Friday, November 16, 2012

Frank Beazley: The Growing Season

Updated November 3, 2017...

I never met anyone like the late Frank Beazley, nor am ever likely to meet anyone like him again. My time with him -- culminating but not ending with "The Growing Season," my 12-part 2006 Providence Journal series, republished below -- was a precious blessing. I think of him often still. He was a great man and I was honored to be his friend.

Despite a cruel upbringing followed by a tragic accident that broke his body and could have ruined his soul, he instead became an extraordinarily inspiring, uplifting and selfless champion of those without power or voice. Also, a celebrated artist, devoted gardener and man of fine humor. In these times of dark, narcissistic so-called "leaders" in Washington who are determined to divide and dehumanize, and who sit idly as the planet screams in death agony, we could use more Franks.

I said goodbye to Frank a few days before he died in 2012, as he drifted in and out of consciousness at the state hospital where he had lived as a quadriplegic for 45 years; saying "OK" and "good," he was ready to go. Then I wrote his obituary. And, fulfilling one of his final requests, I was honored to be a pallbearer as Frank was laid to rest.

You can witness Frank's indomitable spirit by watching two videos:

-- Frank on his 82d birthday, December 13, 2010. CLICK HERE.

-- And Frank honored by the Rhode Island General Assembly at the Rhode Island State House on April 12, 2012. I believe this is the last film ever shot of him. CLICK HERE.

And now, "The Growing Season."

Photo of Frank and my granddaughter Bella by Mary Murphy.
Publication Date: September 24, 2006  Page: D-04  Section: Sunday Extra  Edition: All 

One afternoon last autumn, I took a walk with Frank Beazley, a man of 77.

Frank lives on Wallum Lake in Burrillville, near woods that Nipmuc Indians once called home. The leaves were showing color, but the sun was strong and a pleasant breeze sent whitecaps across the water. Frank wore a T-shirt, sweat pants, and a denim cap. With his blue eyes, rosy cheeks, and white beard, he looked like a favorite old uncle. Put a red hat on him, change the season, and he would have looked like Santa Claus.

"Man, it's beautiful out!" he said, with his distinctive smile.

We went down a path to the shore, to Frank's gardens, as yet untouched by frost. The pumpkins had been picked, the squash and tomatoes harvested, but the growing season wasn't finished quite yet: the eggplants remained an inviting purple, and the Mexican peppers, thin and red, continued to thrive among thickening weeds.

We reached the herbs and stopped.

"Take a piece of that and smell it," Frank said, pointing to a rosemary plant. I snipped a sprig and brought it to my nose.

"You can put that in soup or stew," Frank said. "Oh, it's delicious!"

From the vegetable garden, we traveled up a hill to beds of flowers. The heirloom roses were reduced to brambles, the sunflowers shriveled and gray, but zinnias still bloomed and Frank paused to enjoy them. Flowers brought him back to his childhood, when he made his first planting, a gladiola bulb. Every morning, the young boy checked. Finally, the gladiola pushed through, overturning a small stone to greet the spring. The memory still pleased him.

We left the flowers and continued past an apple tree, one of Frank's favorites, to a field on the crest of the hill. Except for blackbirds, it was quiet.

Frank's caregivers didn't want him to come here alone for fear that his motorized wheelchair would fail and he'd be stranded, but he came here by himself often anyway to savor a beautiful day.

Frank was big on beautiful days. He experienced them in many ways: when eating a hearty meal, when betting at the dog track, when watching football on his 10-year-old TV. Christmas was a beautiful day. So was his birthday, which had never been celebrated until he was middle-aged.

Every day, he often said, that the sun came up and he was still here to greet it was a beautiful day.

OUTSIDERS KNEW Frank as a poet who'd won national awards and as an artist who painted in an impressionist style, donating the proceeds from his acrylics and water colors to charity. They knew him as an eloquent man who spoke for those less fortunate than he at legislative hearings. Vice President Al Gore was among those who had honored his advocacy.

I had met Frank many years ago, and I wrote a story about him, published in December 1992, in which he disclosed that all he'd ever wanted for Christmas was to have his mother call him "son." Frank intrigued me, but my work took me elsewhere and it wasn't until much later that I set out to learn more about him. His story was unlike any I have ever told.

Frank had been abandoned at birth, and experienced a paralyzing accident, the loss of the woman he loved, and cancer. He never knew his father. He didn't meet his mother until he was a teenager, but she refused to confirm who she was, refused to ever call him "son" - even though he later lived in the same house with her and her mother, his grandmother. In Frank's native Nova Scotia, a heartless secrecy surrounded children like him who had been born out of wedlock. Often, these secrets followed their keepers to the grave.

He had his dark moments, to be sure, but they were rare. The Frank I came to know was a man of goodwill. He told jokes (sometimes corny ones) and funny stories, and his laugh was contagious. He taught mostly by example - lessons about patience and forgiveness, of the importance of smelling roses and counting blessings, which he did not consider cliches. And while he was too humble to call himself wise, he was.

WE STAYED IN the field for a spell, both of us watching the clouds.

Finally, Frank spoke.

"I love this area, so quiet and serene. I look up at the sky and say, 'God, I hope all my friends are looking down at me.' "

For years, Frank and his best friends had visited this field. They would smoke cigarettes and cigars and talk about baseball and pretty women - about how, all things considered, life was pretty good. These friends were all dead now, and Frank's own longevity sometimes moved him to put a question to God:

"I'm still here and you people are all up there. Why?"

"What's the answer?" I asked.

"The answer maybe is: 'Keep up the good work, Frank.' "

This field refreshed him, but there was another reason he came here so often. It reminded him of a place he still visited in his dreams: Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he was born 12 days before Christmas, 1928.


THE GROWING SEASON - FIRST OF TWELVE PARTS - Baby Francis (1917 to 1940)
Publication Date: September 24, 2006  Page: D-04  Section: Sunday Extra  Edition: All 

Nova Scotians would never forget the catastrophe of Dec. 6, 1917 - The Explosion, as they would always call it.

On that morning, a fully loaded munitions ship was rammed by another vessel in Halifax Harbour. The explosives blew, with a force more powerful than any man-made detonation before the atomic bomb. Almost 2,000 people died.

Nellie Beazley, a 31-year-old woman who wore her dark hair in carefully knotted braids, was among the many thousands who were injured. Glass struck her when the windows blew out of her home, and she carried a scar on her neck for the rest of her life. Nellie's soldier husband, Francis L. Beazley, and the couple's two young daughters escaped harm.

This was not the first tragedy to touch the Beazley family.

Married in October 1907, Nellie and Francis had welcomed their first child the following September. But Stella lived only seven months, dying a week after Easter. The Beazleys buried the infant, and on June 16, 1910, Nellie gave birth to Edna. The last girl was born four years later.

The Explosion left Halifax in ruins, but as World War I ended, the city began to rebuild. A decade went by and the Beazley sisters grew. Francis left the army and became a shipper in a dry goods firm. By 1928, he had found a better-paying job as a clerk for Canadian National Steamships, but alarming headlines dominated that year. On the eve of the Great Depression, labor strife rumbled across Nova Scotia. The fishing, lumber, and shipbuilding industries, mainstays of the economy, declined. Unemployment rose. Relief agencies were overwhelmed.

Eleven years after The Explosion, anxiety had returned to Nova Scotia.

THE BEAZLEYS lived in a duplex on Creighton Street, four blocks from the waterfront, with its foghorns and ship whistles, and the distant wail of steam locomotives.

The houses were all wood, two or three stories tall, built so close together that a person could barely fit between. There were no porches, lawns, front yards, or trees, and only a sliver of sidewalk. Barbers and grocers plied their trades. There was a Chinese laundry, but no theaters or department stores or parks. Creighton Street was home to stevedores and sailors, bookkeepers and masons. Numerous families had lost loved ones in The Explosion. Living paycheck to paycheck, they dreamed of a better tomorrow that most would never see.

Like many of their neighbors, the Beazleys worshiped at nearby St. Patrick's Church, the cathedral where Nellie and Francis had married and where their children had been baptized. Edna and her sister attended the all-girls parish school, where nuns indoctrinated them in the Roman Catholic religion.

Q. Does God know all things?

A. God knows all things, even our most secret thoughts, words and actions.

Q. Which are the chief sources of sin?

A. The chief sources of sin are seven: Pride, Covetousness, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy, and Sloth.

Q. What evil befell us through the disobedience of our first parents?

A. Through the disobedience of our first parents we all inherit their sin and punishment

Edna, a friendly, attractive girl with fair skin, blond hair, and her mother's blue eyes, was well-versed in the catechism.

So in the spring of 1928 when she discovered that she was pregnant, she was stricken.

She was 17, and the young man with whom she'd been intimate did not intend to marry her. That left only terrible options. Edna could have her baby and live on her own, but her church and society would scorn her - and, more than likely, she would be unable to make ends meet. She did not have the means to leave Halifax and start anew elsewhere. She was a frightened girl who feared eternal damnation and the wrath of her righteous mother.

Edna's father wanted her to have the baby and stay at home where he and Nellie could help raise their first grandchild. Son of a ship's cook and an Irish immigrant, Francis was the oldest of nine children. Even before the death of his firstborn, the baby Stella, Francis had experienced profound loss: a sister and brother had died in infancy, and another brother, the best man at his wedding, had died in World War I. Francis was fond of the bottle but he was a gentle, caring man, and the thought of his grandchild disappearing into an orphanage troubled him.

Nellie was unmoved.

She hadn't raised Edna to be a fallen woman. She had social pretensions and hoped some day to move to a better neighborhood. Bringing along a bastard child did not fit her ambition.

So she decided the terms, her husband and daughter be damned:

When Edna's condition could no longer be hidden, the girl would be quietly admitted to Halifax's Grace Maternity Hospital, successor to a "rescue home" for unwed mothers that the Salvation Army had opened early in the century. Edna would have her baby and then give the child up.

There would be no celebration, no birth announcement, no public evidence of any sort confirming that the child had ever existed. Neighbors might gossip and her husband and daughter might be resentful, but with diligence, the truth could be hidden forever.

Nellie was a calculating woman, but her calculation this time was wrong.

ON DEC. 13, 1928, Edna gave birth to a normal, healthy boy whom she named Francis, after her father. She returned home, and on Christmas Eve, a cold, blustery, snowless day, Francis L. Beazley reluctantly brought his grandson to the Home of the Guardian Angel, an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity, who also taught at St. Patrick's Girls School. The sisters had a mission, but it was not to disclose family secrets.

In accord with Nova Scotia's Illegitimate Children's Act, the case of Baby Francis was presented at a closed session of a justice of the peace, who could require an unwed father to help pay for a child's birth and subsequent "maintenance" - or funeral, if the baby was stillborn. The Beazleys named 19-year-old Ralph Flemming as Baby Francis' father. The young man was the son of a housewife and a janitor who lived in a lower-class neighborhood near the Halifax navy base.

The justice entered no order against Flemming. The Beazleys agreed to pay what they could to the nuns, who had dozens of children in their care.

Feed the little ones. Change their diapers. Rock the cradles. May God bless us all.

On March 14, 1929, the Rev. Joseph LeBlanc, orphanage pastor, baptized Baby Francis at St. Patrick's Church. The nuns gave Frank a middle name: Ralph, after his assumed father.

Frank's baptismal certificate.

The years unfolded and Baby Francis remained healthy, surviving scarlet fever, one of the frequently deadly childhood illnesses of the era, and growing into a good-natured, well-behaved little boy. Four walls defined his world. Nuns, priests, and fellow orphans were the only people he saw.

"No one comes to visit Francis," a nun noted in his record. "Occasionally, $5.00 comes by mail, for his maintenance. His mother still lives on 50 Creighton Street, but does not visit him." Edna could have walked over, for Creighton Street was only a few blocks away.

Frank's mother and grandmother occasionally sent letters, sometimes in response to reminders of overdue payments. Things were difficult at home, 21-year-old Edna wrote to the mother superior in April 1932, when the Great Depression had settled on North America. The pay from Edna's job as a clerk at Eaton's, a downtown department store, was her family's primary income.

"Dear Sister," Edna wrote.

"I am sorry to have to have you write me like this but as you know, this has been a very hard winter for everyone. I guess you can understand mostly. Father hasn't worked much this winter so therefore I had to support the house on the little bit of money I earn at Eaton's.

"I enclose ten dollars for now, and Mother and I are making plans for the future. You will hear from us again in the near future. Hoping Baby Francis is well and good, we are preparing to do better."

Edna (Beazley) Moffatt, Frank's mother, late in life.
 ON AUG. 24, 1934, a nun packed Frank's clothes and shoes, his only belongings, and delivered him to St. Joseph's Orphanage, which the Sisters of Charity also ran, in downtown Halifax. The Home of the Guardian Angel did not keep children past the age of 5. Orphans who were not being adopted or returned to their families had to leave.

Constructed in the late 1800s, St. Joseph's was four stories tall, a red-brick building with a forbidding Gothic look and a statue of Joseph, patron saint of families, by the front entrance. Boys lived in one wing, girls in another.

The nuns placed their faith in routine and discipline. Frank's day began at dawn, when a sister roused the boys, who slept in a dormitory furnished with steel-frame beds, night tables made from old apple crates, a crucifix, and a painting of the Last Supper. A boy who had wet the bed awoke in fear: as punishment, the sister would drape the sheet over his head and force him to stand by the radiator until his urine dried.

After washing and dressing, the children went to the chapel for Mass, then walked single-file to the dining room, where a spoonful of cod liver oil awaited. Breakfast typically consisted of porridge, milk, cocoa, and molasses-soaked bread, stacked on a tray. Frank always hoped for the bottom slice, which was the sweetest.

Catechism, writing, arithmetic and reading lessons filled the remainder of the morning and much of the afternoon. The nuns did not abide mistakes. When a child mispronounced a word, the nun would say: That's stupid! Go to the dunce table! The child would leave his desk and take a seat at the front of the class. Wearing a white dunce cap, the child would repeat the word until he got it right. And then he would repeat it again and again, never to be forgotten, or so the sisters believed.

When the children completed their studies, the nuns put them to work. The boys washed dishes. They darned stockings. They sewed buttons. They ironed the boys' knickers and the sisters' black habits. They scrubbed and waxed the floors by hand, sometimes getting blisters on their knees.

The sisters believed that idleness bred mischief, and they did not tolerate it, punishing loafers and trouble-makers with a yardstick across the back of the legs, a slap on the face, or a tug on the ear. Boys who tussled were given boxing gloves and sent to the recreation room. Fight it out and then come out as friends, the nuns would say as they closed the door.

After dinner, the boys bathed, changed into pajamas, and returned to their dorm, where they held up their underwear for inspection. Soiled drawers brought punishment. Then the boys knelt at the foot of their beds, hands clasped and heads bowed, while a nun recited the rosary.

At 7 p.m., without a hug or a kiss, the sister turned out the lights, leaving God's Little Ones to the darkness and their dreams.

WITH ITS WOODEN pews, high ceiling, and marble altar, the chapel was the soul of the orphanage. Even brother and sister orphans were segregated at St. Joseph's, and only in chapel were all the children ever allowed together: the boys seated on the right, and the girls, their faces veiled in lace, across the aisle on the left, every child looking straight ahead or risking a reprimand.

This was where the children heard sermons incorporating the lessons of the Ten Commandments. This was where they attended the Stations of the Cross and the incense-filled rituals of Holy Week. This was where, after abstaining from food and water, hungry or thirsty or not, they received daily Communion.

The nuns did not celebrate orphans' birthdays - many children, including Frank, didn't know exactly when they'd been born - but observing the birth of Christ was second only to Easter on the orphanage calendar.

Christmas Day began with high Mass. The boys ate breakfast and washed the dishes and the nuns led them into the recreation room, where a tree topped with a star had been put up and decorated overnight. Chairs stacked with presents surrounded the tree. Each chair was labeled with an orphan's name.

One Christmas, Frank stopped after entering the room. What's the matter, Francis? said Sister Rita Marie, who was fond of the boy.

I see my chair, Frank said, but there's hardly anything on it.

Sister Marie led Frank to a chair with a single gift, wrapped in plain brown paper. That's your present, she said. Would you like me to open it?

A red snowsuit was inside. The Beazleys had sent it, but Sister Rita Marie did not tell Frank.

