Island Mourns Death of Ruth “Sis” Frank

Ruth “Sis” Frank

Ruth Frank, known affectionately across St. John as ‘Sis,” died peacefully in her Estate Contant home surrounded by friends on Thanksgiving at 2:22 p.m. Despite health problems since undergoing heart surgery three years ago, she continued to write her much-loved column, “Wha’s Happ’nin’,” in St. John Tradewinds, and she also penned an article for the soon to be released fifth edition of St. John Magazine. Sis even ventured out to vote just three weeks before her death.

“She was thoughtful with her hand written cards of thanks that ended with her signature hand drawn martini glass,” said Jan Kinder, a 26-year friend of Frank’s. “Hearing her joyful voice spouting out “marvelous” was another Sis-ism she used for so many years.”

In her last days, Sis spoke of angels watching over her as she lay in bed, and she was comfortable and at peace when she passed. Sis was like a mother and a friend to all, and her cheerful personality and beautiful outlook on life will be missed by everyone who knew her. She will live on forever through each child who’s come through the doors at the St. John School of the Arts, which she founded in 1971.

“Thanksgiving Day was a beautiful and auspicious day for Sis to join her friends who have already passed, friends she missed so much,” continued Kinder. “Now with every Thanksgiving to come, we can remember to give thanks to this great lady for all she has done for St. John and most importantly the people’s lives she has so graciously touched. Sis will live on forever in our hearts.”

Please leave your comments and stories about Sis so Tradewinds can include in a full story next issue.

For full obituary, click “read more.”



Ruth “Sis” C. H. Frank, 86, entered into eternal peace at home on Thursday, November 25, 2010, with a few of her friends at her side.

Sis was born May 2, 1924, to Charles and Ruth Griswold Pflanz in Norwich, NY. Upon graduating Skidmore College with a Bachelor of Science degree in art education in 1946, she joined her mother’s interior design company.

On December 23, 1959, Sis arrived on St. John at the request of an old friend to organize the design and finish the building and furnishing of two rental houses. As other private homes were constructed, homeowners needed supervision of their homes and this eventually led Sis to create the first rental home business, Holiday Homes, in 1960.

At the same time, Sis worked as secretary for the St. John Corporation, under the guidance of Elaine Sprauve. The St. John Corporation established the first tours of St. John and a regularly operating ferry boat company.
In 1960, she met Carl Frank, a radio/television personality and St. John visitor.  In 1962, Sis together with her now husband

Carl became the first realtors on St. John with Holiday Homes Real Estate and further created the St. John Insurance Company.

When Carl passed away in 1972, Sis chose to take on a business partner so she could follow a new path as business manager of a steel band, Steel Unlimited. The band was comprised of 28 young St. Johnians and directed by Rudy Wells. Steel Unlimited was “The Pride and Joy of St. John” with performances in the Rose Bowl parade, Disneyland, Lincoln Center, and Shea Stadium, and recordings at Criteria Studios in Miami.

Out of the success of the steel band, the concept for a School of the Arts was born. Through private donations, land was purchased in 1981 to build an arts school, which took 10 years to complete with mostly volunteer labor and her unwavering determination. During the building of the school, classes in art, musical theatre, photography, piano and Orff Schulwerk music were taught at different locations like churches, restaurants, etc. on St. John.

In 1990, the building was completed and Sis became co-founder and executive director of St. John School of the Arts. Steel Unlimited II was created. This band had 60 island performances yearly, and month-long tours in Denmark, Germany, and New York, and later in France and Switzerland.

As the years progressed the school expanded its curriculum offering a full arts education program to the children and various classes for adults. Sis developed a seasonal concert series at the school with musicians and artists from the States and abroad. She was a collaborator and host of many cultural events, a strong supporter of the local musicians, and avid lover of jazz.

Sis was also a regular columnist for St. John Tradewinds newspaper since the mid-1970s. Her weekly “Wha’s Happ’nin’” column kept readers abreast of what was going on in the community. She later began writing for St. John Magazine, reminiscing about the old days of St. John, the island she fell in love with and the  people she so respected and cared about. Sis’s last column will be published next month in the fifth edition of St. John Magazine.

Over the past 50 years, Sis has made significant contributions to St. John and its community. She adored the children and loved the island she called home. Her positive cheerful personality and beautiful outlook on life will be greatly missed by everyone she touched.

A mother and friend to all, Sis is survived by her cousin Farrar “Bud” Tilney, step-son Douglas Frank and her many godchildren.

Donations in Sis’s memory can be made to: St. John School of the Arts indicating on the memo Ruth “Sis” Frank Arts Fund, which provides financial assistance and performance merit scholarships at St. John School of the Arts, P.O. Box 180, St. John, VI  00831.

At Sis’s request, in place of a formal funeral service, there will a “Celebration of Life” at St. John School of the Arts Saturday, December 18, 2010 from 4 to 7 p.m. Come share in the history of her life while enjoying music, food and drink. Sis asks that everyone wear bright colors. Please park at Winston Wells Ball field.