Francis Xavier Girr, Jr. died on January 26, 2017 at the age of 86 after a long and full life. A third-generation Newporter, Frank was born on October 2, 1930 to Francis Girr and Kathryn Curry. He grew up in Middletown, RI across the street from Vernon Playground, where he spent his childhood playing baseball.
Frank attended Sheffield School, St. Joseph’s, and De La Salle Academy. He received a B.S. in Accounting from Bryant College, then worked as a teller at Newport National Bank before being drafted into the Korean War, where he served as an auditor in Japan as part of the Army’s all-accountant Fighting Finance Division.
Upon his discharge, Frank took advantage of the GI Bill to earn his B.A. in English from URI and M.A. in English from UMass. He began his teaching career at Holyoke High School, where he met his wife Mary Coffey. Frank went on to teach English at Classical High School in Springfield, MA (now Central High School) for 35 years. Frank and Mary were married for 40 years before her death in 2000.
After his wife’s death, Frank returned to Newport where he began his career as an architectural and social historian of Newport, with a focus on documenting the missing mansions. He gave talks at the Newport Art Museum, Newport Historical Society, Redwood Library, and Newport Public Library. Frank was an active member of Salve Regina University’s Circle of Scholars, teaching and taking classes regularly until his death. He was a committed advocate for preservation, supporting local organizations like the Preservation Society of Newport County and Friends of the Waterfront, and was actively involved in efforts to maintain public coastal access on Marine Avenue and to raise awareness of the neglected Belmont Chapel in Island Cemetery.
In his 86 years, Frank made the most of every opportunity life offered. He had an unquenchable curiosity and appetite for learning. A man of routine, Frank also loved to experience new things. His very dry sense of humor was a delight to many and a source of confusion for some. Frank passed his enduring love for and encyclopedic knowledge of trees and wood down to his children—especially his son. And he shared his lifelong love of reading with his daughter and beloved granddaughters.
Frank is survived by his daughter Cathy Girr, son Chris Girr and daughter-in-law Joo Rhee, granddaughters Maya and Dylan Galbreth, and nieces and nephews including Jack Girr and Cheryl (Girr) Mrozowski of Newport.
Friends and family are invited to attend a celebration of Frank’s life on Saturday, February 18 from 2-5 pm at the Young Building at Salve Regina, 518 Bellevue Avenue. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Newport Arboretum. Frank will be buried at St. Columba Cemetery in a private service.
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