The nun went about her business and Frank approached an orphan who'd received toys.

I'll trade you my snowsuit for one, Frank said.

The boy declined. Frank tried a second child - and this time, another nun caught him.

What are you doing? she demanded. I wanted to trade my snowsuit for a toy.

The nun ordered Frank to his room.

Take it upstairs and put it in your locker! You're going to need that when it gets really cold!

Except for Sunday visitors, outsiders rarely entered the orphanage. The Knights of Columbus were among the few who were allowed. One December when Frank was about 8, the group sponsored a Christmas party for the boys. The highlight of the day was the coin toss. The knights threw pennies into the air and the boys scrambled to pick them up. What fun! Grab all you can! But the children had to stow their pennies in their shoes, since the nuns had sewn their pants pockets shut - a help in a boy's never-ending battle against bodily temptation.

When the party ended, the boys returned to their dorm.

Take your shoes off, a nun said. Dump all the pennies on the floor.

The nun collected the coins. Orphans owned nothing but what they wore - and a few toys, if they were lucky.

How could a child raised like this ever amount to anything?

JOY WAS ELUSIVE at St. Joseph's - but Frank, a handsome blond, blue-eyed boy with an improbably sweet spirit, found it. Young though he was, he discovered a philosophy that would remain with him for life:

"Take what's there for you, enjoy what you can," as he would phrase it many decades later.

Frank enjoyed jumping rope, playing Chinese checkers and hide 'n' seek, reading the funny books, listening to music on the orphanage radio. He liked singing in the choir. He liked Father LeBlanc, the priest who had baptized him and who now trained the altar boys. A happy-go-lucky man, Father LeBlanc was one of the few adults around Frank who did not dwell in gloom. He played ball with the boys and helped with their Latin and their singing. That's all right, he said when someone slipped up. If you can't get it out, just mumble!

Even chores did not get Frank down. Orphans turning 8 achieved the status of Josephites, charged with helping the younger children. Frank took pride in his new responsibilities when he became a Josephite. Sister Rita Marie often said: You know, Francis, you'll always be rewarded one way or another by helping people out.

And gardening delighted Frank, from the moment he received a gladiola bulb, during the growing season - his bulb, no one else's. He alone would plant it! He alone would bring it to life!

"Very friendly and eagerly enthusiastic," wrote a psychiatrist who examined Frank when he was 10. "Very responsive to praise."

Sitting in class, Frank daydreamed, his mind wandering to the world beyond the brick walls. The nuns occasionally took the children on picnics or to the movie theater. Frank's first film was Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released in 1937, when he was 8; the dwarf Happy was his favorite character. But excursions were rare. There was no contact whatsoever with children outside St. Joseph's, no clues into how an ordinary boy lived. Frank learned of the war that began in Europe in 1939 only when the Halifax authorities conducted air-raid drills. Sirens screamed across the city as the orphans lay motionless in bed, the shades drawn, the lights extinguished, a nun on duty to enforce the silence.

But Frank never longed to leave, never tried to run away. Where would he go?

This is my home, he thought. My friends are here. As he got older, Frank began to notice a girl at chapel. He glimpsed her face at Communion when she lifted her veil to receive the host.

She was pretty, and Frank was smitten. He watched her return to her pew, and the next time they went to chapel, he sat on the aisle.

Frank turned toward the girl.

A nun snapped her wooden clapper.

Eyes straight! she said. You've come to church to see God, not girls!

During recess, Frank kicked high on the swing, which afforded a peek over the wooden fence dividing the girls' and boys' playgrounds. He spotted the girl, and she saw him. When the nuns turned away, they snuck to the fence, where a crack in the boards allowed a furtive conversation.

Hello, Frank said. How are you?

Fine, the girl said.

My name is Francis Beazley.

My name is Viola Smith.

Viola - that's a nice name.

Are you going to be here tomorrow? Viola said.

It depends on what the nuns have for us, Frank said.

Frank talked to Viola once or twice again, and that was it. Decades later he would wonder how life had treated her, but he would never learn. Like all of Frank's early peers, time swallowed Viola.

ONE SUNDAY afternoon, Sister Rita Marie called Frank into the parlor.

Francis, she said, I want you to dress nicely. You're going to have a visitor.

The boy was puzzled. No one had ever visited him.

It's your mother, the nun said.

My mother? I've got a mother?

Yes, Sister Rita Marie said, we all have mothers. Frank changed into his Sunday best and went back to the parlor to wait. The afternoon unfolded without anyone calling on Frank.

Eventually, Sister Rita Marie came in. She looked distressed.

Francis, we're sorry, she said, it's not your mother who's coming. We made a bad mistake.

A miscommunication had occurred. The mother of another child with the same first name was visiting, the nun said.

Frank began to cry.


THE GROWING SEASON - Second of twelve parts - FAMILY SECRETS - 1940
Publication Date: September 25, 2006  Page: A-01  Section: News  Edition: All 

Early in the summer of 1940, about a month after Frank Beazley was confirmed a Catholic, the mother superior of St. Joseph's Orphanage sent a letter to Nellie Beazley, Frank's grandmother. Frank would turn 12 this year, the nun wrote, and the orphanage did not keep children past that age. The Beazleys had to take the boy or send him somewhere else.

"Dear Sister," Nellie wrote back.

"Just a few lines to let you know I got in touch with my daughter, Francis Beazley's mother. I explained everything to her. As she is not settled in the one place very long, she thought it best to put Francis in a boarding school. She thought you might know of a reasonable school to send him, until such time as she is settled and able to take him.

"If you know of a place and would let me know, I would write for the particulars and make arrangements to have him sent there. Until then, do you think you would be able to keep him?"

Nellie did not disclose that Frank's mother, Edna, 30 years old now, had married a soldier and moved to Ontario.

The nun responded that she was unaware of a suitable school in Nova Scotia. Perhaps there was one in Montreal, 500 miles away.

"Do you think your daughter could find out about this?" the nun wrote. "In the meantime, Francis may stay with us but we would be glad if you could hasten matters as it will help our routine. We hope that you are well and trust our dear Lord to help you through this. He will not forsake you."

The Beazleys did not send Frank to a school.

Instead, unknown to him, they decided to place him in a foster home.

A short while later, Sister Rita Marie told Frank to dress in his Sunday best and come down to the parlor. This time, she had not made a mistake. This time, visitors really were calling on Frank.

A couple in their 50s introduced themselves. They said they knew about Frank, but insisted that they were unrelated to him. They were only interested in his welfare.

They would like to send you to a foster home, Sister Rita Marie said. What do you think of that?

But this is my home, Frank said.

I'm sorry, Francis, Sister Rita Marie said, but you have to go. Your time is up here.

JULY 26, 1940, dawned cold and damp. Frank attended Mass, ate his final meal at St. Joseph's, gathered up his clothes, and went to the parlor to wait. When he heard the sound of tires on gravel, he looked outside. A green Dodge motored up the driveway.

Are you ready, Francis? Sister Rita Marie said.

I don't want to go, Frank said.

He had no choice.

You're leaving, Francis, the sister said, but always remember one thing: There's a fork in the road. There's a good route and a bad one. Whatever you choose, let's hope it's the good one.

She hugged the boy, the first time anyone had done that at St. Joseph's. Then a woman and a man walked into the room.

My name is Gertrude Henn, the woman said. And this is my husband, William.

William was a petty officer in the Royal Canadian Navy. Gertrude was at home.

Gertrude told Frank about the place where he would be living with three other children whom the Henns had adopted. The Henns had dogs, pigs, chickens and horses. They lived near fields that bordered woods where blueberries grew and trout swam in the streams. Gertrude said: You're going to love your new home! You can do anything you want.

Sister Rita Marie asked Frank to come back and visit, and then she said goodbye. He climbed into the back seat of the Henns' car, wrapping himself in a blanket for warmth against the raw day.

He cried as the orphanage disappeared from sight.

THE HOUSES thinned and soon Frank was in the country, traveling south on Prospect Road, which led to the Atlantic Ocean. They passed weather-beaten buildings and the Nova Scotia meadows, thick with wildflowers now at the height of summer. They went through the village of Goodwood, with its general store and abandoned dance hall. Fifteen or so miles from Halifax, they stopped at a one-story white house.

The Henns introduced Frank to their two sons, with whom he would share a room, and their daughter, who was 5. They showed Frank the barn, where their Irish setters and Newfoundlands lived, and a nearby cabin, where the children would sleep on hot summer nights. The house had no running water, but it did have electric lights and a hand-crank telephone. The Henns had a housemaid who cooked on a wood stove. And they had a talking parrot, which William had brought back from one of his overseas voyages.

Maybe it won't be so bad, after all, Frank thought.

But the carefree life that his foster mother had promised quickly proved a lie. Frank had been at the foster home only a few days when Gertrude put him to work fixing fences, chopping wood, painting, cleaning the chicken coop, and emptying the chamber pot that she and her husband used. The children were restricted to the outhouse, even in the dead of winter.

Like the nuns, Gertrude did not abide idleness.

What are you sitting there for? she would scream. There's work to be done! Get going!

And her parrot would repeat: Get going! Get going! Get going!

Gertrude Henn with foster daughter Marion.

SOON AFTER moving in, Frank had a strange encounter with Gertrude. Unable to make sense of it, the boy asked Ronnie, who at 14 was the oldest of the Henns' children, if he could explain.

What's the matter with your mother? Frank said. She slapped me across the leg for nothing. Is she crazy?

She's not crazy, Ronnie said. She's drunk.


Drunk. That's how she gets when she has beer.

Frank had seen her drinking, beginning every morning and continuing until she turned in for the night with her parrot and her Pekingese dog, which snarled at everyone but her. Gertrude favored seed beer, home-brewed and bottled by a man who lived down Prospect Road. The liquor was potent. Gertrude drank it warm.

THAT FALL, Frank attended classes in a Presbyterian church that served as a one-room schoolhouse during the week. Sixteen children were enrolled, including a lobsterman's daughter on whom Frank had a crush. Frank was something of a cutup, a boy fond of practical jokes and clowning around. He liked to tease the girls and pull the bows from their hair. When Miss Tweed took her lunch break, he sometimes danced on his desk or climbed the church pulpit to deliver a humorous sermon. He sometimes led his classmates in song: We're in the jailhouse now! We're in the jailhouse now!

As the long Nova Scotia winter approached, greater Halifax experienced the first casualties of a diphtheria epidemic that would claim hundreds, including two of Frank's schoolmates -- two sisters from a family of 13 who developed sore throats and fevers, then turned blue and died. Frank remained healthy, and Gertrude kept on him, demanding that he complete chores before school and chores when he returned home. Cold weather brought new obligations: breaking the ice in the well, hauling the coal, feeding the potbelly stove that was insufficient to keep the entire house warm. Frank slept in long underwear and closed the holes in his shoes with cardboard.

As the days shortened, Gertrude's drinking worsened. When the housemaid was off, Gertrude, too drunk to cook, sat with her parrot and her dog as the children scrounged sugar and stale bread for dinner. When they displeased her, she threw shoes, or hit them with cat-o'-nine-tails or a wooden stick or the back of her hand.

Like the children, her husband, William, feared Gertrude.

A mild-mannered man, English by birth, William seemed doomed. He was just 21 when he lost his first wife and their 15-month-old daughter in The Explosion of 1917. His second marriage, to Gertrude Kidney, a woman of Irish descent, promised a new beginning -- and then her demons emerged. Like Francis L. Beazley, William Henn lived in the shadow of a dark-hearted woman.

William was often at sea or the Halifax navy base where he was stationed. If his wife was drunk when he arrived home from duty, as she ordinarily was, he often got back into his car and returned to the barracks.

Drinking again, huh? he said once when he came home during a snowstorm.

No, no, Gertrude said.

You're drunk again.

No, just one little drink.

Goodbye, William said. He started toward his car.

You ain't goin' nowhere, his wife said.

Gert, get out of my way.

The two scuffled out of the house and into the snow. William broke free and got into his car. Gertrude, dressed in a nightgown, stood in front of the vehicle.

You are not going to that base! she screamed. You're going to have to run me over first!

The Henn boys led their mother back into the house. William cleared the driveway and headed north on Prospect Road.

SOME WHILE after leaving St. Joseph's Orphanage, Gertrude told Frank that his grandmother and grandfather, Nellie and Francis L. Beazley, whom Frank believed he had never met, would be visiting.

I don't want you to say anything bad, Gertrude said. Tell them you enjoy the place, that you're happy.

Gertrude didn't want to jeopardize the money the Beazleys were sending for Frank's maintenance. She needed it for alcohol.

A bus stopped outside the house and off stepped the couple who'd visited the orphanage. Frank was stunned, but said nothing.

The man asked how he was.

Frank said that he was fine.

Are you going to school?

Yes I am.

Are you getting the stamps that we're sending?

He was mailing Frank 25-cent war stamps, similar to U.S. Savings Bonds, that the Canadian government sold to help underwrite the Allied effort.

Frank said that he was receiving the stamps. He did not say that Gertrude was selling them to buy beer.

Nellie did not confirm her relationship to the boy during the visit, but Frank's grandfather did.

Francis, he said, we're going to make a home for you. You're only going to be here a little while.

His stay at the foster home would be much longer than that.


THE GROWING SEASON - THIRD OF TWELVE PARTS - 50 Creighton street - 1940 - 1943
Publication Date: September 26, 2006  Page: A-01  Section: News  Edition: All 

Frank Beazley turned 12 on Dec. 13, 1940, without knowing that another birthday had passed. The nuns who raised him never told orphans the date they were born.

His foster family, the Henns, celebrated Christmas with a tree the boys cut from the woods out back. Santa Claus brought apples and oranges, but no toys.

The holidays passed and Gertrude Henn's drinking did not abate. On nights when she ran out of beer, she crossed the hall to Frank's room.

Francis? she said, Francis, wake up! Could you go down and get me half a dozen bottles of beer?

Frank couldn't refuse: Gertrude would hit him or threaten to send him back to the orphanage. She didn't know he would have been happy to return if he could.

The boy threw off his covers, dressed, and left the house with a canvas knapsack. He went to the barn and greeted his favorite dog, the Newfie. Frank set off down Prospect Road with the dog at his side, their breaths vaporescent in the frozen night. Legend held that a man had hanged himself from a tree by the side of the road, and when Frank approached it, he ran like crazy past its leafless limbs.

He reached the home-brewer's house and knocked on the door. The light came on and the man greeted the boy.

Mom sent me for half a dozen bottles, Frank said.

The man filled his knapsack.

Put it on the cuff, Frank said. Gertrude had a running account with the man, settling her debts at the end of the month.

Some nights, the northern lights lit Frank's way. Their iridescent beauty mesmerized the boy, portending brighter days. It won't be like this forever, he thought. Things will get better. Decades later, Frank would recall those midnight excursions in a painting and this poem:

Icicles dangling like tinsel from

A Christmas tree.

The mood reflecting off the snow.

Northern lights are nature's lights,

That come when winter is dark and serene.

Deep snow crackling beneath.

Stars flicker as trees sway in the night.

The air is hollow and full of sound.

Done decades later, "Northern Lights" was inspired by Frank's late-night walks around his Halifax, Nova Scotia, home -- some of those walks to buy home-brew for his dictatorial foster mother.

But better days were a fantasy. Frank passed his first year at the foster home and alcohol continued to consume Gertrude. She beat the housemaid when the young woman announced she was quitting. She beat her adopted daughter when the girl, terrified of the home-brewer, refused to get beer. She beat Frank when his coat caught fire after he hung it too close to the schoolhouse stove. She beat him when he fell into a well and had to be rescued.

Gertrude didn't need cause. Nothing pleased the woman when she was drunk. All it took was a wrong look and she exploded.

In 1942, the year that he turned 14, Frank learned of a job opening on a construction crew that was clearing land for a reservoir near Goodwood. Frank was beginning to realize that someday he'd be on his own. He remembered another of Sister Rita Marie's admonitions: If you're going to have responsibilities, Francis, you better have a good job.

Frank, second from left in rear, with schoolmates at age 14.

Frank signed on as a water boy for the reservoir project. Every day after school, he shouldered a yoke and carried buckets of water to the laborers who were felling trees around Big Indian and Little Indian Lakes. Frank earned a dime an hour.

Gertrude took his wages, telling him that he owed rent.

