Word of Frank Cummings' death hit me like a solid right or left.
The kind of punches Frank taught young men in the area to throw correctly during his days as a boxing coach in Jackson County.
The news of his passing was delivered by Dan Clarkson, one of the finest ever to learn the sport of sweet science under Frank's guidance.
Frank was indeed the face of boxing in the area. He founded the Jackson County Jaycees Boxing Club in the mid-70s and stayed with it well into the '80s. Besides Clarkson, Frank churned out other fine pugilists such as Dave Karr, Charlie Hatcher, Ricky Hatcher, Tony Jarrett, Ronnie Casto, Bobby Bostic, Delbert Tackett, Steve Dohohew, Calvin Donohew and the late Bryan Barnette just to name a few. Many of his boxers were at Frank's funeral and were asked to stand and say their names. They were given a wonderful round of applause.
He loved teaching boys from Ravenswood and Ripley, and all parts in between, everything there was to know inside the ropes and outside in terms of preparation. He pushed them hard. He grumbled at them.
Most of all, he loved them.
Behind that gruff exterior, Frank was an old softy.
Frank, like so many others in this county, not only cared about his own kids but those who belonged to others.
I first got to know Frank when he spent time with the 1977 Ripley Viking football. That was Frank Marino's first squad and Frank Cummings was our trainer (which is a position that wasn't required back in those days). I can still see Frank getting into it with an official and almost getting flagged before Coach Marino could settle him down. That moment remains vivid in my mind and it still makes me laugh to this day.
Frank worked at Kaiser Aluminum with my father. If he told me once, he told me a thousand times, "Your daddy was a worker." I never got tired of hearing those words from Frank.
When I started writing for the local papers, I did a lot of pieces on Frank's boxing teams. He would tell my dad that many of those stories made him cry.
It's because Frank cared. He poured a lot of his own money into the local club so that his boxers could have the best. He wanted them to have a fighting chance. More than anything, Frank poured his heart and soul into those willing to take on the demanding sport of boxing.
He wanted to help those he coached become good citizens. He wanted them to grow up to be men.
It was disappointing that no one was there to keep the sport going when Frank finally decided to hang it up.
In addition to boxing, Frank was also involved in youth baseball. He was proud of all the boys he coached. He had a hard time hiding the swelling of pride, and rightfully so, when it came to his own son, Frankie, who would ultimately sign a free agent contract with the Atlanta Braves.
Frank loved his daughter, Teresa, his wife of 46 years, Wanda, and he was just plain giddy about his grandchildren. He was devoted to other family members and friends. If Frank could help someone, he would.
Years after his boxing days had ended, Clarkson still leaned on Cummings for motivation and guidance. In 2006, Clarkson, who made law enforcement his career, was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident and was told he would likely never walk again.
Today, not only does he walk, but he drives and recently competed in a national competition for disabled athletes. Clarkson took top honors in the shot put, discus and club (a throwing device for disabled athletes) at the Thunder in the Valley Games in Saginaw, Michigan.
“Frank really pushed me,” Clarkson said of the recovery process from his accident. “Without him these past few years, I’m not sure where I would be.”
There are many in Jackson County who can say the same thing. Frank impacted a lot of lives. Yours truly included.
Rest in peace Frank, you will be missed.