American Veteran 04

Bernard "Bernie" Eugene Frakes

June 22, 1938 ~ March 1, 2021 (age 82)


"Marines care for their own. And that is in life and in death. And so, they see their duty not complete until they are resting in their homeland with their families."
-Gordon Ritchie

Bernard "Bernie" Eugene Frakes passed on Monday, March 1, 2021, at his son and daughter-in-law's home in Albuquerque, NM. He was preceded in death by his mom and dad, Margaret and Leonard Frakes; his brother-in-law and best friend, Larry Stolarczyk; his niece, Lori Stolarczyk; and his great-nephew, Jedrick Stolarczyk. He is survived by his sisters, Barbara (Jim) Woodrow, and Beverly Stolarczyk; children, Kris (Bill) Culbertson, Keith (Yvette) Frakes, Kerrie Jo (David) Payne; grandchildren, Mathew, Jordan, Nicole, Kyle, Kaitlyn, Keegan, Kolton; nieces and nephews, Lisa, Jerry, Colleen, Mike, Tom, Bob, Mary, Cathie, Mathew, and Margie.

Born in Ordway, Colorado on June 22nd, 1938 to Leonard and Margaret Frakes, he grew up in Ordway until it was time to leave for college. Bernie attended Colorado University where he ran track with his best friend, Larry Stolarczyk, and obtained a bachelor's degree in Physical Education. Bernie was a long-distance runner, performing in the mile and 2 miles. Bernie and Larry were quite the track stars in their day. While at CU, Bernie introduced Larry to his sister, Beverly.
Bev and Larry were married until Larry's death in 2020.

Bernie married Barbara Borah in Boulder, Colorado right before joining the Marines, where he served in southeast Asia before we were calling it the Viet Nam war. His many letters sent home (that his mother kept) tell of his time overseas. He served for over 6 years before he moved to Arizona to ranch cattle and grow tomatoes in a hydroponic house (way before that was a "thing").

With his three children, Kris, Keith, and Kerrie Jo, he made life fun for them whenever possible. Dad liked to draw the Gadsden Purchase logo "Don't Tread On Me" on their arms when mom wasn't looking. She could often be heard yelling, "Bernie quit drawin' on those kids!" which made him assume his "Uh oh I'm in trouble face," a face which many who knew him and were the recipient of his shenanigans and pranks knew well. "Pull my finger" was a favorite of ours and the unsuspecting niece or nephew.

Bernie liked to tell the story of meeting John Wayne, the actor, at a cattle auction in Gilbert, Arizona. He said John Wayne "was a really nice guy." The story goes that there were long lines at the outhouses, and John Wayne was out in the pasture "doing his business," so Bernie and Chauncey McKellips (his mother-in-law's dad) went over to talk to him. They sat there and shot the bull for about half an hour.

Exploding pens, cigarette loads, are among the loving memories family and friends have of pranks played. Here are just a few stories about them:

After making a trip to Zeezo's Magic shop, he loaded an exploding pen and stopped at Benny's Bar where he worked at the time to play a prank on the owner. He told his young grandson that the plan was to go in and ask the owner to help him open the pen. Well, the grandson ran in before Bernie could get there, asked for help as he was instructed, and the prank pen just about gave the owner a heart attack! The owner yelled at Bernie when he entered the bar, "G@*$#@! Bernie! I thought I was just helping out a little kid to open his pen!"

At the last family reunion, Bernie brought his favorite transparent lipstick to sneak on the beer bottles of anyone not looking. The stuff turned bright pink when in contact with water. He placed it on the nephews and son-in-law's beers which left them with bright pink lips for days. Bernie told the story of playing this same prank on a friend at Thirsty's bar, only to have the friend call him with a very angry wife wanting Bernie to confirm the prank had been played and he wasn't cheating on her.

Nephew, Tom remembers: "4th of July prolly early 70's uncle Bernie lines us all up in the backyard in lawn chairs. He set us up with coke/beer bottles or spent Roman candles and proceeded to 'arm' us with bottle rockets. He would light punks for each of us (some of us might have gotten cigarettes because there weren't enough punks). Then on his command we would fire our rockets out over Raton like an artillery brigade. And hear his signature chuckle."

There were many, many stories of how Bernie turned an otherwise too serious or too boring life into one that could be laughed at and thoroughly enjoyed.

Fishing at beautiful 11 Mile Reservoir with his friends was a favorite pastime and several trips with his grandchildren made great memories and the best tasting trout you've ever had.

Bernie taught enough of the American Legion members to play Texas Hold 'em so they could have regular poker games. He loved his Tuesday and Thursday night poker games at the Manitou American Legion. He later learned savvy computer skills to play on-line poker on a daily basis.

An avid sports fan, he loved to watch professional golf and was committed to the Colorado Rockies, Denver Broncos, and for some reason liked the Green Bay Packers, too.

Bernie was a generous man. He had a fondness for Native Americans, donating often what little he had to the Native American Rights fund and St. Joseph's Indian School in South Dakota. He also donated regularly to Toys for Tots and the Wounded Warrior Project.

While Bernie lived in Arizona for a time, opening one of the earliest hydroponic houses and ranching cattle, Colorado was his home for most of his life. He resided in Colorado Springs and then Manitou Springs the last 30 years. He worked as a bartender and managed a dry- cleaning store. He was a regular at Mo's Diner in Manitou, walking there just about every day.

Interment with full military honors will take place on Saturday, May 29th, 2021 at Pikes Peak National Cemetery at 9:00 a.m. Gone, but not forgotten, we will miss the joy, laughter, and happiness Bernie brought to our lives. He made sure there was never a dull moment. He was genuinely an amazing man.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks you spend some time with a friend or family and toast a drink to our dad, Bernie.

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