She did not excuse him from his chores -- his job merely lengthened an already long day.

YET EVEN HERE, as at St. Joseph's Orphanage, Frank drew strength from his philosophy: Take what's there for you, enjoy what you can.

He liked helping Ronnie tinker with the older boy's Model T. He fished and hunted deer and snared rabbits, which Gertrude in her sober moments made into a tasty Sunday stew. He gardened. He ice-skated. On Saturday nights, he watched the grownups square-dance to banjo and accordion music in a neighbor's barn. He visited the general store, where his foster father treated him to lollipops and ice cream.

Freed from the orphanage's cloistered existence, Frank craved adventure. He followed trails deep into the woods, snapping twigs as he went so that he could find his way back. He took his first taste of moonshine from a neighbor, whose house he was helping to build. He and his classmates launched attacks on their school, flinging cow chips as weapons. They wrote their names with their pee on the gravel. They upended outhouses on Halloween and built snow blockades across Prospect Road in winter. They played baseball, using a stick for a bat and a ball of yarn borrowed from one of the girls.

Gertrude was keen on country-and-western music, and listening to her records on her hand-cranked Victrola, Frank developed an appreciation for American singers Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, and Nova Scotia native Hank Snow, a Canadian sensation before becoming a star in Nashville. The radio acquainted him with Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and comedian Jack Benny. But Gertrude tolerated no interruptions when she was listening to Pepper Young's Family, her favorite radio soap opera.

Get out of here! the woman would shout if Frank intruded while Pepper Young was on. And her parrot would echo: Get going! Get going! Get going!

Marion Henn, the foster daughter, became Frank's dear friend. He saw in her the needy vulnerability that many of the St. Joseph's orphans had shared.

Like Frank, Marion was the child of an unwed mother.

She was born in 1935 at the Ideal Maternity Home, located on the ocean an hour southwest of Halifax, a private facility that claimed to provide discreet placements of illegitimate children. In truth, the owners, a chiropractor and his wife, sold many of the infants for as much as $10,000 on the American black market. But they murdered untold hundreds of other babies who were deemed unmarketable -- children born with illness or deformity, or with dark-colored skin. The owners burned some of the babies in their furnace, and buried others on their property or at sea in butter boxes: small wooden grocery containers in which dairy products were merchandised.

Marion was luckier than many: she survived the Butterbox Babies tragedy, as it became known when the police later investigated.

In winter, Frank took Marion skating. In summer, they walked barefoot to gather strawberries from a nearby farm. They picked blueberries and huckleberries, which Gertrude used for desserts. Marion sometimes ate the berries on the way home, but Frank claimed he was responsible when they returned empty-handed. His fibs brought him beatings, but they spared the little girl.

He remembered Sister Rita Marie's counsel: You know, Francis, you'll always be rewarded one way or another by helping people out.

ONE DAY LATE in 1942, Frank received a visitor. A woman he had never met came to tell him about a dispute that she'd had with his grandmother.

Muriel Beazley Mullane was Frank's great-aunt -- the younger sister of his maternal grandfather, Francis L. Beazley. Somehow -- perhaps through Francis L., who felt more kindly toward his grandson than did his wife, Nellie -- Muriel had learned about the existence of Frank. Muriel believed that the Beazleys should finally take responsibility for the boy.

Nellie had resisted.

What good could come of it after so many years? The past was behind them now, the skeletons secure in their closets. Besides, the child was in good hands. And he was almost grown up; soon, the matter of care would be irrelevant.

Muriel was adamant. If nothing else, the boy deserved the truth.

Frank heard his great-aunt out. He believed what she said -- what could possibly motivate someone to invent such a story? And she spoke with such authority, knew so many details. She'd shone a light inside a dark secret.

Muriel told Frank that his mother's maiden name was Edna May Beazley, and that she had married an army sergeant named Larry Moffatt in May 1939, when Frank was at St. Joseph's Orphanage. Edna had moved with her husband to Ottawa, Ontario, the Canadian capital and Moffatt's hometown. With almost 600 miles now separating her from Nellie, it was a chance for Edna to start a life removed from her mother's suffocating influence.

A tall, thin man with brown hair and blue eyes, Moffatt was a machinist with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. He dreamed of becoming an aeronautical engineer. Two years after marrying, Edna gave birth to a daughter, Helen, nicknamed Snookie. It was the spring of 1941, and Canadian soldiers were being sent overseas for the war against Germany.

Moffatt received orders that fall, and in late November, he embarked from Halifax. Edna remained in Ottawa with their baby girl. Christmas passed and Moffatt settled into a barracks in Aldershot, England, some 45 miles outside of London. He was assigned duties as a clerk.

On May 13, 1942, an officer bearing an overseas cable knocked on Edna's door. He regretted to report that Sgt. Lawrence Robert Moffatt had died nine days before at his barracks -- and had already been buried in a cemetery outside London. "Multiple injuries to brain caused by fall," the cable stated. "No evidence to show cause." Edna would never learn more about her husband's death. Unlike other Beazley family mysteries, this one would endure.

Edna moved with her baby back to Halifax -- into the house on 50 Creighton St. where Nellie and Francis L. still lived.

Muriel gave Frank the address.

THE NEXT MORNING, Frank started down Prospect Road. He walked some and then hitched a ride with a farmer who was delivering his produce to the city on a horse-drawn wagon. Frank found 50 Creighton St.

He knocked on the door.

Nellie opened it.

Frank looked into the kitchen -- and there, by the stove, was a woman with fair skin, blue eyes, and blond hair, just like him. She had the same broad nostrils, prominent ears, and thin face, a Beazley family trait.

Are you my mother? Frank said.

Nellie cut him off.

Her name is Edna Moffatt, she said. She's not your mother. Now no more questions.

Francis L. was not home, could not intercede for the boy. Nellie told Frank to return to his foster home -- but she did not say goodbye for good. Nellie's father had recently died, leaving the house to her, and she was planning to sell it and move to a more respectable neighborhood. She intended to realize her social pretensions.

After they had settled in, Nellie said, Frank could live with them there. She would let him know when they were ready.

Why such an offer after so many years? Pressure from Muriel Mullane? Pressure from Francis L., who had told his grandson that he would give him a better life? A belated pang of conscience? Or was it that Frank was no longer Baby Francis, but a teenage boy soon to be a man. Now that he knew where the Beazleys lived, did Nellie fear trouble if she rejected him completely?

Was it even the truth?

FRANCIS L. BEAZLEY was at home on Saturday, Dec. 5, 1942, when he dropped dead of a heart attack. He was 55 years old. His obituary, written with Nellie's input, mentioned his army service and the 18 years that he had worked as a clerk for Canadian National Steamships. It listed Nellie, Edna, Edna's sister, and granddaughter Snookie among the survivors. Frank was not included.

That weekend, Muriel Mullane called Frank's foster home to share the news. Francis L.'s death saddened the boy, for he was the only person who'd ever promised Frank a better tomorrow. Muriel asked if Frank wanted to attend the wake and funeral. He did. William Henn agreed to drive him into Halifax.

On Tuesday, Dec. 8, five days before his 14th birthday, Frank arrived at 50 Creighton St., where the wake was being held. Nellie met the boy at the door and took him aside. Francis L.'s casket was open.

I want you to go see your grandfather lying there, Nellie said, but try not to shed a tear. Everybody will know if you shed a tear.

Frank did not cry, but his presence prompted speculation from relatives who'd never seen him. Who was this mysterious stranger who looked so much like a Beazley? But Nellie and Edna said nothing.

The wake ended and the mourners followed the hearse to St. Patrick's Church, where Francis L. and Nellie had married and Baby Francis had been baptized. The funeral ended, Francis L. was buried, and Frank returned to his foster home.

Almost two years would pass before anyone contacted him again.


Publication Date: September 27, 2006  Page: A-01  Section: News  Edition: All 

On the morning of Oct. 26, 1944, Frank Beazley went to empty Gertrude Henn's chamber pot, one of his chores before leaving for school. The boy opened his foster mother's door. Gertrude lay motionless on her bed. Frank thought she was sleeping until he noticed that she was not breathing.

He called to Ronnie, the older of Gertrude's adopted sons.

Your mother's not moving, said Frank, who was 15.

What are you talking about?

Your mother - she won't wake up.

Ronnie telephoned a doctor, who pronounced the woman dead when he arrived at the house. A heart attack, perhaps precipitated by her heavy drinking, had killed her.

Gertrude was 48. Her husband, William, had lost his second wife.

Frank did not grieve for his foster mother: the woman had been nicer to her dog and her parrot than she had been to him. But he didn't rejoice, either. Vengeance wasn't in his nature.

Gertrude was buried alongside William's first wife and baby daughter, victims of The Explosion of 1917.

A short while later, Nellie Beazley stepped off the bus at the foster home. Almost two years had elapsed since she'd last seen Frank at her husband's funeral. Nellie told Frank that the family had moved into their new home and Frank could now live with them.

Frank bid farewell to the Henns and left his foster home for good. More than a half-century would pass before he next saw Marion. He would never see William or Ronnie again.

The new Beazley residence was in an upper-middle-class neighborhood that was home to a lawyer, a public school principal, and the Police Department's chief of detectives -- a different class of people than Creighton Street's stevedores and sailors. Nellie had finally moved up.

No. 14 Bluebell Lane had a porch, a yard, and eight rooms. Nellie lived on the second floor, the recently widowed Edna May Moffatt on the first with her fatherless young daughter. Sixteen years old now, Frank shared an upstairs bedroom with Nellie's brother, a former laborer who had been forced to retire when he developed emphysema. He was a boorish man of about 60.

I know who you are! he would tease the boy. I know but I'm not at liberty to tell you!

But the facial similarities between Frank and Edna were so striking that even a stranger might make assumptions, and so Nellie fabricated a story. She claimed that Frank was Edna's brother -- not Edna's illegitimate child. Nellie said nothing of the boy's mysterious circumstances and she tolerated no questions; it was no one's business where this person had been or why he'd suddenly appeared. Nellie's heart remained as cold as January.

The Beazleys attended Mass every Sunday, and as Frank accompanied his grandmother and mother he sometimes thought: How can you go to church and face God but not tell me that I'm your son? Why such a big lie? Why?

A WIDOW NOW, like her daughter Edna, Nellie ruled the household. She had a brother, daughter, and granddaughter under her wing -- and now a teenage boy who was for all intents nothing but a boarder. Nellie demanded that Frank keep his room clean and assist with chores, and she put him to work building a garage. He had to earn his keep.

Edna was 33 years old, a secretary at Imperial Oil, a thriving company that supplied fuel to Allied ships during the Second World War. Industrious and frugal, she hoped someday to use her growing savings and the proceeds of her late husband's insurance to free her from the workaday world. Edna was a funny and personable woman, with her share of friends; she went on dates, and invited acquaintances back to Bluebell Lane for an evening of cards. Nellie did her best to keep them away from the mysterious newcomer who lived upstairs.

Frank became fond of Edna's young daughter, Helen, nicknamed Snookie. Frank sat next to Snookie at Sunday Mass. He took her bowling. He walked her to school and helped her with her arithmetic. He saw in the little girl the same vulnerability that made him cherish Marion Henn, his foster sister.

Frank had dropped out of ninth grade while living at the Henns' and he had no desire to return to school. He'd quit his job as a water boy on the reservoir project -- but when Nellie's garage was finished and she demanded rent, he found employment at a Halifax bakery. He was planning for the day when he would be on his own.

Everybody has to eat, he thought. Baker would be a good steady job.

FOR THE FIRST time in his life, Frank experienced significant freedom.

Several teenage boys lived in the Bluebell area, and Frankie became their friend. The boys hung out at Windsor Sweets, an establishment that featured a soda fountain, pinball machines, a jukebox that played swing, the popular music of the time -- and one of the wonders of the era, a Panoram machine, precursor to the music video that projected short movies of entertainers onto a screen. But the biggest attraction was Winnie, a pretty clerk with black hair and a beautiful smile. Frank and his friends fantasized about Winnie, but she was older. She did not lack for suitors her own age.

Weekends found the boys at the movies. In 1940s Halifax, American Westerns were big. The Saturday-afternoon double feature cost 12 cents. That left enough for a supper of fish and chips.

Frankie was no movie sophisticate: until Bluebell Lane, he'd considered Snow White the height of filmmaking. Westerns thrilled him. He already knew Roy Rogers' music -- now he could see the fabled singer, riding across the screen in such movies as King of the Cowboys and Yellow Rose of Texas.

Theater etiquette, however, escaped him.

A movie would take a dramatic turn and Frank would jump excitedly onto his seat. He screamed at the actors, as if they could respond:

Watch out! You're going to get shot! There's an Indian behind that rock!

Boys being boys, the Bluebell gang egged him on:

You tell 'em, Frankie! Give 'em heck!

The boys liked this slender newcomer with the easy laugh and sweet spirit. Frankie was funny -- "a joker" -- and he was always up for anything. But he was extraordinarily naive.

Almost old enough to serve his country at war, Frank had never shopped at a department store, dined at a restaurant, or been on a ship or train. He had never owned a book, read a newspaper, or set foot in a library or a museum. He was a child in a teenager's body.

Frank realized his shortcomings: since birth, he had existed in a sort of suspended animation, his only insights into modern civilization what he gleaned from the radio and a collection of country-and-western records played by a drunk. Coming to Halifax was like landing on another planet.

The Bluebell boys attended public schools that stood three stories tall. They played organized sports. They had mothers and brothers and sisters with whom they'd always lived. They had fathers -- one an army colonel, another the Halifax police chief. They could tell stories of merry Christmases and daytrips to the Nova Scotia shore. They had photographs of themselves and their families. They belonged somewhere.

What did Frank have? Memories of nuns sewing pockets shut and draping boys in their sheets after they'd wet the bed. Memories of a woman who craved liquor at midnight. Memories of beatings. His new friends sympathized when Frankie told his stories -- and they wondered what the real situation was with Edna, who so closely resembled Frank except for being almost 20 years older.

They say she's my sister, Frank said. But I think she's my mother.

More than half a century would pass before he had definitive proof.


Publication Date: September 28, 2006  Page: A-01  Section: News  Edition: All 

After living on Bluebell Lane in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for several months, the teenage Frank Beazley rented an apartment and took a full-time job at a bakery. As World War II ended, he found another job, gave up his apartment, and moved back in with his family, who still would not acknowledge him.

The arrangement was untenable: Nellie's hold on Edna continued and Frank could not break it. He was frustrated and sometimes angry at his mother and his grandmother. He was increasingly restless, a young man struggling to make sense of secrets and lies.

In 1945, he moved into an apartment again. He enrolled in a bakers' school, then served an apprenticeship making cookies for lumberjacks in New Brunswick. Returning to Halifax, he was hired by Ben's Limited, the city's largest bakery, where he worked the overnight shift, eight hours of hot ovens and lifting 100-pound sacks of flour. When his shift ended at 9 a.m., he worked a second job making pastries and pies at another bakery.

He'd not forgotten Sister Rita Marie: If you're going to have responsibilities, Francis, she'd said, you better have a good job.

In the autumn of 1947, Frank decided to enlist in the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, which operated vehicles and provided logistical support for the military. He needed his birth certificate to sign up, but Edna and Nellie said they knew nothing about any such document. Frank went to St. Joseph's Orphanage, but the nuns insisted that their records were confidential and could not be released, not even to him. He obtained a copy only after contacting a government agency. The certificate did not list his parents' names, only a registration number, a city of birth, and a date.

Frank, age 19, in Canadian Army Service Corps, 1949.

Frank still had no proof that Edna was his mother, but he finally knew his birthday and exact age -- 18 years old on Dec. 13, 1947. Small though it was, he had regained a measure of dignity.

The army assigned Frank to a base in Halifax. He drove trucks and worked in the mess hall. After a year, he was promoted to corporal. Off-duty, he frequented the bars and attended professional boxing and wrestling matches. He developed a passion for dancing. He ice-skated. He took long walks, always moving fast, as if he'd built an overload of energy during his invisible years.

Frank had not dared to ask out Winnie, the girl from the soda fountain, but he introduced himself to a girl he met skating. They began to date, and while they talked of marriage, it went nowhere. She was a mama's girl, and Frank knew more than enough about that. Frank took up with another woman, more worldly. They went steady for several months -- but then she left him for a sailor.

