Champion, advocate, mentor: Remembering Jason Franz

October 2019 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

A few years ago, a man named Larry Platt auditioned for American Idol with an original hit (that later sold millions), “Pants on the Ground”, which made fun of young men and boys who wore their pants halfway down their bottoms with their underwear exposed. Many of us have done the same, shaking our heads.

Jason Franz and the High Mascot in Fall Line. Photo by Kristine Thomas.

Jason Franz likely said, “My people.” He liked everyone, but had a special affinity for those on the margins – disenfranchised youth who were scolded for riding their skateboards on the sidewalk or risked weaving in and out of traffic because there was nowhere else to ride.

I heard a great story the other night that invariably is true but, without the person’s permission, I will relay it without naming names. A couple of young boys were seen shoplifting in a local store, and the owner called Jason, who was advised that the two were “his kids.” He promptly told them about stealing being wrong, marched them down to the shop, made them apologize to the shopkeeper, and return the merchandise.

Art Brown would never be caught with his “pants on the ground.” At 81, it may be hard just getting them back up! He had a stroke and can no longer drive, and even walking very far was a chore. He could not use his recumbent bike because he only had use of one hand. The first physical therapist said, “No way.” So, Art and his occupational therapist went to Jason. Jason ordered parts, reconfigured the trike so that Art could ride and brake with just one hand. Since then (February 2015), Jason has adjusted the bike and even upgraded it so that Art could use it easier. He gave him a helmet that could be adjusted with one hand. Pay for labor? Jason adamantly wouldn’t allow it.

Says Virginia Brown, Art’s wife, “My husband is 81, not 18, so it’s not just the young people that owe Jason so much – he cared about everyone and generously gave of his time and expertise. The trike has given Art independence and exercise that he never would have had without Jason. It is because of Jason that doctors are saying (this week) that Art will probably recover better from the heart attack he had just 11 days ago and open-heart surgery that he had last Thursday. It is because of Jason that my husband was able to regain his independence. Thank you, Jason. You’ll never know how many lives you have affected in our community.”

We all know by now that this special young man, who died of a heart attack last weekend while doing what he loved best – mountain bike riding up by the Falls, was a driving force (with Judy Schmidt) that got the skate park done up behind the Senior Center and the bike track at Rogers Wayside. But who knew how much of a price break he gave so that the Silverton Police trailer, used in part for bike rodeos and safety towns, would be full of bikes for kids to learn about safety, even if they had no bike?

As Marcia Rowland, a big fan of Jason says, “My girls were in the second and third grade and I bought them one of those electric scooters. They both stopped working shortly after the warranty expired (go figure!). It took Jason a couple of hours on each one, and he wouldn’t let me pay him AT ALL. I always felt people, especially kids, were more important to him than anything else.”

Hundreds of testimonials about his compassion, service, and humanity have surfaced on social media, and hundreds of people came to an impromptu vigil last Monday night. One who spoke said, “I wish we would have honored him when he was with us.” He actually was the recipient of the Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year a few years ago. The vigil crowd told Jason-stories, cried, laughed, and hugged. A few probably had their “Pants on the Ground.” I suspect Jason was smiling – “My people.”

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