“You know the cliche drill instructor who’s this tough, hard-nose, good-looking kind of guy?” his son, Peter S. Frano, said of his 6-foot-3 father. “Dad fit the bill.”
After his tour in Vietnam, Frano moved to East Meadow in 1966 and back to Huntington in 1968, reporting to the 1st Marine Corps District in Garden City, where he received special assignments and ran the Navy Junior ROTC Unit at Centereach High School, according to his family. He retired from the military in 1973.
Frano spent the next few years as a corporate recruiter for Electronic Data Systems, an information technology company. He then worked for Off-Track Betting’s Hauppauge office until 1994, working his way up to area manager in Suffolk County, his family said.
That year, Frano and Sonja moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where their son Peter was stationed with the Navy. In 2006, the couple moved to The Villages, Florida, where Frano was active in the Hope Lutheran Church. He served on the church’s council for seven years.
“He started out ushering and the next thing you know, he felt more obligated to do something with the church,” his son said.
In addition to his wife and son, Frano is survived by his two daughters, Laurie Grella of Torrance, California, and Tracie Bordieri of Fultonville, New York, as well as five grandsons. He is also survived by his two sisters, Patricia Johnson of Huntington and Mary Anne Jones of Greenwich, New York, and his brother, Steven Frano of Westhampton Beach.
A service was held at the Hope Lutheran Church in Florida on March 10. Frano was cremated at the Baldwin Brothers Funeral & Cremation Society in Florida.