His friends from Bluebell Lane, meanwhile, were marrying, starting families and advancing in their careers. One would find distinction serving in the air force. Another would become a prominent lawyer. Still another would go on to become the lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia.

The decade ended and Frank, army corporal, remained restless.

BY 1952, EDNA had enough money to purchase Bramley Gardens, a working-class tourist destination near the Bay of Fundy, some 90 miles west of Halifax. The family relocated to Bramley to tend the cottages and general store, which were the compound's main attractions.

Frank stayed in Halifax - but sometimes, after a day in the pubs, he got to thinking about Nellie and Edna. His anger resurfaced, and he drove in his Jeep to Bramley Gardens.

Mom, he said to Edna, this is the time to do it. Tell me I'm your son.

Nellie stepped in.

I'll take care of it, Edna, she said.

Frank backed down. Nellie allowed him to stay, but the only person who was comfortable around him was Snookie, almost a teenager now. She remembered how well Frank had treated her on Bluebell Lane.

Frank was wearying of being a "mystery man," as he later put it. He knew he had to let his anger go.

What has to be has to be and that's it, he thought. If I can't get answers from anybody, why should I keep harping? Life goes on.

An army buddy who had an aunt living in Rhode Island told Frank about the higher-paying jobs in the States. We ought to check it out, Frankie, the friend said. Let's pay my aunt a visit.

That summer, Frank journeyed south. He liked what he saw -- with its scenic seashore, Rhode Island reminded him of the nicer things about Nova Scotia. And bakers indeed earned more than in Canada. His friend's aunt offered to post the bond for his immigration if he decided to move. She would rent him a room in her house.

ON DEC. 28, 1953, Frank boarded a train at Halifax Station.

Powered by a steam locomotive, the sleeper-car Gull carried him across New Brunswick and into Maine, then down to Boston's North Station. From South Station, another train delivered him to Providence, 26 hours after leaving Nova Scotia. Are you a Red Sox fan? a man in Union Station greeted him. If you're not, you better get back on that train!

Frank reached the aunt's house, located in Warwick near Rocky Point Amusement Park. He had been living there only a short while when he found work at a bakery in Providence's Armory District. He commuted from Warwick for several months, then moved to an apartment near his workplace.

Frank's new neighbors were people like him: clerks, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, jewelry and textile workers, the men and women supporting Providence's robust post-war economy. They put in long days and when the whistle blew, they packed the neighborhood bars -- places like the Turf Club Cafe, where a patron could get a submarine sandwich, a draft beer, and a brandy chaser, all for less than a dollar. Frank became a regular.

After two years, Frank took a job baking pies at the newly remodeled J.J. Newberry store in downtown Providence, a dazzling establishment that featured a popular lunch counter and a bakery. In his free time, he window-shopped and went to the movies. He roller-skated. He walked everywhere at his hurried pace. He spent weekend afternoons at Rocky Point, eating shore dinners, riding the roller coaster, playing the arcade games, and watching the children on the carousel. Seeing their smiling faces, Frank thought of the childhood that he'd been denied.

Frank turned 30. Sometimes he wondered what had happened to Edna, Nellie, and Snookie -- who knew nothing of where life had taken him -- but the past had lost its toxicity, and Frank's anger was mostly spent. He was an average guy, taking what was there for him, enjoying what he could.

Except for not having a steady girlfriend, he'd found the better life that he'd imagined under the northern lights.

ONE SATURDAY NIGHT in 1961, when he was 32, Frank noticed a pretty redhead sitting alone at the Turf Club's mahogany bar. She had a fair complexion and blue eyes, like him.

Frank asked her to dance and she accepted. He dropped a coin into the jukebox and selected Fats Domino's cover of "Blueberry Hill," a tune that he figured might enchant a lady. He had no inkling, of course, that the lyrics would prove prophetic:

I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill

On Blueberry Hill where I found you

The moon stood still on Blueberry Hill

And lingered till my dreams came true

The wind in the willow played

Love's sweet melody

But all of those vows we made

Were never to be

After they danced, Frank and the woman talked and drank. When the evening was done, he gave her a token of affection: a Canadian dollar bill. Frank was funny and sweet and good-looking, a blond who stood 5-foot-6 and weighed 132 pounds. He had a steady job and a decent apartment. The weeks went by, and the couple began going steady.

The actual Canadian dollar bill that Frank gave Mary E. Fields the night they met
 Like Frank, Mary E. Fields was a native of Nova Scotia.

And like Frank, she'd had a hard life.

Mary's mother died when she was 4, leaving her father to raise her. In her 20s, Mary fell in love with a married man who was separated from his wife, a Roman Catholic. Saying that her religion forbid it, the wife wouldn't grant him a divorce -- not even after Mary had his child, a baby girl. Nova Scotia had no shortage of family secrets.

In the spring of 1956, Mary married an American jewelry worker who lived in Providence, and the next year, she immigrated to the States. The following summer, Mary filed for divorce, accusing her husband of neglect, inability to support her, and extreme cruelty.

Five years older than Frank, Mary worked as a laborer at the Speidel Watch Co. and lived with her daughter, Patricia, who was 11 years old by then. In 1962, Mary and the girl moved in with Frank. He had found another job: overnight baker at the Dunkin' Donuts store at the corner of Reservoir and Park Avenue in Cranston. The new doughnut chain prospered, and Frank planned on finishing his career there. He wanted to marry Mary and make Patricia his lawful daughter. He envisioned a long career followed by a happy retirement, when he and his wife would travel.

Mary E. Fields with daughter, Patricia, as a baby.

In late 1966, Frank proposed to Mary.

She accepted.

The next summer, they would return to Halifax for the wedding.

DAWN WAS BREAKING on Friday, Jan. 6, 1967, when Frank punched his time card and left Dunkin' Donuts. It was payday.

He went to the Public Street Tap. He had a cigar and a few drinks and played billiards with a friend. After settling with the bartender, Frank stepped into the morning cold, not noticing that his boots were untied. He hailed a taxi.

Frank had moved again, to a three-room basement apartment on Arch Street, near the Turf Club Cafe. He paid the cab driver and went inside.

Starting downstairs, he tripped on his laces and tumbled 10 steps to the bottom.

He tried to get up.

He couldn't.

Mary went to help him.

Don't touch me! he said. There's something wrong. I'm numb. I think I'm paralyzed.


Publication Date: September 29, 2006  Page: A-01  Section: News  Edition: All 

Frank Beazley lay paralyzed on his apartment floor. He couldn't feel anything below his upper chest. His fiancée Mary Fields, went to comfort him, but Frank ordered her not to touch him. He feared that he had broken his neck.

Please! he said. Get on the phone and call an ambulance!

The rescue workers sped Frank to Rhode Island Hospital, where X-rays showed he had fractured two vertebrae near the top of his spine. The fractures injured the spinal cord, the pathway of nerves connecting the body to the brain. No one could immediately determine the extent of the damage. No one yet knew if it could be repaired.

Doctors drilled into Frank's skull to anchor a traction device immobilizing his head, preventing further damage to the nerves. He was strapped into a Stryker bed, which sandwiched a patient between two mattresses and could be turned like a rotisserie. He was turned regularly -- front to back, back to front, face up, face down -- a precaution against bedsores.

In the ensuing days, therapists exercised Frank's muscles in an attempt to preserve function. Frank complied uncomplainingly, but three weeks after admission, he could barely move his arms and hands, and he could coax almost nothing out of his legs and feet. He remained what was called a spastic quadriplegic.

During a four-hour operation on Jan. 31, 1967, doctors removed pieces of Frank's ribs and grafted them onto the broken bones in his neck. The surgery was successful. At the very least, the doctors believed that Frank would be able to support the weight of his head. With a little luck, they predicted, he would walk again.

"Mr. Beazley is relatively young, 38 years old, and should eventually return to his work as a baker," a doctor wrote. "He is a very cooperative patient, and no special difficulties are anticipated."

At 7:30 p.m. on March 3, Frank's heart suddenly stopped.

The staff saved Frank, but the next day, he suffered a succession of seizures. Examination revealed that one of the traction rods had pierced his skull and pushed against his brain. Doctors replaced the device with a collar.

By March 17, the wound had healed.

Frank was encouraged. A doctor approved his request for a St. Patrick's Day beer.

Still, by the end of March, almost three months after falling down the stairs, Frank hadn't left his bed. He couldn't feed himself. His arms throbbed and he had no sensation in most of the rest of his body. His legs spasmed day and night. He wanted to believe the doctors' prognosis of recovery -- but sometimes, he doubted.

Lying there, he remembered roller-skating and Rocky Point and the Turf Club Cafe. He worried about his future with Mary. They were supposed to be completing their wedding arrangements; quadriplegia wasn't part of the plan.

Is this going to be my life? he thought. Am I going to sit up again? Will I walk?

Frank had reached the limits of what an acute-care hospital could do. On March 29, the staff dressed him in a johnny, coat, and socks and slippers that Mary had brought him. They placed him into an ambulance for the hour-long trip to a rehabilitation center in northwest Rhode Island, a part of the state that he'd never seen.

He signed his discharge papers with an X, the best he could manage.

THE AMBULANCE LEFT the city and drove through suburbs and then thickening woods. A few miles more and the ambulance reached a red-brick institution. The growing season was almost upon Zambarano Memorial Hospital, and soon the lawns would be green, the apple trees budding, the flowers blooming in the beds outside the granite steps.

Zambarano had opened in 1905 as a sanatorium for victims of tuberculosis. Fresh air and sunshine were the treatments of the time, and the climate at Wallum Lake, which straddles the Massachusetts border, was ideal. With the advent of antibiotics in the mid-20th century, tuberculosis patients no longer required such rural isolation. Zambarano would maintain a TB ward until the 1980s, but as that population declined, the hospital began to specialize in treating the victims of accidents, strokes, and chronic diseases.

Some were brain-dead. Many would never leave.

The ambulance proceeded to a dock at the rear of the hospital. An attendant wheeled Frank into an elevator, which brought him to a room on the third floor. After examining him, a doctor noted that "pt. no. 23-471" was "alert" and "cooperative" and that his heart and lungs seemed normal. Mary Fields was listed as the person to be notified in an emergency.

A week after admission, Frank began his rehabilitation.

Every weekday, staff brought him to a room equipped with mats, bars, balls, handrails, splints, weights, tilt tables, and hoists. Therapists flexed his limbs and massaged his body. They worked his fingers and toes. They dipped him into a whirlpool. They applied heat. They attached weights to his knees. They were as committed as Frank, who had learned the importance of hard work from the nuns at St. Joseph's Orphanage.

"His spirits are good, his appetite is good," a doctor wrote a few weeks into the program.

By summer, Frank was able to shrug his shoulders, lift his arms almost to neck-level, and better move his fingers. By the spring of 1968, a year after he was admitted, he could negotiate parallel bars with the assistance of a therapist -- his arms partially supporting his weight, his legs moving as if walking. He no longer required a hydraulic lift to get him from his bed to his wheelchair.

He believed that someday he would go home.

But as he neared the end of his second year at Zambarano, the doctors no longer shared his optimism.

Frank had regained no feeling in the parts of him that had gone dead. His elbows were locked. He could not walk, and while he could move his fingers, they had contracted, rendering his hands largely useless. Surgery might loosen them, but nothing could repair the damage to his nerves.

"He has no awareness of vertical position," a doctor wrote on Feb. 18, 1969. "I feel that this patient's disability is permanent and total. I do not anticipate any further recovery."

AT FIRST, MARY FIELDS visited Frank every weekend. The two played cards and talked as they gazed out at Wallum Lake.

Although they never discussed their future in detail, Frank began to sense that Mary believed he would never leave Zambarano -- that eventually, probably sooner rather than later, she would consider his quadriplegia repulsive. He knew that he had failed her financially. During his early days at Zambarano, Frank had received hundreds of dollars in monthly federal disability checks, which he'd turned over to Mary. But then the government changed procedures, and all but $25 in spending money went directly to the state for the care of "pt. no. 23-471."

The seasons changed. Mary's weekly visits became monthly, and then less frequent than that.

Frank was saddened, but understanding: they'd been partners in a vibrant relationship for six years and now he couldn't brush his own teeth.

To some extent, Frank blamed himself. If only he'd gone straight home from work on that January morning. If only he'd had less to drink. If only he'd remembered to tie his boots. If only . . .

Frank confronted the inevitable.

I can't very well hold her down, he thought. It's her life out there and my life here.

There was no final goodbye, no card, no letter. One day Mary kissed him on the cheek and said she'd see him soon. She never returned. The curtain closed and the woman he'd believed would complete his life faded to black.

But her daughter, Patricia, a young woman by then, kept in touch. She remembered the days when, as a teenager, she sometimes joined Frank and Mary at the Turf Club Cafe -- how her mother would step aside to let her dance with this good-natured, fun-loving man who was going to be her stepfather, the first real dad she'd ever had.

One day in August 1971, Patricia visited Zambarano. She found Frank in the therapy room, where he was receiving whirlpool treatment for his wasted hands. Frank saw her face and knew she'd brought bad tidings.

Something happened, didn't it? Frank said.

I found my mother dead, Patricia said.

I'm sorry.

She had a heart attack. I found her in her apartment.

Mary had been living alone in a rundown manufacturing district of Providence after moving out of the basement flat she'd shared with Frank. She was 47. Her obituary ran to just three paragraphs. Once again, Frank was not mentioned.

In clearing out Mary's apartment, Patricia had kept an eye out for any of Frank's possessions that her mother might have had. She found no photographs, no clothes, no license, no passport or other papers. Mary had kept only one memento: the Canadian dollar bill Frank gave her on the night they met, the night that Frank played "Blueberry Hill" on the Turf Club Cafe jukebox.

It's all I have, Patricia said.

It's all right, Frank said.

The dollar went into Frank's wallet. Decades later, he still had the bill, his only link to the last period in his life that he'd danced or walked or been able to tie his shoes.


Publication Date: September 30, 2006  Page: A-01  Section: News  Edition: All 

Fate had punished Frank Beazley cruelly, but it rewarded him two summers after Mary's 1971 death when an unusually colorful man was admitted to Zambarano Hospital.

Raised in North Providence, Louie Pafundi was a teenager when his older brother Tony began to ride thoroughbred horses at Pascoag Park, only a few miles from Wallum Lake. Louie envied Tony, and he often skipped school to watch him race. The younger Pafundi became a Pascoag stable boy, then moved to New Jersey to learn riding from a prominent trainer. At 5 feet tall and 100 pounds, Louie was the ideal jockey. He won his first race on just his third mount, in the summer of 1947. He was 20 years old.

Louie raced in Massachusetts, Maine, Chicago, and Detroit. He rode the Florida and Canadian circuits. Sports photographers and writers in his home state fawned over the handsome young sensation. "Lou has brown hair, brown eyes and an olive complexion," a journalist wrote. "He likes fishing next best to riding horses and goes to hockey games for evening amusement."

Louie was a star.

And then the wheel turned.

In the mid-1950s, Louie started to experience dizzy spells. He had difficulty walking and his hands tremored. He was racing one day when his arms suddenly went weak and he lost control of the reins; the horse went into the fence and Louie pitched onto the dirt. He was not badly hurt, but he could no longer deny that something was wrong. Perhaps it was only his age or the toll from so many years in the saddle.

Louie's symptoms worsened, but he was able to hide them, at first. His legs became weaker, but he could still get around.

He could not, however, safely remain a jockey. In 1958, he rode his last mount and took a job as an official. His celebrity receded.

"Times have changed," read the caption to a photo of Louie when he was working at a small track in western Massachusetts. "Louis Pafundi, ex-North Providence newsboy, then a jockey and now a race track official, weighs out Frank Shaeffer as clerk of scales after a race at the Great Barrington Fair. Pafundi and Shaeffer, both of Pascoag, once were hot rivals in the riding end of the sport."

Now twilight descended.

Louie moved to West Virginia, where he officiated at two small racetracks that were a universe away from Louisville Downs and the Kentucky Derby. Having divorced the woman he'd married when he was 18, he began to court a waitress, also divorced, who worked at the Howard Johnson's restaurant where he often ate. They married in 1964.

