MARY PREVOST'S BLOG: RIP WWII VET FRANK X. PREVOST: THE MOST BRILLIANT MAN DIED TODAY.
REPRINTED FROM THE SDCDBA:
FEBRUARY 13, 2013
First, thanks to many of you who were aware that man father has been ailing, and sent kind words and prayers.
I learned just an hour ago, as I was attempting to make plans to go see my father, who had been rushed to the hospital in Baltimore, that he passed away this morning. My father was, and will remain, the most brilliant man I've ever known.
Born in 1923 - he just turned 90 a few weeks ago - he was dropped in a Jesuit orphanage alone with his brother, Al (who died just two months ago), when his father took off during the great depression leaving my grandmother with 10 children she couldn't care for. All ended up in orphanages. He moved from Jesuit orphanage, to and from 14 different foster homes, and back to the orphanage repeatedly over those years. He graduated from Loyola H.S., fluent in Greek, Latin and French. He started Loyola college. When the war broke out, he enlisted in the United States Army Air corps where he worked on gliders in Europe.
He saw combat in Europe. He served in the Army Air Corps with the 9th Air Force Troop Carrier Command, and took part in the airborne invasion of Holland in 1944, Operation Market Garden (Remagen Bridge), the ill fated Allied ground and air invasion of Arnhem in the Netherlands, and two months later re-supplied C-47 planes for the troops at Bastone. He was discharged, but remained in the inactive reserve as a 1st Lieutenant until 1947. As was customary of the men of the day, he never ever spoke of the horrors he witnessed. It was considered inappropriate.
After WWII, the French government gave him a scholarship to attend Le Sorbonne in Paris, and then finished at Loyola. He went to University of Maryland Law School, and then worked for the government for a while handling high security clearances - including one for Jimmy Carter long before he was to become president. He began his law career at The Martin Co., predecessor of Martin Marrieta. Then to ITT, where he became the Director of Avionics. Then elevated to Director of Commercial Claims and Litigation at ITT World Headquarters in NYC.
His work took him to Tokyo, Bangkok, Saigon, Vietnam, Manila, Brussels, London, Rome and France. A four year case took him to Germany where the ITT subsidiary, SEL Corp., won their case against NATO. The case was a disaster, and my father spent years turning it around. He was "the closer."
My father always started his day the same. He got up at O'Dark Thirty, got on the bust to NYC, attended Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, and went to work until 5:30. He'd come home with a trial bag of contracts, break them out on the table and work after dinner, until I would require him to stop and play a rousing game - or ten - of "Go Fish."
I spent a great deal of time with him in Cocoa Beach, Florida where he would stay while working on NASA contracts ITT had with Cape Canaveral. We spent summers in Europe - where he lived about 1/3 of the year - traveling the week with my mom, and spending the weekends with him.
There was no one who could out argue my father. No one. My father taught me Aristotelian Syllogistic logic when I was a kid, although I didn't know it at the time. The Socratic method was not out of use at our house. He loved to use the Reductio ad absurdum to make his point. I remember sitting at the dinner table being awed and mesmerized by his ability to argue a point of philosophy or theology with friends and clergy who were just as educated as he, including tongue tying the Auxiliary Bishop of Newark and the Father provincial of the Augustinian Recollect order.
Notwithstanding his corporate persona, I was taught never to look down upon those who were different. He grew up in an orphanage, and in foster homes, and he never forgot where he came from or what he endured. To that end, when I escaped from Catholic HS, to the chagrin of my mother, and went to public school, my 3 best friends were Jewish, black and gay. My father adored them. He loved my friends because of who they were - good kids, not trouble makers. He knew I was safe with my crew. I didn't really know what prejudice was until I went to college. It didn't exist in my world because of my father. He never forgot what it was like to be discarded and kicked around. My uncle - my dad's brother-in-law - later became the chief trial lawyer for the Baltimore State's Attorneys office, and the police legal advisor for the Baltimore County police. When I was deciding whether or not to go to law school, and become a public defender, I called Uncle Charlie to gauge his reaction and to seek advice. He was ecstatic, and told me he thought the world needed checks and balances, and good public defenders. He told me something I'd never heard before: "It is the duty of the prosecutor to seek justice, not merely to convict." thought he made that up himself. I later learned from defense attorneys I would run into at seminars from Baltimore that my uncle was quite well respected as one of the good old boys who wasn't embarrassed to admit when he was wrong, and dismiss a case when it became clear it was warranted. He was a WWII fighter pilot. A man from a different world.
My favorite story is this: My father spent a great deal of time in Washington, D.C., where I and my sister attended college. But, alas, my mom was frugal and we lived on a shoe string. But Dad would always take me to the Safeway at the Watergate Hotel where there was a Safeway, and load me up with food. Now, Dad always work his "spook" uniform. Black suit, black shoes, black overcoat, and black fedora. While approaching the entrance of the Safeway, a very tall and very ramshackled looking homeless man asked him for money. He declined, because he didn't want his money going to booze. But he invited this man to come shop with us, at which time he would buy than man any sandwich he wanted, any side dishes and something to drink. The man was awed and followed us in. Almost immediately, the manager appeared, deriding the man for entering the premises. Mr. ITT World Headquarters whipped around and told him, "This is my guest. I intend to spend a great deal of money in your establishment. I intend to purchase food for him. DO YOU have a problem with ME?" The manager bowed and apologized. And the homeless man followed us around while we shopped and then we bought him his lunch. Dad never forgot what it was like to be down and out, to be unwanted.
When my father retired from ITT, he was courted by the likes of Dewey Ballentine, Covington & Burling, and McKenne & Cuneo for the business he could bring in from ITT. He chose to go with a small, boutique firm recently opened by my father's two favorite trial lawyers. Everyone in the firm was Jewish. And Conservative Jewish. Dad had half days on Friday because everyone had to leave early to make it home before sundown to keep Sabbath. These were his dear friends. And, yes, he still went to St. Patrick's Cathedral for Mass every morning in NYC before going to his conservative Jewish law firm.
Unfortunately, after my mother died, he remarried a woman who shattered our family. Without getting too intimate, he became the victim of elder abuse in his later years. We literally told me weren't allowed to see him in Baltimore over Christmas. We were screamed at by his wife and ordered to go home. We showed up on Christmas day, put my sister's triplets and 10 year old in front of us (for protection), and when the door opened, we entered. We are our father's girls. We had all converged together in Baltimore to say goodbye to my father, whom we were told had only days. I brought a suit for his funeral. But when he saw his 3 girls together for the first time in years, along with his grandchildren, something happened. He no longer wanted to die because his best friend - his last living brother - had died weeks before. Miraculously, his vitals went up. The nurse that came by in the mornings didn't know what was happening - why he was coming around rather than declining so rapidly.
I sit here thinking of this, and all that has transpired and all that I've seen over the years with my father, and compare it with the abject stupidity - and evil arrogance - of so many on our bench. And the ethics - or lack thereof - of DA's and prosecutors still astounds me. And the stress of the constant, never ending fights, the personal attacks meted out, for even the most miniscule of things, has taken it's toll on my personal health.
I am here today, against all odds, only because my father - the most brilliant man I've ever known. He believed in me no matter what. "Some men see things as they are and say, "why"? I dream of things that never were and say, "Why not?"" But he always said I'd have to work harder and be better. There will always be people ready to hurt you, harm you and destroy you, he told me. I have tried.
Good luck to you all. Keep fighting. Please send positive energy my way, and prayers for my father. The most brilliant man died today. I am devastated beyond words.