Frank E. (Ellsworth) Elliott of Vineyard Haven and Venice, Fla., died peacefully at his home on Sunday morning, April 28 after a 12-year struggle with the complications of Parkinson’s disease.
As he joyfully shared in his memoir, The Fresh Kid — A Lower Middle-Class Odyssey, Frank started life’s journey with humble beginnings in Hartford, Conn., to become a business leader, developer-entrepreneur, visionary and all around inspiration to his children and many others. With an impish twinkle in his eye, he filled a room, loved working a crowd and shared his joy of life. Quick with the wit and a nonstop quest for knowledge, Frank loved to intellectually engage those he came in contact with, whether they were his colleagues or his kids and their friends. He never missed a chance to raise the bar in discourse or to challenge one to follow their own path in life.
A resident of Vineyard Haven seasonally and year round since 1969, he was active with the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, a supporter of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society and Vineyard Village at Home, and a lover of the Island where, until Parkinson’s made it impossible, he with his wife Stephanie, had surely walked every Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank property as soon as it became available.
Born in 1930 in Hartford, Conn., career moves centered him in the Philadelphia area. His six years with the Philadelphia Regional Office of the Housing and Home Finance Agency (HUD) culminated in his appointment as assistant regional administrator finalizing grants-in-aid applications in six mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia.
There followed 11 years with the Korman Corporation, a major Philadelphia builder and developer, in various top executive posts, years very exciting to him both for the challenges and the people he so enjoyed working with.
Then came a new career combining development with gerontology. As founder, president, chief executive officer and majority stockholder, Elliott led the design, development and management of an early privately-held continuing care retirement community which included 300 apartments for older residents, a 236-bed geriatric health care facility, a 24,000-square-foot community center and two small inns.
The health care facility included a wing designed, built and decorated for the care and comfort of Alzheimer patients. Based on what was then new research, it was a first effort to achieve this at the local nursing home level.
The staff of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania joined him in a nationwide study to refine actuarial statistics on the health and aging of the growing over 65 population being served in continuing care communities.
In a further innovation, he obtained recognition from the Internal Revenue Service that a major portion of entry and monthly fees in continuing care communities be allowed as deductible health care costs on personal income taxes.
Elliott tried his hand at politics in the mid 1970s with a run for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary. Ever a trailblazer, his candidacy resulted in the liberalization of the state’s nominating process.
He founded and was first chairman of the Bucks County Housing Authority, and served as commissioner on the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority. In the turbulent mid-1960s, troubled by poverty and festering racism in an area of rundown ex-war housing held by disinterested absentee landlords, he persuaded the owners to sell and the Bucks County government to buy public utilities to rapidly improve facilities there for reasonable housing to be established. His name appears on a plaque there for this pioneering work.
A sailor at heart, he was self taught and skippered a 1905 Crosby Catboat on the Delaware River, a floating playpen when the children were young. Later he raced a Soling at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club where his fellow racers often kidded that his ubiquitous orange wool cap was easily confused with one of the course buoys.
A lifelong interest in show business included starring roles in his college years in Hartford summer stock at the Oval in the Grove. He and his wife have been supporters of Sarasota, Fla., opera for more than 20 years.
Amused by his own circuitous efforts to trace his family’s genealogy, he wrote Chasing Asaph, a tongue-in-cheek account of the effort to track down one elusive ancestor. It now resides at the Simsbury Genealogical and Historical Society in Connecticut. His recent book, The Fresh Kid, was written during his 12-year struggle with Parkinson’s disease.
Frank is survived by his wife Stephanie and his daughter Krista, both of Vineyard Haven, and three sons, Brad with his wife Robin of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Warren of Amherst, and Richard and his wife Christine of New Hope, Pa. Also much loved are 10 grandchildren.
Anyone wishing to contribute to Frank’s memory may send a gift in his name to the Class of 1954 Scholarship Fund at Central Connecticut State University which he helped to found. The address is CCSU Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 612, New Britain, Ct. 06050-0612. Alternatively, gifts in his memory may go to Maxwell School of Public Administration at Syracuse University, 200 Eggers Hall Syracuse, N.Y. 13244.
A celebration of Frank’s life will be held at the family home on June 15 at 4:30 p.m. Friends wishing to join are asked to bring a small potluck item and an anecdote to share.