By the late 1960s, Louie could no longer dismiss his symptoms. He figured he had Lou Gehrig's disease, but doctors diagnosed multiple sclerosis, also incurable. His health kept slipping away, and before the decade ended, he needed a wheelchair. Like Mary Fields, his wife hadn't bargained for a cripple, and the couple divorced. Louie moved back to Rhode Island to live with his aging mother and one of his nine brothers.

His care became too much for his family. On Aug. 31, 1973, he was admitted to Zambarano.

THERE WAS NO apocalyptic moment when Frank realized that he would never walk again, never live independently. No one marked a calendar or wrote into his medical record. The seasons changed and reality settled.

Frank recalled Sister Rita Marie's words when he left St. Joseph's Orphanage so long ago:

There's a fork in the road. There's a good route and a bad one. Whatever you choose, let's hope it's the good one.

If Frank were to find fulfillment, he would have to avoid the road of self-pity and despair. He would have to keep working hard. He would place his faith in the Lord.

The human body does not function optimally when it's immobile, regardless of the quality of care. Frank experienced pneumonia, infections, rashes, cysts, sores, fevers, sweats, itching, congestion, cramps, swelling, nausea, and other complications of quadriplegia. Staff administered creams, ointments, antibiotics, sedatives, analgesics, laxatives, vitamins, muscle relaxants, and tranquilizers.

He rarely complained.

"His spirits remain good," a doctor wrote several years after Frank was admitted. "He enjoys watching television and talking with neighbors and visitors."

Surgeons operated several times to free up Frank's arms and hands, but they did not completely succeed. They could not unlock his right elbow to the extent that they did his left -- so Frank, who'd been right-handed, taught himself to use his left. Practicing with Jell-O, he learned to eat with a custom-built large-handled spoon. He drank through a straw. He couldn't type or write, not even his name, but he could hold a paint brush and operate the remote control to a TV.

When Louie Pafundi arrived, Frank was about as self-sufficient as he would ever be. He began to devote himself to helping those he considered less fortunate.

I could have been like some of these people that can't talk, can't hear, can't see, he thought. They're the ones who need help. If God gives me the strength, I'll do it.

He began by providing moral support to patients, one at a time.

Things can't be all that bad, he would say. All you have to do is try, try, try. Look at me -- I'm trying all the time. I know it hurts -- it hurts everybody. You just have to give that push.

LOUIE WAS FRANK'S kind of guy.

He told jokes and he appreciated a good laugh. He enjoyed eating, especially meatballs with garlic, one of Frank's favorite dishes, too. He smoked cigarettes -- Frank had his cigars -- and he liked to play cards. The two passed many an afternoon over a cribbage board.

Louie fancied himself a ladies' man, and being institutionalized did not change his image of himself. He had a roguish charm and he enjoyed chatting up Zambarano's nurses, aides, and candy stripers. When Charlie's Angels debuted in the fall of 1976, he became infatuated with Farrah Fawcett and her sexy co-stars. Frank fell, too.

Zambarano didn't condone a resident becoming involved with staff, but no rules forbade relationships between patients. Some even married. One day, Louie met an attractive young woman in the library. She suffered from a rare, degenerative neuromuscular disease. Louie introduced himself and she was smitten. Soon they were a couple. They smoked cigarettes together, attended hospital parties, hung out with Frank.

Frank was soft on the woman, too, but she was Louie's girl.

But not forever. Louie broke up with her and found someone new: Norma, an older woman whose stroke had paralyzed an arm. Her legs still functioned, and she could move her wheelchair with them. Louie was less adept -- so with her good arm, the woman pulled him around. Louie was steady with Norma until he found someone new, a woman of Belgian descent who was crazy for him.

EXCEPT FOR SURGERY, Frank did not leave Wallum Lake during his first decade at the hospital. Longtime patients of that era rarely did. Bedtime was 3 p.m. and the staff preferred their patients to wear green johnnies.

The Rhode Island Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals, which operates Zambarano, was entering a more enlightened era. So one morning in August 1977, staff helped Frank, Louie, and others dress in street clothes, then assisted them onto an old school bus. The bus lacked a handicapped lift and the suspension was shot, but Frank found humor in that. My neck's already broken! he said when the bus hit a bump and he was lifted out of his chair. Keep on going!

The bus brought Frank and his friends to a restaurant for lunch. Frank ordered fish and chips, a favorite of his youth, his first non-hospital meal since January 1967. Then the patients went to the Lincoln Mall. With money from his meager patient account, Frank bought a T-shirt, pants, a straw hat -- and a poster of Farrah Fawcett. A therapist lifted him from his wheelchair into a photo booth to have his Polaroid picture taken.

I never thought I'd live to see the day! Frank thought.

The following summer, the old blue bus brought Frank and his friends to Rocky Point Amusement Park. Frank watched the children on the carousel and he rode a water attraction called the Flume, which the park had added since his last visit, in 1966. He had a cigar, chowder and clam cakes at the shore dinner hall, and a beer, which he drank through a straw. What memories! How good to be alive!

A few days later, Old Blue set off for Fenway Park. It was sweltering and the bus lacked air conditioning, but the staff had filled a cooler with ice, which they wrapped in towels and applied to the patients' foreheads. Frank had no complaints. He watched through open windows as Rhode Island receded and they neared Boston, which he'd only glimpsed, immigrating from Nova Scotia. The city skyline appeared and Frank grew excited. It was a simple yet exquisite pleasure: being out in the world with its traffic and noise and busy people.

Staff wheeled Frank, Louie, and their friends into Fenway Park. This was the era of future Hall-of-Famers Carl Yastrzemski and Carlton Fisk, and the Red Sox were contending for the pennant. The Sox beat the Cleveland Indians in 13 innings. Frank had a hot dog, a hamburger, and a couple of beers.

Aug. 10, 1978, was a beautiful day.

There were more beautiful days as the 1980s neared. Frank was content. He was taking what was there for him, enjoying what he could.

But occasionally he wondered about his family.

For more than a quarter of a century, he'd had no contact with Nellie, Edna, and Snookie. He wanted answers. His anger was gone, but he still wanted his mother to call him son.


Publication Date: October 1, 2006  Page: D-01  Section: Sunday Extra  Edition: All 

When one of Frank Beazley's roommates died in March 1979, Frank's best friend, Louie Pafundi, moved in. With its pinup posters and constant visitors, their room was the place to be. It was located at the distant end of a second-floor wing, far from the nurses' station.

A year later, a seemingly reserved man came to Zambarano Hospital from his home in Woonsocket.

Mike Saporito suffered from muscular dystrophy, a congenital disease that progressively weakens muscles. As a young boy, he'd attended school, but the humiliation of falls and the taunts of classmates made him miserable. He was 9 when he broke a leg. He never walked again. His mother, Fillippa, withdrew him from school. Fillippa understood muscular dystrophy: Mike's older brother Tommy also had the disease.

Tommy made it his cause. He conducted public-awareness campaigns, participated in Jerry Lewis' annual telethon, and ran for state representative. Mike was his opposite: a shy boy who grew into an agoraphobic man who never left his house, not even to sit on the porch. He passed his days in the parlor, watching TV and following his favorite team, the New York Yankees, on the radio.

A heart attack killed the boys' father when Mike was 13, leaving him and Tommy in the care of their mother, who had nine other children. Fillippa fed her sick sons. She bathed and dressed them. She settled them into their beds at the end of the day and she woke in the middle of every night to turn them, so that their fragile bodies would escape bedsores.

Throat cancer killed Tommy in 1969. Mike's disease progressed, and as Fillippa aged, her own health began to fail. At the age of 89, she was admitted to a nursing home. Relatives were unable to meet Mike's needs, and Mike was sent to Zambarano. He was 47 years old.

Mike was assigned to Frank and Louie's floor. He soon heard about Room 17.

Mike, you need to check it out, a nurse said.

What do you mean?

Those guys are jokers down there.


They like their fun. Check it out.

One day, Mike visited. It was like entering a men's club.

Frank and Louie had decorated their walls with posters of Farrah Fawcett and Lynda Carter, star of the TV series Wonder Woman. Alongside paintings of Jesus they had posted photographs of pretty candy-stripers and student nurses. They smoked, and drank beer on trips outside Zambarano. They knew the latest hospital gossip. They told off-color jokes. Louie even had a girlfriend.

At the age of almost 50, Mike had found his place. When a bed opened in Room 17, he transferred there.

A recluse in Woonsocket, Mike joined his new friends at hospital parties. He socialized with the nurses. He dressed up for Halloween. He became a Charlie's Angels fan and he bought his own posters of shapely actresses and tool-company models. He posed for photographs with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. He wrote "I Can't Wait until Summer," "Really Beautiful," and other poems. He laughed at Frank and Louie and told jokes of his own. He developed a passion for blackjack. He schemed to have Yankee owner George Steinbrenner come to Zambarano when his beloved team entered a slump.

Mike had lost the ability to use a pen or a keyboard, so he had someone draft his letter:

"Dear Mr. Steinbrenner," he said.

"When I was not in the hospital and was back home, I used to listen to the Yankee games on my radio from my bed and I would shut my eyes and pretend I was the manager and I would have such a good feeling.

"But now when I listen to a Yankees game I feel so disappointed that I want to shut my eyes again and go back to the days of Casey Stengel, when he was the boss in the dugout.

"Please, Mr. Steinbrenner, I am presently in a wheelchair and know that I cannot visit you at Yankee Stadium. Do you think you could visit me here at Zambarano Hospital to talk over the Yankee situation?"

Steinbrenner never responded, but it hardly mattered. Mike had been reborn.

FRANK SOMETIMES accepted help to move his wheelchair, but he preferred independence. With his better foot, the right, he could manage - but he could not manage well. His best pace was barely a crawl. He could not venture far outside, since he couldn't negotiate slopes. Rounding corners was torturous. His foot tired from pawing the floor.

So when Louie became the first Zambarano resident to receive a motorized chair, in 1980, Frank requested one, too. That July, he got it.

Powered-chair technology was elementary then: Frank's model had limited range, and if recharged too long, the battery boiled over and was ruined. But these were minor shortcomings compared to the freedom that the chair gave Frank. Now he could travel inside Zambarano as fast as someone walking. Now he could roam the grounds with Louie and Mike, who got his electric wheels, too. On warm evenings, they would motor to the crest of a hill and talk baseball and women as the sun set over Wallum Lake.

This is a blessing, Frank thought. I waited 13 years for this.

ZAMBARANO'S BARBER began to call Frank, Louie and Mike The Three Musketeers and the name stuck. The men played to the crowd, sometimes wearing identical hats and jackets - all in red, their lucky color. As the 1980s unfolded, they made the most of their emancipation.

They gardened and hosted barbecues. They went to the movies and watched stock car races at Connecticut's Thompson Speedway. They sunbathed on the beach and visited Block Island. They attended a Willie Nelson concert and Providence Bruins games. They spent Thanksgivings at Mike's sister's house. They celebrated at staff members' wedding receptions. They became regulars at Lincoln Park, where Frank, wearing his lucky color, red, sometimes won a few dollars betting on the dogs. One day at a zoo, Frank lost control of his chair and careened down a slope into a tree, but he wasn't discouraged. A scraped face was a small price to pay for liberation.

Still, when a therapist suggested that he and his friends make their first overnight excursion, Frank hesitated.

How would you like to go to Atlantic City? the therapist said. Donald Trump owned a casino there.

Atlantic City? Frank said. That's a long way from here.

Think it over, the therapist said.

Lying in bed that night, Frank did. What have I got to worry about? he concluded. The driver's going to get us there, the chaperones will be with us. I just have to sit in my chair. Bolt me in, and away we go!

INSIDE ZAMBARANO, new dramas unfolded.

Not long after being appointed, a new nursing supervisor visited Room 17. By now, the poster collection numbered more than two dozen.

Take them down, the supervisor told a housekeeper. They don't belong there.

The housekeeper refused.

Those patients enjoy life, she said. We like them. The posters are theirs. If you want them down, you go up there and take them.

The posters stayed. Having broken up with Norma, Louie found a new girlfriend: Rita M. Rei, a woman of Belgian descent who had operated a variety store before multiple sclerosis forced her to retire. In their private moments, Louie and Rita talked and watched the soap operas that she loved. They gave each other gifts: Louie pictures of himself, Rita bottles of cologne.

Mike developed no love interests - but a belly dancer performed in Room 17 on his 50th birthday.

With Louie out of the picture, Frank became enamored of the patient who had been Louie's girl-friend. He gave her chocolates on Valentine's Day, and gifts for Christmas. He complimented her appearance and cheered her when she was down. He sought her opinion on matters related to patients' welfare.

Some Zambarano patients fell in love and married, but Frank had no such intentions. He considered himself the woman's dear friend, no more.

We're all fun, he thought. I can't see myself getting serious when I'm in a condition like this.

IN THE SUMMER of 1985, Frank decided to renew his dream of becoming an American citizen. He wanted the right to vote.

After studying civics, he went to Providence for an oral exam. What is the supreme law of the United States? Who was Martin Luther King Jr.? Name the two senators from Rhode Island. Name the highest part of the judiciary branch of our government.

Frank had traveled from Wallum Lake in an old van that was hard on his fragile body. When Chief U.S. District Judge Francis J. Boyle learned about this unusually committed man, he offered to drive to Zambarano to swear him in.

Eight days after his 57th birthday, Frank took the oath of allegiance, in which he pledged to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States. "And though he could barely grasp a pen to sign an 'X' to his citizenship papers, Beazley proudly vowed that he would defend his new homeland," a newspaper reporter wrote.

"We welcome you to the American family," Boyle said.

The judge presented Frank with his certificate of naturalization, which he had framed for display in Room 17.

TWO DECADES AFTER becoming paralyzed, Frank's spirit seemed unbreakable.

And then 1987 dawned.

For years, Frank had endured infections caused by an obstructed urinary tract, a common condition of catheterized patients. Doctors prescribed antibiotics but they proved ineffective. Fearing that the obstruction would eventually destroy his kidneys, doctors operated twice. Frank's fevers did not diminish. In February 1987, they operated again.

Two months later, Frank's condition worsened. He returned to Roger Williams Hospital, where surgeons discovered and removed a cancerous spot on his left ureter. Frank was healthy until the summer, and then his symptoms returned. His left kidney was failing. Surgery was scheduled for Aug. 28.

As the operation neared, Frank's mood darkened. He lost his appetite and began to refuse food. On many mornings, he would not get out of bed and on days when he made the effort, he wouldn't socialize or go outside. When he spoke, it was in a monotone. He canceled plans by friends to host a cookout in his honor. "Fears going into hospital again," a nurse wrote.

No one could break Frank's despondency - not the staff, not Louie nor Mike, not Janie Callahan, his best outside friend.

Cured of tuberculosis at Zambarano in the 1950s, Janie felt indebted to Wallum Lake. She called the hospital in 1971 looking to befriend someone who had no one, someone she might be able to cheer. An administrator introduced her to Frank, and they connected immediately. Janie hosted Frank's first-ever birthday party, brought more outsiders into his life, and encouraged him during his long rehabilitation. She prayed for him and lit candles in his name.

You can do anything you want, she said. God is with you. He'll watch every step of the way.

Despite a childhood spent in the control of unbending nuns, Frank had kept his belief in God. He attended Mass and prayed the rosary, finding peace visiting the Zambarano chapel with its stained glass windows and statues of Jesus and Mary. Janie reaffirmed her faith there, too, during her year as a tuberculosis patient. Frank called Janie his guardian angel. In August 1987, Janie organized a healing service for her friend, but the Lord did not intervene.

Frank returned from his Aug. 28 operation as overwhelmed as before.

"Appetite poor," a nurse wrote on Sept. 4. "Withdrawn," read an entry on Sept. 10. "I'm depressed," Frank told a nurse four days later.

By now, the staff was gravely alarmed: their favorite patient, one of the fun-loving Musketeers, the trio that brightened the hospital, was not responding to encouragement or medication. Depression can destroy a chronic-care patient's will to live. They feared they were losing Frank.


Publication Date: October 2, 2006  Page: A-01  Section: News  Edition: All 

One morning in the second week of September 1987, a nurse forced Frank Beazley out of bed. He'd barely stirred since late August, when he'd been operated on again. Surgeons were trying to save a failing kidney. The situation left Frank deeply depressed.

It's a beautiful day, the nurse said. I'm putting you on the back ramp and you're going to stay there.

This was the same ramp where an ambulance from Rhode Island Hospital had delivered Frank more than 20 years before. It faced Wallum Lake, with its late-summer breeze.

