A ring to hold

By Marcie Miller

Herald Writer

GRANITE FALLS — Friends describe them as the perfect couple. He: tall, dark and handsome. She: blue-eyed, petite and beautiful.

"They brought out the best in each other," said Donna Bunkelman, a neighbor. "Everyone wishes they could have one-tenth what they had."

Wednesday marked four weeks to the day since Martin Frank — who was simply called "Frank" by those who knew him — died instantly from a single gunshot to the heart, in the front yard of his rural Granite Falls home. He allegedly was shot by neighbor Kenneth Charles Jensen during an argument that grew out of a longstanding dispute.

Jensen is being held on $250,000 bail after turning himself in to police. He has pleaded innocent to a charge of second-degree murder.

Seated on the big family sofa in the home they spent the last 14 years remodeling, Gia Frank’s emotions lurch from low to high and back.

Fund-raising events planned for Frank family

A benefit for the family of Martin Frank featuring three local bands, food, a drawing and auction will be held from 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Granite Falls Community Center, 100 E. Pioneer St.

Many Granite Falls businesses have donated items for the auction and drawing, from gift certificates to food and services.

Six Granite Falls businesses will donate profits from Saturday to the family. They are:

  • Granite Falls Natural Healing

  • Granite Falls Chiropractic

  • Conger’s Cedar Inn Bed and Breakfast

  • The County Nook, 106 S. Granite Ave.

  • Red Apple Grocery

  • The Sweet Shop

    A fund has been set up for the Frank family at Key Bank in Granite Falls. Contributions can be sent to account No. 472939026408.

  • When asked her age, she answers in the plural, present tense, "We are 40."

    Martin Frank’s size 13 wedding band hangs close to her heart on a gold chain. Her hands go to it often as she talks, not about that awful day, but about the life they had before and the tremendous support from the community after.

    "The whole community is behind her," longtime friend Helen Drakos said. "I would do anything in the world for her."

    Gia Frank will be needing that support in the coming months.

    Her husband did not have life insurance because he was waiting out a five-year moratorium imposed by insurance companies in 1997 after a bout with cancer. Her only income now is from her child care business.

    The community will show its support Saturday with a music benefit and auction at the Granite Falls Community Center, and six businesses will donate all or part of their profits from that day to the Frank family. Also, a fund has been set up at Key Bank in Granite Falls by a friend.

    "Everybody can help, each in their own way," said organizer Trish Osgood, owner of The Country Nook.

    Gia Frank recalled how she and Martin Frank went to the same grade school in Lynnwood and junior high in Shorecrest, but didn’t meet because she was a year older.

    "The older woman," she jokes.

    They met through a mutual friend when they were 18, in 1979, and had been together ever since.

    "We just clicked," she said. "I thought he was amazing; he thought I was beautiful."

    They discovered although they never knew each other by name they had many shared childhood memories.

    "We had the same memories from different angles — like we were supposed to …" Gia Frank’s voice trails off as the emotions rise.

    The young couple moved in together just two weeks after they met and were married the next year, Dec. 27, 1980.

    Within a few years they had the type of family that Martin Frank never knew growing up.

    First there was Jonathan, now 18; then Stephanie, now 16.

    "He was a good dad," Gia Frank said. "He rose above a tough upbringing."

    She remembers her husband as a boisterous Sicilian with a booming bass voice. He had a Harley-Davidson motorcycle for a while but didn’t fit the biker image.

    He liked doing outdoorsy things with his family, such as camping and target shooting.

    Gia Frank describes Martin Frank and herself as Republicans who believe in the Second Amendment — the right to bear arms.

    His obituary, written by Gia Frank, suggests contributions to the National Rifle Association, "Frank’s favorite charity."

    "I didn’t want Frank to be the poster boy for gun control," she said, even though he was killed by a .357 magnum hand gun.

    Gia Frank said her husband poured his heart into his family, but never found a career that suited him.

    At the time of his death he was driving a truck for Pacific Seafoods. She said he liked that he had Wednesdays off, giving him time to work around the house.

    "That’s why he was home that Wednesday …" Gia Frank’s voice trails off again.

    He was happiest when he was building things around the house, she said, and his handiwork still shows.

    "Frank was a perfectionist," she said, showing off the playground set he built for the child care business she runs in the house.

    Martin Frank’s last project, a pond with a stone waterfall, graces the front yard, but a friend had to finish it after he died.

    Gia Frank said the support of the community has been overwhelming. In the first few days Gia Frank estimates more than 100 people called or stopped by with gifts of food, cards or money.

    Readers of The Herald online poured out their hearts to the Franks via the readers’ forum, with dozens posting their sympathy and outrage.

    "Concerned Friend" wrote, "I’m sure the community is in shock and will rally around Gia and her family and give them the support they are so deserving of."

    Bunkelman took Gia Frank’s child-care kids into her own daycare for two weeks without pay so Gia Frank would not be without income.

    "They were there for me in what I consider some of my darkest times," Bunkelman said.

    Gia Frank keeps fingering the wedding band on her chain.

    "He never had a wedding band until last November," she said. She recounts how they visited a pawn shop to buy a wood-working tool for Martin Frank, and came away with a $20 gold wedding band for their 20th anniversary.

    "He adored it," she said, fingering the dents and unevenness of the band. "He polished it every night."

    You can call Herald Writer Marcie Miller at 425-339-3292

    or send e-mail to mmiller@heraldnet.com.

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