For those readers who don’t know me, my name is Lynn Hopewell. I was born and raised in Portsmouth. My father was Harry Hopewell. My mother is Charlotte Mathews Hopewell.
I met Frank Lawrence when I was sixteen years old, in the spring of 1954, 51 years ago. He was 42. It was all Lem Mayo’s fault. (… Dr. Mayo, you are finally being called to account!)
One of my sisters was sick and Dr. Mayo came on a “house call.” Yes, I know, for some of you, I have just spoken in a foreign tongue. A house call is when the doctor comes to you rather than you going to him.
When Dr. Mayo finished tending to my sister he stopped to talk to my mother and me.
During the conversation he said to me, “Lynn, you look pretty glum, what’s the matter?” My mother immediately said, “Oh, he and his girlfriend broke up.” Dr. Mayo brightened and said, “Oh, I know a wonderful girl. She’s pretty and has a sparking personality. You would really like her. Her name is Carolyn Lawrence.” I called her right away.
To make a long story short, we were married, a year and a half later.
Now, I do not need to explain why I was afraid that Frank would have been quite angry and had taken it out on me. We were far too young, and had been foolish.
I was afraid he was going to cover me with anger. Instead he covered Carolyn and me with love (as did his whole family). I was one relieved young puppy.
Carolyn and I very determined to “make it” on our own and we worked hard at it. Frank knew how to respect that.
After my first year at Virginia Tech, we were financially independent. But, still, we benefited from his many kindnesses. And, more importantly, we knew we had a safety net. But, he did give us a car. One day I came home and found a washing machine on the front porch.
Carolyn told me that Frank would slip her a $20 every now and then. She would say, “Daddy, I don’t need it.” But, he would give it to her anyway, saying that “it might come in handy.” He knew how to help a young couple without undermining our desire to take care of ourselves.
On more than one occasion he compared himself unfavorably with his father. He told me that he had not been as “successful” as his father. Yes, it is true that his father was successful in several ways.
Frank “D. for Battling” Lawrence was president of a bank, owner of the Portsmouth Cubs. He sued the major leagues when TV ruined minor league baseball.
I knew “D. for Battling.” We would go to his house for Christmas and he and aunt Margaret would always have a gift for me. He was nice to me.
But…I can tell you this… he was not more successful than his son at the things that really count. Even at the age of 18, I knew that, so it always pained me when Frank would talk about it. I was too young to know exactly what to say.
But, I knew even then that Frank was better than most men I knew in kindness, caring, and loving.
I have for 50 years wanted to tell him that he was not less successful than his father and what I thought of him.
But, …you know… I never quite found the right moment. However, I am working on the manuscript of a book. Here the dedication:
To Frank Dudley Lawrence, Jr.
Of Portsmouth, Virginia
Husband of Charlotte and father of Carolyn, Frank, Margaret and David
Who was a true Virginian, grandfather of my Harry and Matt and
One of the finest men I have ever known.
That’s what I really thought of him! If I had it to do over again, I just might add:
“…and “Frank D. for Battling” has got nothing on you.”
I’m going to miss Frank Lawrence. He was like a second father to me. But, when I do think of him, as I know I surely will, I will remember …
…. “a most successful man.”
This page last edited: June 25, 2008 Copyright© 2006 by Lynn Hopewell.