I want to stay in bed, Frank said.

You're going to the back ramp and I'm leaving you.

I don't want to.

You have no choice.

Frank sat for hours, alone with a lake.

The next day, the nurse brought him back out. Every day for a week or so, back on the ramp.

What's the matter with you? Frank began to think. I can talk, I can hear, I can see. We've got people here at Zambarano who are blind or can't talk, God bless them, and they're always laughing. And here I am making a fool out of myself.

A staff psychologist worked with Frank. He brought Frank into his office every day, and after counseling him, left him alone with soft music.

A half-century before at St. Joseph's Orphanage, Sister Rita Marie had told Frank about forks in the road. In the late summer of 1987, he'd reached another one.

You need to snap out of it, Frank thought.

On Sunday, Sept. 13, he watched his favorite football team, the New England Patriots, win their season opener against Miami. He ate dinner and entertained two outside friends.

"Appetite good, in better spirits," a nurse wrote on Sept. 23.

Two weeks later, Frank went shopping at Lincoln Mall.

SURGEONS REMOVED Frank's left ureter and kidney in June 1989, but this time, he did not descend into darkness. People needed him. And he had learned, many years before, the virtue of extending a hand.

You know, Francis, you'll always be rewarded one way or another by helping people out, Sister Rita Marie had counseled him when he was 8 years old.

When Louie Pafundi and others founded a group called Patients for Progress, in 1979, Frank had joined. Members at the first meeting began a campaign for a more diversified menu and greater staffing at Zambarano. The years passed and Frank was elected and reelected president and vice president. He led successful campaigns for a new bus, improved lighting, better elevators, picnic tables, a lake observation deck, and a handicapped-accessible telephone. The group held fundraisers and hosted dinner dances and parties.

And they had the support of new hospital administrator James P. Benedict, who took charge with the philosophy that these people were more than patients -- they were grownups, too. Benedict encouraged Patients for Progress. He demanded that the people in his charge wear street clothes, not hospital johnnies, which had been the rule for years. He ended the long practice of putting patients to bed for the night before the 3 p.m. shift change.

By 1989, Patients for Progress had expanded into the legislative arena. State budget constraints in the ensuing years imperiled services for the disabled at Zambarano Hospital and elsewhere, and Frank testified at Senate and House hearings. He was an eloquent spokesman for the disabled, a telegenic figure with a homespun manner. His quadriplegia lent him moral authority. Politicians listened when Frank took the microphone.

He did not mince words.

"If Governor DiPrete has any heart at all, he should stand up and say Zambarano will be here for us," Frank said in 1990, when DiPrete threatened to close a ward at Zambarano. Not only would that have unsettled the patients who made the floor their home -- it would have been a prelude, many believed, to shutting the place entirely. "Let us live our lives in peace," Frank told legislators considering DiPrete's proposal.

How could they ignore him? They lived blessedly normal lives. Frank would never walk or hug someone again.

Despite the opposition, the ward closed. When a plan surfaced the next year to close another, Frank and others renewed the campaign -- and this time, they succeeded. Frank was pleased, but not satisfied.

"It's a feather in our cap," he said, "but we must do more. They are very low on help here and it's not good. They are losing help and no one is making a move."

His work for the disabled brought Frank a Victory Award from the National Rehabilitation Hospital, a leader in treating neurological disorders. In April 1993, Frank, flying for the first time in his life, went to Washington, D.C., to be honored. He shook Vice President Al Gore's hand in a Rose Garden ceremony and wore a tuxedo to the awards banquet. He visited the museums and memorials, and sang ballads and drank Guinness beer in an Irish pub. He met Lynda Carter, TV's Wonder Woman, who gave him her autograph -- a trophy for Room 17.

Frank returned to Rhode Island as something of a celebrity. Schools invited him to speak. Newspapers featured him.

In one story, Frank revealed that all he'd ever wanted for Christmas was for his mother to call him "Son." He struck the family theme on a visit to a fourth-grade class in Warwick.

"Always remember one thing," he told the students. "You have a mother and a father. Always love them. Don't get yourself hooked on drugs. Don't get yourself hooked on alcohol. Make your mother proud."

WHEN FRANK WOKE up on the morning of May 10, 1994, Louie was asleep. Frank did not try to wake him. Louie had recently suffered a heart attack, which had been followed by pneumonia; he needed his rest.

Frank ate lunch, and his roommate still had not stirred.

Louie, I'll talk to you later, Frank said.

Frank went down to the chapel for Mass. He was waiting for the chaplain to begin when a nurse found him.

Louie was dead.

Frank returned to Room 17 and cried beside his best friend before they wheeled Louie's body to the morgue. He remembered the fun times, the good that they'd accomplished, the seasons that had unfolded on beautiful Wallum Lake. Sixty-nine years old, Louie had spent almost a third of his life at Zambarano. Frank had spent nearly half of his there.

Meanwhile, the other Musketeer declined. Mike's muscular dystrophy was advancing to its inevitable end.

Frank was saddened, but not depressed.

Life goes on, he thought. Seasons change; the wheel turns.

Frank continued with his advocacy - and he found a new passion, painting. Starting with a sponge that an instructor wedged between the fingers of his good hand, the left, Frank advanced to a paintbrush. He could not execute broad strokes, but he could daub and dot in an impressionist style. Frank worked in watercolors and acrylics, becoming so accomplished that a market emerged for his paintings, prints, and cards.

Poetry also compelled Frank. He composed his verses in his head, then dictated them to someone who could use a keyboard or a pen. Many subjects interested Frank: flowers, sunsets, sailing, the northern lights that lit his way as he walked in the night to get his foster mother's beer. His early years were a recurring theme, including "In the Garden," a poem that he co-wrote with Mike Saporito:

As a child it felt so good

To watch the gladiolas grow

And know that it was my own plot

And no one could touch it.

With each passing year

The gardens grow with us,

And continue to bloom

And share their beauty.

Now we are in our garden

We feel alive and free

There is life there;

The growing never stops.

It gives us hope and life.

AS HE NEARED 70, Frank began to reflect on things left undone. He wanted to visit his birthplace, which he had not seen since 1953.

If I can get on Nova Scotia soil one more time, he thought, then I will be at peace.

Forty-four years had passed since he left Canada -- 44 years without a letter or a phone call, no contact whatsoever with his mother and half-sister. For all he knew, Edna and Snookie were dead -- and if they were alive, they almost certainly had no knowledge of him. Baby Francis had disappeared, taking with him a terrible family secret. It would follow him to his grave, or so perhaps these Beazleys of Halifax believed.

Frank wanted to find his family.

He did not have the money to underwrite a professional search, so he obtained a copy of a Halifax phone directory. Forty-six Beazleys were listed. Frank sent letters to a fourth of them seeking information about his relatives. He wrote that his maternal grandmother, presumably dead by now, was named Nellie Beazley -- and that one of her children, Edna, had married a man named Lawrence Moffatt who was killed in the Second World War. The Moffatts had one child, Helen, nicknamed Snookie. She would be in her late 50s, if she were alive.

No one replied to Frank's letters. He sent a second batch.

This time, he received a response.

The Beazley who wrote back was a young Halifax resident who had researched Beazley history back to the family's roots in medieval England. Until Frank's letter, he knew nothing of Frank, Edna's illegitimate child. He knew little about Frank's grandmother and mother, but he agreed to meet Frank when he arrived in Nova Scotia. Perhaps he would have more to offer by then.

Meanwhile, Frank had been trying to locate his childhood records. Here, too, he faced intimidating odds.

St. Joseph's Orphanage, where he lived from age 5 to 12, had been torn down, and the nuns who had run it no longer had the records. Nor did they have records from the Home of the Guardian Angel, where Frank lived from 11 days after birth until he was 5. The records might have been shipped to a social service agency or the archdiocese. Strict privacy laws frustrated inquiries, and staff shortages slowed hunts through dusty archives. Assisted by Zambarano psychologist Barbara Waterman, Frank over the course of several months contacted numerous agencies and bureaucrats. None had what he sought.

By the spring of 1998, a fundraising campaign organized by friends brought Frank almost $6,000, enabling him to hire a nurse and pay for a community friend to accompany him to Nova Scotia. A travel agent made arrangements for them to fly from Boston to Halifax. They would stay seven days.

A week before the trip, a social worker called Waterman. She had found the records.


Publication Date: October 3, 2006  Page: A-01  Section: News  Edition: All 

Just before returning to Nova Scotia, Frank Beazley received records from the orphanages where he lived from shortly after birth until he was 12. Almost 70, he was uncovering details of his early life that had been a secret even to him.

Frank saw letters that his grandmother and mother wrote to the two institutions during the years they lived within walking distance but never visited. The evidence confirmed beyond question that Edna May (Beazley) Moffatt was his mother -- not his sister, as his grandmother had claimed. The records revealed the name of the father and the address where he was living when unmarried Edna became pregnant at 17.

On June 8, 1998, Frank flew to Halifax. The next day, the distant relative who had responded to his letters visited him in his hotel. A Beazley family genealogist, the young man had nothing further to tell Frank about his grandmother and mother, but he knew the married name of Edna's daughter -- Frank's half-sister, Helen, whose childhood nickname was "Snookie." She lived two hours from Halifax. Her number was listed.

Frank asked his nurse to call.

You don't know me, the nurse said, but I'm up here with a gentleman and we're trying to locate his family. We were wondering if the name 'Snookie' meant anything to you.

I haven't heard that name in so long! Helen said.

Does the name Francis Beazley mean anything?

Helen said that it did. The Francis Beazley she remembered was her mother's brother -- her uncle -- a teenager who had lived upstairs at Bluebell Lane, and later, as an adult, visited when the family owned the tourist compound called Bramley Gardens. Helen hadn't seen Frank since 1953. She didn't know where life had taken him, she said, but she had sometimes wondered. Frank had been so nice to her when she was growing up.

The next day, Helen drove into Halifax. Frank greeted her in his room.

They were happy to see each other after so many years. After chatting some, Frank said:

How is Mother?

Helen said that her mother was living with her.

Your mother and mine are one, Frank said.

Helen didn't get it.

I'm your half-brother, Frank said.

The conversation stopped. The mystery man about whom relatives still sometimes whispered had materialized, here on Nova Scotia soil. He was no closet skeleton, but a kindly old man with a simple wish.

Frank asked if Edna ever spoke of him.

Helen said that the woman, almost 84, had Alzheimer's disease.

Is there any way that she could communicate?

No, Frank, Helen said.

Frank wanted to visit, but Helen wouldn't allow it.

They talked some more, but not about the Beazleys. Helen did not reveal that Nellie and Edna had sold Bramley Gardens in 1963 and moved to British Columbia for two years, then relocated to Ottawa, where Nellie died in 1975 at the age of 89, her hold over Edna having persisted to the grave. He did not learn that Edna had married a retired navy officer in 1983, when she was 73. The officer died three years later.

Before Helen left, Frank gave her his address and said:

Now that you know the story, if you're willing to bring me into the family, you can write to me. You don't have to. I know that you have children to take care of, that you're married. I'm not going to be somebody they don't like. But I'd like to stay in touch.

THE RECORDS LISTED Ralph Flemming as Frank's father, but the only Ralph Flemming listed in the Halifax directory was not him. Frank would never meet his father, or learn much of anything beyond his name and an almost 70-year-old address. Like his peers at St. Joseph's Orphanage -- like his mother -- time had swallowed Frank's father.

Frank spent the remainder of his visit on the move.

He rode by the shopping mall built where St. Joseph's Orphanage had been, and he rode by 50 Creighton St., where he had first seen his mother. That house was gone, replaced by a newer residence, but the house on Bluebell Lane remained, the garage that he'd constructed still standing. I built that! he told his companions. It's still there! Windsor Sweets, the soda fountain that he and the Bluebell gang had frequented, was a beauty parlor -- the pretty soda clerk Winnie long gone -- but Ben's Limited, the bakery where Frank had worked as a young man, remained in business. A manager gave him a tour.

The house where Frank lived with his alcoholic foster mother had been razed for a watershed, but Frank rode past the fields where he had seen the northern lights. He visited Peggy's Cove. He visited the Halifax waterfront, where his long-dead grandfather had been a steamship clerk. Playing slot machines at a casino, he won $170, which he donated to a disabled children's fund.

A Halifax journalist heard about this native son's return and interviewed him. Frank summarized his life's story and used the opportunity to advocate for the disabled.

"Ramps and sidewalks are bad in Halifax because of bumps on the curbing, which means you can't get across fast enough," Frank said. "And I wish they'd upgrade the air terminal. I had to go to the ladies' bathroom because the doors on the men's weren't wide enough."

MIKE SAPORITO, the other surviving member of The Three Musketeers, was dwindling when Frank flew off to Halifax. His muscular dystrophy had robbed him of the use of both arms, forcing him to use his chin to maneuver the joystick of his motorized wheelchair. Eating had become more difficult and he was increasingly susceptible to pneumonia.

Mike's condition worsened while Frank was away. His kidneys began shutting down, his lungs filled with fluid, and his heart struggled to keep its beat. Five days after Frank returned to Zambarano, at 7 in the morning, a nurse tried to wake Mike. He did not respond.

Mike had died in his sleep. He was 64.

The new millennium approached, and some of Frank's other friends lost more ground to their diseases. Frank blamed himself for his accident -- forgetting to tie his boot laces was an act of "stupidity," he often said -- but what of people like Louie Pafundi?

"I always wonder where the justice is," Frank said. "These people were out there having fun, enjoying life -- and all of a sudden they're diagnosed with a disease. Why Louie? Why Mike? Why is there disease?"

Frank did not have the answer.

Life goes on, he thought. Seasons change; the wheel turns.

He was still here, and there was plenty left to do.

IN THE YEARS after Mike's death, Frank won an award for his poem "Northern Lights," a remembrance of his childhood. He lent another poem to an exhibition at the 2002 Winter Olympics. He was named poet laureate of VSA Arts of Rhode Island, local affiliate of an international group that promotes artistic works by the disabled. He showed his paintings at festivals, and donated the money from sales of his prints and Christmas cards to United Cerebral Palsy.

He continued to testify before the General Assembly every year during budget deliberations. With Patients for Progress, the advocacy group, he led efforts to establish Zambarano Day at the State House. He was appointed to the Rhode Island Disabilities Council, a federally mandated agency devoted to bettering the lives of people with disabilities. When the state public transit authority proposed cutting bus service to Zambarano, Frank joined the campaign to preserve the route.

"It makes me mad," he said. "I became an American citizen to get my voice, and now I'm going to use it." Service continued to Wallum Lake.

Inside Zambarano, Frank delivered patients' mail and newspapers, and sold candy from his wheelchair. He cheered despondent patients.

Always remember one thing, Sister Rita Marie had told Frank when he was a boy of 11. There's a fork in the road. There's a good route and a bad one. Whatever you choose, let's hope it's the good one.

Frank continued down the good.

FRANK HAD RETURNED from Halifax hoping that Helen would reflect on the sudden reappearance of her half-brother. When weeks passed with no word, Frank wrote to her.

"I have been lying in bed thinking about what to put in this letter," he began. "I know it's a big step in your direction to find a way to accept me as one of yours."

Frank told Helen that he thought about her daily. He asked her to send pictures of her children. He inquired about Edna's health. He signed the letter with his X and added a postscript: "I do really want to hear from you. Let me know where I stand."

Helen never replied.

Along with sadness, life brought blessings. The newspaper column featuring Frank was published after he left Canada, and when it appeared, childhood friends marveled at what Frankie had accomplished in the half-century since they'd seen him. No one predicted this crazy kid who talked to movie screens was destined for bigger things.

"I was sorry to read about your accident but very happy about your trip to Halifax, your old memories of the area, and the great work you are doing for handicapped people," wrote Stan Ernst, a member of the old Bluebell gang. "Keep up your good work and remember that you are NOT forgotten by some of your old friends."

Someone who'd been even dearer to Frank also wrote to him after reading the column: his foster sister, Marion, with whom he had gone skating and blueberry picking. She was Marion Henn Oakley now, married with 7 children and 14 grandchildren. Marion and Frank exchanged calls and letters, and Frank hung a photo of Marion on his wall, next to his certificate of citizenship. In the summer of 2000, Marion and her husband drove to Zambarano to see Frank. They cried together.

