Remembering Frank: Champion of the environment

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President,
Illinois Renewable Energy Association

Frank Schier has done so much for this area. We especially are grateful for his support of renewable energy and ecology. When we decided to hold our first annual renewable energy fair, we called him to inquire about advertising it.

We talked briefly and he declared he would sponsor it and give us $5,000 worth of free press. He asked us to write an article; since then we continue to write a weekly column on renewable energy.  Later we learned it was not unusual for him to provide free ads for events he felt were beneficial to the community.

He asked us to appear on his television show to talk about renewable energy.  We had never been to the studio and had yet to meet him.  Upon entering the building we saw a man with long flowing hair and a full black coat headed our way. We were somewhat shocked by his appearance but realized it must be Frank.

He opened the show by asking us a question about renewable energy, then spent most of the time answering his own question. We realized we would have to interrupt if our views were to be heard.

He asked us to come to community events where he introduced us to the mayor of Rockford, the director of the Rockford Park District, the Winnebago County Chairman, the director of Youth Build and other leaders in the area.

Despite his introducing us as energy experts, he often expressed his own views on energy issues. He attended public hearings on wind farms and testified against their presence in the Rock River flyway.  When contacted by groups concerned over CAFOs he published their concerns.

He frequently talked about his love of the Rock River and his intention to retire some day to write about the river. He wanted an organization to protect the beauty of the river corridor while encouraging people to enjoy its recreational potential. We suggested he should create what was to become the Rock River Trail Initiative; he worked cooperatively with Greg Farnham and others to develop a bi-state plan which won federal recognition.

He argued against cutting trees to be replaced by native prairie plants. He became determined to restore oak woodlands and began delivering free oak trees to residents within the watershed. The young oaks are a living testimony to Frank’s love of nature and drive to serve the public interest.

In late October he invited us to his home to inform us of his cancer diagnosis; he expressed frustration regarding the limited success he felt he had in stimulating the common good in the Rockford area. Learning of his grim prognosis and his frustration in not be able to garner more support for his many efforts, we chose to place a full place ad in his Rock River Times honoring his life and his contributions to the community.  We wanted Frank and the community to know while he was still alive how special he really was.

He wanted to live as he enjoyed life and had numerous projects he was eager to complete. He helped bring back the annual Anything that Floats Event in Rockford which he hoped to replicate in other communities along the River. He had asked us to join with him to implement solar energy projects in Rockford and set up a meeting with an interested owner. He looked forward to writing his book on the Rock River.

When he learned of his prognosis he entered an experimental treatment program and expressed his desire to be a test subject to extend his own life and make a contribution to the well being of others who might be stricken with cancer.

As he did throughout his life, he showed immense courage in confronting still another challenge.

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