"Hope things are good for you," Marion wrote in one letter. "You sure are a busy guy. And what's this about you being my (foster) brother? To me, you're my brother. I remember you doing the most for me. When you were around, you took good care of me. They are the good things I remember."


Publication Date: October 4, 2006  Page: A-01  Section: News  Edition: All 

In June 2005, Frank Beazley was elected to another two-year term as president of Patients for Progress, Zambarano Hospital's advocacy group. He often said that someone younger should take over, but he remained essential at 76. With the group still unsuccessful in one of its longest battles, they really needed him.

In the name of saving money, a bureaucrat had taken a stubborn stand on a small issue.

For years, Zambarano had subscribed to cable television - but only TV sets in a few common areas were wired. Televisions in patients' rooms received a signal from a rooftop antenna, providing a limited choice of channels. Patients turn in early at Wallum Lake, and those wanting a greater selection to pass the evening hours were frustrated. Frank and his peers were denied a simple pleasure.

In the summer of 2004, a family offered to pay for their son's cable, but after discussion, Patients for Progress did not support the plan: it would be unfair to the many other patients who could not afford service, they decided. Instead, the group authorized Frank to petition for financing to provide cable to every patient room.

"The residents and family members would be very happy to see this dream come true," Frank wrote to Lt. Gov. Charles J. Fogarty. "I hope you will be able to share good news with us."

Fogarty met with Cox Communications officials, and Cox engineers determined that from a technical standpoint, all of Zambarano could be wired. But the state pledged no money. Frank wrote again to Fogarty, and to other politicians. The lieutenant governor brought the issue to Kathleen M. Spangler, acting director of the state Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals, which operates Zambarano. Frank followed up with a letter.

A lawyer by training, Spangler had her supporters -- and many unusually blunt critics. Acting director since March 2004, Spangler testified at a Senate confirmation hearing the following June.

"In my opinion, she is totally unprepared for this role and she has no real connection to the clientele served by MHRH," said Robert L. Carl, former director of administration and ex-head of MHRH's division of developmental disabilities. Carl claimed that Spangler seemed "uncomfortable" with people who have disabilities. Others who testified echoed Carl's opinions.

The committee never voted on Spangler's nomination, and her "acting" tag remained.

ONE DAY LAST AUTUMN, Frank went to Zambarano's medical library for the monthly meeting of Patients for Progress. Bathroom improvements, a new bus, the coming book fair, and a shortage of nursing assistants were on the agenda -- but once more, cable TV dominated. More than a year had passed without results.

"The whole thing is in the hands of Kathy Spangler," Frank said.

A hospital administrator suggested that Frank invite her to Zambarano.

"I'm going to call her and we'll meet," Frank agreed.

Tom Theroux offered his opinion. Born with cerebral palsy, Tom speaks with difficulty.

Frank translated.

"Tom says that if she doesn't say OK would it be all right if we went to see her."

Tom spoke again.

"What he's trying to say is we present the problem to her first and if it's not an OK thing with her, then let's take it up with the governor."

The group endorsed that strategy. Frank telephoned Spangler, and she agreed to visit Wallum Lake on Nov. 3. That morning, she canceled. "The elections are coming next year," Frank said. Tom was right: this was an opportune moment to raise the issue with the governor.

Two weeks later, Spangler visited Zambarano to commend the staff for having been reaccredited by a national oversight agency. After lunch, she met with patients in the hospital auditorium. She sat at a table facing Tom, Frank, a man paralyzed by electrocution, a helmet-wearing man with a seizure disorder, a man left withquadriplegia in a car accident, and several others. All were in wheelchairs. Others with a stake in the issue were upstairs, bedridden.

Frank began the meeting with a question:

"Are we or aren't we going to get cable?"

Spangler didn't answer.

Instead, she said that she was "very concerned" by any plan that would bring cable to Zambarano but not also its sister facility, the Cranston campus of Eleanor Slater Hospital -- and wiring both, she said, would require "pretty significant cost." In fact, initial estimates put the cost of installation at Zambarano at about $7,500, with annual subscription fees somewhat less. With MHRH's budget of more than $496 million, that was chump change, as one sympathetic administrator called it.

After more than a year, Frank's patience was thin.

"We'd love to just lie in bed and relax, have our cable and watch it," he told Spangler. "We've been barking on this thing now since last September." One of Frank's pleasures was watching Monday Night Football, which had been broadcast on ABC but was moving to a cable channel. Without cable, a highlight of his week would be lost.

Spangler said it might be possible to move money around within her department's budget, but additional state money was not an option.

The acting director closed with a civics lesson.

"I cannot increase the bottom line, it is what it is," she said. "Not a question of a guilt trip -- it's a question of being upfront and not dissembling around how we finance. It either is or it isn't. No is not something anyone ever wants to hear; fewer people want to say it. But at least with a yes or a no you can move forward. And until we get the final numbers in from Cox and see what those dollars look like, we're not even at a maybe."

FRANK WEARS A SANTA hat during December and decorates his room in holiday colors. He sends Christmas cards reproduced from his paintings.

On Thursday, Dec. 8, he traveled with four other patients to the Emerald Square mall. "It's always nice to be up here in the wintertime," he said as the van started off through snowy woods. "And I don't have to drive -- I just sit back and enjoy it!"

Frank was hungry when he arrived at the mall, so he took the elevator to the food court. He ordered pepperoni pizza, which an assistant cut and fed to him. He drank his coffee through a straw. Frank pronounced his lunch "belly good!" and laughed at his little joke. He shopped for three hours, spending most of the $160 he'd withdrawn from his patient account. With his white beard and red hat, he looked like St. Nick, and he drew attention all day.

"That was Santa!" one boy said.

"Yes," said the boy's grandmother, "that was Santa in a chair."

"Thank you for the nice smile," a man said.

"Merry Christmas!" Frank said.

As he waited for the van to return, Frank sat by the children's carousel. He smiled. It reminded him of all the good times at Rocky Point.

"Another happy, happy day," he said. "It's always a beautiful day when you can get up and get around."

On the following Sunday, Frank sang with the choir at Zambarano's Christmas party. With his blue eyes, freshly trimmed beard, and remarkably unwrinkled skin, he looked beatific. His 77th birthday was on Tuesday, and one of his best outside friends, Janina Fera -- daughter of Janie Callahan, his "guardian angel," who died in 1990 -- brought a cake and presents.

On Tuesday, Frank delivered the newspapers and mail as usual. He had someone open his birthday cards and scratch the instant lottery tickets a staff member gave him. Another person started to tell a joke about an elderly man who likes young women, but when he got to the part about a genie willing to grant his wishes, he forgot the punch line.

"If you get a call from the genie," Frank said, "tell him one thing: I just want a call from the director on my birthday."

Patients ordinarily take their meals in their rooms and Frank ate dinner at the regular time, 4:15 p.m. Darkness descended on Wallum Lake. After watching the evening news, he went downstairs to the recreation room to play bingo. He was in bed by 8. He set the timer on his TV and drifted off to sleep.

Spangler didn't call.

THE NEW YEAR began without any response.

Frank's patience was gone.

"I am sorry to say that I have not received a letter, telephone call or any communication from the acting director on this matter," he wrote to Governor Carcieri. "Her lack of responsiveness and continued delay in contacting me has resulted in my decision to seek closure on this matter by contacting other resources, as all efforts have been exhausted."

Patients and relatives at the Jan. 8 meeting of Zambarano's Family Council were seething.

"Maybe she should be in a wheelchair for a week," a relative said.

"She's cold," Frank said.

"She's saving nickels and dimes on this and probably spending millions on some nincompoop project."

Events accelerated after the meeting.

In late January, two legislators whom Patients for Progress had enlisted in the campaign, Sen. Paul W. Fogarty, D-Glocester, and Rep. Edwin R. Pacheco, D-Burrillville, made a public plea to the acting director. "We appeal to you to expedite the process and approve the proposal for cable at Zambarano," they said. "The patients have waited long enough." Spangler maintained her silence.

Other forces were at play.

Realizing that the Senate almost certainly would not confirm Spangler, Carcieri decided to withdraw her nomination. Meanwhile, news coverage of the cable issue moved an anonymous donor to contact, through her lawyer, officials at MHRH. The woman offered to pay for five years' of cable service to Zambarano patients. Cox Communications agreed to absorb the installation costs.

IN MARCH, HOUSE and Senate committees heard testimony on proposed cuts at MHRH. To save $800,000, the budget that Spangler submitted would shift control of four group homes operated by Zambarano staff to the private sector.

The move would not affect Frank, but he empathized with the residents: replacing longtime staff with newcomers would be profoundly disruptive, he believed. So twice in one week, he traveled to the State House to testify. He spoke of the disruptions of his youth, when he was moved from orphanage to orphanage to foster home. "I would love to see you in my shoes -- pushed around like that," he told legislators.

And by the way, he said, if money was so tight, why didn't the governor forgo his salary? After all, he was a millionaire.

Two weeks later, Frank was back at the State House to celebrate Zambarano Day, which he'd helped found. Resolutions honoring Patients for Progress were introduced in the Senate and House, and Senator Fogarty proclaimed Frank the "honorary 39th senator." Frank toured the State Reception Room, adjacent to the governor's office. When Carcieri learned Frank was there, he came out to say hello.

They talked and then Carcieri invited him into his office. Frank had given Carcieri one of his paintings two years before, and the governor had framed it and hung it on his wall.

"I keep thinking someday I want to get myself a sailboat like that," the governor said.

Frank had something else on his mind: the MHRH budget, which would curtail the very art program at Zambarano where he learned to paint. Frank said that cut, along with others, was ill-advised.

"First I've heard of that," Carcieri said. "We'll find out."

After the visit, Frank was asked whether the painting on Carcieri's wall was the original.

"I told him it was!" Frank said.

He laughed. Politicians weren't always straightforward, so why not a harmless fib for one of them?

In truth, the governor's painting was a print.

AS HE NEARED 80, Frank had created a legacy. He had been true to Sister Rita Marie's admonition of almost 70 years: You know, Francis, you'll always be rewarded one way or another by helping people out.

But Frank did not consider himself heroic.

He considered himself fortunate.

"It could have been worse. I could have been like some of these people I'm looking at today that can't talk, can't hear, can't see. I look at them and I think: Why should I be mad? These are the people who should be mad because they're frustrated, they're blind, they can't hear, they're brain dead. And here I am enjoying life.

"So why should I be mad at the world? No way. You've just got to take what's there for you, enjoy what you can."


Publication Date: October 5, 2006  Page: A-01  Section: News  Edition: All 

One Saturday earlier this year, I drove out to Wallum Lake.

I liked visiting Frank Beazley on weekends, when life at Zambarano Hospital slowed down. I often took along my 2-year-old granddaughter, Isabella, who called our destination "Frank's house." She was charmed by Frank -- and he by her. A visit from Isabella made for a beautiful day.

Evening was approaching, and we found Frank in his room. He was finishing dinner. I apologized for interrupting.

"That's OK, don't mind one bit," he said. "So how are you, Isabella? Did you have supper yet?"

Frank collects singing plush toys, and his latest additions were a bird, a gorilla, and a dog.

"Do you want a little chickadee to take home with you?" he said to Isabella.

He asked me to place the toy in her hand. It began to chirp. Isabella was delighted.

"Bring the gorilla over," Frank said. "Put it on the table. Squeeze the paw." The gorilla sang a Louis Armstrong tune. Isabella watched uncertainly.

"I'll show you another one," Frank said. He asked me to put the dog on the floor. It danced.

"Wow!" Isabella said. She was enchanted.

"You like that? You can take that home and have it, too!"

Despite rehearsing, I was anxious with what I was about to say. I didn't want to tell this man who loved children and toys what I had just learned.

During the months that I researched Frank's story, I shared every discovery with him, as he wanted. Many pleased him. I tracked down several childhood friends, including one who intended to visit Wallum Lake. I obtained a biography and photo of Sister Rita Marie, the kindly nun who had given him advice that he'd embraced for life. I learned that the current police chief of Halifax, also named Frank Beazley, was a relative. I located photos of Frank with Louie Pafundi and Mike Saporito, The Three Musketeers, whose time together in the 1980s and '90s was a sort of golden age at Zambarano.

Not every revelation had been uplifting, but I knew nothing would hit like this.

"I found your mother's obituary," I said.

"Did you. Wow."

Frank had suspected that the former Edna Beazley was dead, but there was a chance she was still alive -- a woman in her 90s.

Frank asked me to read the obituary from a Halifax newspaper. It named Edna's first husband, who died in World War II, and her second, a man she married after Frank came to America (and who died in 1986). It named Edna's late parents, Nellie and Francis L. Beazley -- Frank's maternal grandparents -- and her two sisters, including Stella, the infant who died in 1908. It listed Edna's brother-in-law. It listed Edna's daughter, Helen. It listed Edna's grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

It did not list Frank.

"Hard to believe," Frank said. "No son."

"I'm sorry," I said.

"She would never recognize me, that was the whole problem."

"Right to the end."

"Right to the end. Ninety-one years old."

"I'm sorry."

"That's all right."

"But I wasn't not going to tell you."

"I'm glad you did," Frank said. "It just goes to show how much quietness, how much secrecy, goes on with the whole family of mine."

AND YET, FRANK felt no bitterness toward his half-sister or his mother. He'd forgiven. Life had gone on.

Frank had recently re-read the letters that Edna had sent to the nuns when her son was a young orphan, and he believed that she, like him, had been the victim of a judgmental culture -- and of a cold-hearted woman, Nellie Beazley, who put propriety before love. She'd gone to the grave, in 1975, without realizing how blessed she could have been if she'd embraced her grandson, not cloaked him in shame.

"I have to give my mother in one way a lot of credit," Frank told me. "She was struggling to send what little money she could for my board at the orphanage, whether it was 5 dollars, 10 dollars, God bless her. I just wanted her to call me son -- if there was anything in the world I wanted, that was it. But she couldn't do it. There was a shadow and that shadow was my grandmother."

Nor did Frank bear ill will for the nuns at St. Joseph's Orphanage who had been so harsh.

"Nuns are nuns," he said.

"You don't hold any malice or anger?"

"You can't. You'd only be hurting yourself."

And that was another of Frank's philosophies: life is what you make of it.

"Do you want to make your life miserable - or do you want to make your life happy? If you make it miserable, you're only hurting yourself."

SOME WHILE AFTER giving Frank his mother's obituary, I returned to Wallum Lake. Frank had arranged for a van to take us to Lincoln Park, where he liked to bet on the greyhounds and then play the slots. It was our second trip together to Lincoln.

As we waited for the van to arrive, I showed Frank another of my discoveries: a photograph of him with his classmates at the one-room schoolhouse he attended in the early 1940s, when he lived at a foster home. To our knowledge, it is the first photo ever taken of him -- and one of only two that survive before a Polaroid taken at Zambarano in late 1980.

Frank remembered most of the children in the photo, which we showed to everyone he encountered that morning at Zambarano.

"Which one is Frank?" a secretary said.

He was second from the left, rear row.

"Always the tall one has to be in back. Unreal. How nice."

"He was 13 years old," I said.

"You were handsome!" a nurse said. "Oh my god! Still are!"

The van arrived and we headed toward Lincoln Park. I had another discovery to share with Frank.

"It's the obituary for your father," I said.

"My stepfather?"

"Your biological father."

I read the obituary for Ralph W. Flemming, who died in 1984 at the age of 76. He was survived by a wife, a son, two daughters, eight grandchildren and a great-grandchild. His third daughter was deceased.

Frank was not mentioned.

"Wow," Frank said.

I explained how I had happened on Flemming. I had telephoned every Flemming (and Fleming) in the Halifax area, more than 100 calls in all. One of Ralph W. Flemming's relatives was among those who called me back.

"You finally found him," Frank said. "Oh, my."

"He was 19 when you were born."

"Another piece of the puzzle."

Frank wondered if his father had ever tried to visit him, if he knew where his child had gone -- if he even knew the baby's gender.

"I have no way of knowing," I said.

"We'll never know."

"Nellie just shut everything off."

"She was the boss and that was it."

SUMMER WAS ALMOST upon us when I paid Frank another visit, at noon on a Thursday. That very morning, technicians had connected cable to his TV. Before the week was through, every patient at Zambarano would finally have the service.

I congratulated Frank on his success in leading the two-year campaign for hospital-wide cable, but, typically, he deflected the praise -- numerous people, he said, had worked with him and they each deserved a share of the credit. But Frank did have a personal agenda: replacing his 10-year-old TV.

"I want a little bigger one," he said. "This is only a 21-inch!"

A sunny day beckoned. We left the hospital and traveled to the crest of the hill that Frank often visited. The American and orange-caution flags on the back of his wheelchair snapped in the breeze, and this man who had spent more than half of his long life at Zambarano was reminded of the good times he'd shared here with Louie Pafundi, Mike Saporito, and other friends. They were all dead now.

"I love to meditate here," Frank said. "I look up at the sky and I see all my friends and I always say: 'I hope you're looking down at me -- I'm the only one left now . . . '

"It's a beautiful spot," he said. "The only thing is I have to be careful of the sun, so I'd just as soon come up here in the evening, and thank God for another day."

We descended the hill, passing an apple tree and the flower gardens that Frank helped plan and tend. Honeysuckles and azaleas were in bloom, and lilacs scented the air. From the flowers we traveled to the vegetable gardens, on the shore of Wallum Lake. Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli had just been planted, and corn, peppers, and tomatoes would soon follow.

Another growing season was here.


Readers: 'Growing Season' inspiring, heartwarming
G. Wayne Miller
Publication Date: October 8, 2006  Page: B-01  Section: Local News  Edition: All 
The Journal's series on Zambarano Hospital resident Frank Beazley draws more than 200 responses

At a time when war, terrorism and political scandal dominate the news, there remains appreciation for a story of human triumph.

That's the conclusion from reaction to publication of "The Growing Season," the 12-part Journal series on Zambarano Hospital patient Frank Beazley that began on Sept. 24 and concluded on Thursday.

As of midafternoon Friday, when this story was written, well over 200 readers had responded in telephone calls, e-mails, letters and postings to Strangers had visited Zambarano to meet Frank and others made similar plans. Readers had phoned Frank and sent him cards and gifts, and more said they would.

"The Growing Season" is the story of Frank's life. Abandoned by his family at birth, the 77-year-old man was raised in orphanages and by an abusive foster mother in Nova Scotia. Frank later moved to America, and was left a quadriplegic after falling down a flight of stairs almost 40 years ago. Despite these circumstances, he went on to become a celebrated poet, artist and advocate for those less fortunate.

Readers appreciated Frank's philosophy of life, which values "beautiful days" and led Frank to a favorite saying: "Take what's there for you, enjoy what you can." Readers said that they admired his good cheer and compassion for others.

"This was a moving and inspiring piece," Cranston's Tara Zanni wrote in an e-mail. "I looked forward to reading this story every day. I would even go online late at night in the hopes that the next part was already available. When life frowns upon us, I hope those who read this will think back to Frank and his positive outlook. He saw the good in everything and everyone, regardless of what he was dealt."

Sandy Greenwood, of Westerly, said in a call: "Every morning it was a fight over who got the paper first. We all have our ups and downs, but for him to have been through all that and to have that equanimity. …Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Sandy planned to visit Frank this week.

"Your positive outlook is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise very stale world," someone posted to a Growing Season board. "I hope to grow up to be just like you someday."

Wrote another poster: "Hello Frank, I just recently lost my Mom to cancer and have been feeling quite lost. I want to thank you for giving me such a warm and alive feeling again. You are a hero of life itself."

The series drew in numerous out-of-state readers.

"Thank you for telling Frank's story. I'm inspired by his kindness and goodwill," wrote Dave Horsman, of Goodyear, Ariz.

"Hi Frank: Just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed the articles in The Journal," a reader posted to a board. "You have a wonderful outlook on life, and I'm glad you had some wonderful friends to share your life. I'm here in Naples, FL but I'm originally from R.I. I wish you many more happy, healthy years!"

Some readers compared Frank's story to sports writer Mitch Albom's best-selling book about his former professor and mentor, Morrie Schwartz. "It is a truly inspiring and heart-warming story," said Harriet Dias of Coventry, "and I just wish everyone would read it. All I could think of was Tuesdays With Morrie."

An East Providence woman was among those who sent a card directly to Frank: "After reading your story, I was truly touched. You are an inspiration to all. I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers."

And a Warwick resident wrote: "I just wanted to thank you from the depths of my heart for sharing your life with all of us in The Providence Journal. Your courage and perseverance have been an inspiration to me to be the very best I can be. …You are a beautiful gift to me even though we have never met."

Frank was honored by the attention - but, typically, he was thinking of others. His only disappointment in the series was that it did not include the name of one of his good Zambarano friends, the late Terry Medberry. Like Frank, Terry was an artist and a champion for the disabled. "He was my buddy," Frank said.

The series epilogue mentioned that after winning the long fight to bring cable TV to patients' rooms at Zambarano, Frank hoped to get a larger set. Thursday afternoon, a reader drove to Zambarano and dropped a new one off. Others wrote that they would donate TVs, too. When he learned that, Frank said he would use them to benefit Patients for Progress, the advocacy group that he heads. Among other activities, the group raises money for projects that benefit all of Zambarano's residents.

"If they send them in, we'll do a raffle," Frank said. "We'll give the money to Patients for Progress.''

Frank spent Friday afternoon at Lincoln Park, betting on the greyhounds, one of his favorite pursuits.

"That's the guy who's in the paper," whispered one man. "What a story!"

Others introduced themselves. "I just wanted to say hello," said electrician Mario Medeiros of East Providence. "Very nice story. Very inspiring."

Between bets, Frank said that his celebrity had not gone to his head.

"I'm still down-to-earth. I still behave myself!"

Responses to The Growing Season continued as this story was being written.



The 12-part series "The Growing Season," which continues in this section, involves narrative reconstruction. Journal staff writer G. Wayne Miller uses direct quotations only when he heard or read the words; he paraphrases other remarks, omitting quotation marks, after being satisfied they were spoken. Miller conducted nearly three dozen formal taped interviews with Frank Beazley between Sept. 14, 2005, and Sept. 7, 2006. He also spent untold hours with Frank at Zambarano Hospital and in the community for more than a year, beginning Sept. 8, 2005. Miller confirmed key elements of Frank's narrative and learned additional details from a variety of sources.

Halifax history, 1917 to 1953.

Garry D. Shutlak, senior reference archivist, Nova Scotia Archives & Records Management, Halifax, provided a wealth of information. Also useful was NSARM's online Notman Studio photo archives and its Halifax Explosion Remembrance book, which lists victims of the 1917 tragedy, along with photos and personal accounts. Several articles and books, including: Ideal Surroundings: Domestic Life in a Working-Class Suburb in the 1920s, by Suzanne Morton, University of Toronto Press, 1995; Halifax:Warden of the North, by Thomas H. Raddall, Doubleday, 1965; Nova Scotia, Shaped by the Sea: A Living History, by Lesley Choyce, Penguin, 1996; and Halifax: Cornerstone of Canada, by Joan M. Payzant, Windsor Publications, 1985. The 1931 Census of Canada.

The Francis and Nellie Beazley family, 1906 to 1953.

The obituary for Elizabeth Kidney, Nellie's mother, ran in the Dec. 4, 1906, edition of The Halifax Evening News. The 1901 Census of Canada. Marriage records kept by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Halifax. The unpublished "Beazley Family History," written in 1998 by Halifax Police Chief Frank A. Beazley. The extended Beazley family tree, beginning with the 1860 birth of Richard Albert Beazley, Frank Beazley's great-grandfather, compiled by Brian Beazley. Several other relatives and friends who did not wish to be named provided critical insights into the Beazleys. A copy of Lawrence Moffatt's military record was supplied by Tim Wright, personnel records officer, Services Branch, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa. Sally Day, curator, Aldershot Military Museum, Aldershot, England, provided additional information. Robert N. Berard, director of teacher education, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, confirmed that Baltimore Catechism No. 1 was taught in Nova Scotia in the early 1900s. The catechism is published at

Frank Beazley from birth to age 12, 1928 to 1940.

Division of Vital Statistics, Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, provided a copy of Frank's birth certificate. Grace Maternity Hospital: Kathryn Harvey, archives specialist, Dalhousie University Archives and Special Collections, Killam Memorial Library, Halifax; and histories provided by Gillian Batten, IWK Health Centre, Halifax, and Diane van der Horden, The Salvation Army, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Frank's baptismal certificate, letters from his family, and records from Home of The Guardian Angel and St. Joseph's Orphanage were obtained (by Frank in 1998) from the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services, division of Children, Youth and Families. Additional records were obtained (by Miller) from the Catholic Pastoral Centre, Archdiocese of Halifax. Histories of the Home of The Guardian Angel, St. Joseph's Orphanage, and the Sisters of Charity, Halifax, were obtained from Patti Bannister, congregational archivist. She also provided a biography and photograph of Sister Rita Marie Hagen, 1898-1989, and biographies of other sisters who had Frank Beazley in their care. A biography and photo of the Rev. Joseph LeBlanc were provided by Francine Bureau, with the Catholic Society of Jesus and Mary (commonly called The Eudists), Provincial House in Charlesbourg, Quebec. Additional details about St. Joseph's Orphanage were provided by Pat Watson, who lived there in the early 1940s (and who maintains a Web site about the experience,, and author Alfreda Withrow, who is writing a book about life at Canadian orphanages of the time. Gerard Morin, climate technician with the Meteorological Service of Canada, Atlantic Climate Centre, Fredericton, New Brunswick, provided weather data for key dates.

Frank Beazley at his foster home, 1940 to 1944.

Gertrude and William Henn: Dale Jackson, Cruikshank's Halifax Funeral Home, Halifax; Tracy Hardman, St. John's Anglican Cemetery, Halifax; genealogists Priscilla Haines, Les Sinclair, Lisa Blackburn, and Robert Hegerich. Gertrude Henn's obituary ran in the Oct. 28, 1944, edition of The Halifax Mail. William Henn's obituary ran in the Dec. 13, 1962, edition of The Halifax Herald. Details of the loss of his child and first wife, in 1917, were found in NSARM's online Halifax Explosion Remembrance book. Frank's foster sister, Marion Oakley, provided invaluable information, as did Heather Publicover, daughter of the late Ronnie Henn. Several of Frank's friends during this period were helpful: John Milligan, Marjorie (Umlah) Young, June (Stewart) Craig, and Ronald Yeadon. George Newbury provided some of the history of Goodwood, Nova Scotia. The Butterbox Babies tragedy is well-chronicled. Miller found accounts at a Web site, The Ideal Maternity Home - "Home Of The Butterbox Babies,"; from the Canadian Children's Rights Council; and "Mystery, pain shroud Canada's Butterbox coffins," an Associated Press story published on May 7, 1999. Francis L. Beazley's obituary ran in the Dec. 7, 1942, edition of The Halifax Herald.

Frank Beazley in Halifax, 1944 to 1953.

A copy of Frank's military record was furnished by Tim Wright, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa. Information about the Canadian army in the 1940s came from Steve Harris, chief historian, Directorate of History and Heritage, National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa; Robert Mercer, assistant deputy minister, Public Programs and Communications Branch, Veterans Affairs Canada; Verna E. Bruce, associate deputy minister, Veterans Affairs Canada; author Art W. Cockerill; and historian Peter R. Goble. Information on Bramley Gardens was provided by: Patricia Milner, head of Reference Services, Annapolis Valley Regional Library; Jim Shelley, who purchased Bramley Gardens from Edna in 1963; Krista Toole, an administrator with the town of Middleton, Nova Scotia; and Sarah Carswell, librarian/curatorial assistant, the MacDonald Museum. Joel Jacobson, columnist with The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, provided photos of Creighton Street today and Frank's home on Bluebell Lane (now Windcrest Terrace); the current owner granted an interview. Several of Frank's boyhood friends shared their recollections, including Stan Ernst, Ronald Rozee, Frieda Stevenson, and the Hon. Alan R. Abraham, former lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia.

Frank Beazley in Rhode Island, 1953 to 1967.

Information on Frank's homes was found in city directories kept by the Providence Public Library. The record of Mary Fields' divorce from Gordon V. Fields is on file at the Rhode Island Family Court's Judicial Records Center in Pawtucket. Patricia Fera, Mary's daughter, provided information about Mary. John M. Iannaccaro, owner of the now-defunct Turf Club Cafe, shared his recollections of Frank's favorite bar. Christopher S. Bentley, senior public affairs officer, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, handled Miller's requests, under the Freedom of Information Act, for Frank's and Mary's immigration records. Records of Frank's stay at Rhode Island Hospital were obtained (with Frank's permission) by Nancy Cawley, hospital senior media relations officer.

Frank Beazley at Zambarano Hospital, 1967 to 1972.

Frank authorized the review of his entire record at Zambarano Hospital, beginning with his admission on March 29, 1967, an archive of several thousand pages. The history of Zambarano was gleaned from numerous pamphlets and books kept by the hospital. Mary Fields' obituary ran in the July 31, 1971, edition of The Providence Journal.

Frank Beazley at Zambarano, 1973 to 1998.

Frank's medical records. Mike Saporito's story was written from Frank's recollections, and interviews with Mike's sister Frances Fazzio of Woonsocket. Mrs. Fazzio also provided photographs and granted permission to review Mike's extensive medical record. Mike's obituary ran in The Providence Journal on June 20, 1998. Louie Pafundi's story was compiled with Frank's recollections and interviews with Louie's brother James Pafundi, of North Providence, who also provided photographs and a scrapbook. Mr. Pafundi granted permission to review Louie's medical record. Louie's stepdaughter, Kathy Martinez, of Kinston, N.C., granted an interview. Louie's obituary ran in The Providence Journal on May 11, 1994. Miller learned about Janie Callahan from her daughter, Janina Fera, an employee of The Providence Journal.

Frank Beazley's return to Halifax, 1998.

Frank's medical records. The Providence Journal published several stories about Frank's visit. The two people who accompanied Frank granted interviews: Ray Allard, who died last month, and nurse Janet (Mitchell) Rich.

Frank Beazley at Zambarano, 1998 to today.

Frank's medical records, and minutes of Patients for Progress back to the first meeting, on May 18, 1979. Many patients and employees of Zambarano and the state Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals contributed to this series, including: Richard Freeman, James Benedict, Paul Despres, Irene Nichols, Carl Simmons, Stephen Westerman, Christina Blanchard, Cheryl Gilmour, Barbara Waterman, Fred Scuncio, Cindy Lussier, Edward Fanning, Lois Simpson, Peter Neff, Lynda Lapierre, Robert Perreault, Kristin Raymond, Jennifer Vanasse, William McMahon, Debbie Stockwell, Nancy Houle, Patricia Raymond, Allan Ducharme, Linda Scotland, Joyce Bulger, Donna Doris, Valerie Rushton, Bille Feole, Rene Plante, John Holmes, Don Olson, Cheryl McLaughlin, and the late Joyce McKenna.


Edna's obituary ran in the Feb. 7, 2002, edition of The Chronicle-Herald. The obituary for her second husband, William L. Ferguson, ran in the May 29, 1986, edition of The Chronicle-Herald. Louise Higgs, Chronicle-Herald librarian, provided copies. Nellie Beazley died on Dec. 1, 1975, and her obituary was published in The Ottawa Citizen.


This story involves narrative reconstruction. G. Wayne Miller uses direct quotations only when he heard or read the words; he paraphrases other remarks, omitting quotation marks, after being satisfied they were spoken. An extensive note on methodology and sources is on Page D3 or available at


Joel P. Rawson, project editor

G. Wayne Miller, writer

Mary Murphy, photographer

Tony LaRoche, copy editor

Lynn Rognsvoog, design

Linda Henderson, librarian

Thomas E. Heslin, managing editor for new media

Peter Phipps, assistant managing editor

Mike Foran, chief Web designer

Beth Heaney, online designer

This is G. Wayne Miller's 14th series for The Providence Journal. He is also the author of seven books. Contact him at or at (401) 277-7380. Visit him at

Mary Murphy has been a photographer at The Journal since 1982. She has photographed the Plunder Dome trial of former Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr., numerous series, including the story of Station fire victim Gina Gauvin, the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots.


  1. I clearly remember this piece when it came out. One poem, and I'm paraphrasing, was about being in a field on a winter's night. He so accurately described it, the feelings and setting.

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