Willis Frank Dowd III, known throughout his life as Frank Dowd, Junior, died peacefully at his home on Friday, November 1, 2019, a spectacular Fall day.
Frank was born February 21, 1927, the son of the late Willis Frank Dowd, Junior and Elizabeth Roddey Dowd. A Charlotte native, Frank would see his hometown grow from the small yet productive community of his youth to the thriving and vibrant city of today. In many ways, he would be a part of that change.
Frank attended Myers Park Elementary School and Alexander Graham Junior High. In 1943, he was enrolled in Woodberry Forest School near Orange, VA, where his love of learning and the importance of a good education took root and became a guiding principle for his life.
Frank graduated from WFS in 1945 and was immediately drafted into the US Navy. He trained as a Radio Technician (RT) at Great Lakes N.T.C. and from there was assigned to the USS Lovelace DE-198 based out of San Diego, CA. Frank was honored to have been in the service of his country and throughout his life continued to support and honor the fine men and women who serve and protect this great nation.
After his discharge from the Navy in 1946, he returned to Charlotte to continue his education, attending Davidson College (1946-47) and transferred to Princeton University in 1948, where he graduated in 1950 with a degree in business and economics.
While at Princeton, Frank enjoyed the many cultural and academic opportunities that were so readily available to students. He was a member of Cottage Club.
In 1949, during his last year at Princeton, Frank married his childhood sweetheart, Sally Worth Carson, also of Charlotte. In 1950, after his graduation from Princeton, they returned to Charlotte where they would make their home.
In 1950, Frank also joined the family company, Charlotte Pipe and Foundry, a cast iron soil pipe manufacturing company started by his grandfather, W. Frank Dowd in 1901.
In the late ’60s, Frank spearheaded the purchase of a large parcel of land in Union County and expanded the company line from cast iron pipe to include plastics. Frank would serve as President, Chairman and Chairman Emeritus of CPF and remained actively involved as the next generations stepped into positions of leadership.
It meant a great deal to Frank that Charlotte Pipe has been able to and continues to provide excellent employment opportunities to so many residents of Mecklenburg County and the surrounding counties.
Today, the company has seven branches in six states. Being a company where the pursuit of excellence is at the core of producing the finest quality product, where every aspect of operations from maintenance to sales are an important component of a successful company, Charlotte Pipe operates within a culture where relationships are of paramount importance.
Every position is valued. Vendors, customers, sales representatives, and employees are all a part of the greater CPF family and Frank was sincerely grateful for the opportunity to know and work with so many fine people during his 69 years with the company.
He was highly respected and admired by those with whom he worked and always gave credit where credit was due. He was also quick to acknowledge those whom he considered true mentors from his early days with CPF.
During his years at the helm, he shared the executive operations and responsibilities with his brother, Roddey Dowd and friend and business partner, Ned Hardison, a three-fold relationship that would see many innovations and advances under their tutelage.
Outside the office, Frank would gain a reputation for his many hobbies and activities. In addition to tennis, volleyball and golf, he enjoyed snow skiing and travel, especially to Switzerland. He was a gifted ham radio operator and pursued his hobby for over 62 years. Known by his call sign, K4BVQ, he made contacts around the world.
Always interested in airplanes and flying, in 1945, at age 18, Frank earned his pilot’s license. For many years to come, he flew a number of classic small planes for pleasure. He enjoyed building and flying model airplanes as well.
In the 1980s, Frank took up the hobby of restoring classic railroad cars and enjoyed several wonderful trips with friends aboard his Babbling Brook. He turned to model railroading and amassed quite a collection of model railroad cars. A collector of military memorabilia, he undertook the restoration of military trucks from the 1940s.
Frank was a farmer at heart and spent many hours on a tractor clearing and maintaining the fields at Red Bird Hill and later at his home in Union County. From his teenage years into his 90’s, cars, trucks, trains and tractors, the list goes on, were a big part of his life. He was truly a man of many interests.
Frank was an avid reader of many genres and became a true student of World War II. He loved music and credits his mother, who was a gifted pianist, with instilling in him that love, knowledge, and appreciation of beautiful music, especially the timeless works of the classical composers. He was a great fan of the Big Band sound.
Over the years, Frank enjoyed attending and supporting the Charlotte Symphony and singing in the church choir. In all of these hobbies and endeavors, he made and maintained remarkable friendships.
Frank was active in a number of civic and volunteer organizations. He was especially involved with the YMCA of greater Charlotte, serving as President as well as being an active participant in the programs offered. He recalled many fierce games of volleyball with The Whiffers, played at what is now the Dowd Family Y.
He was a past president and board member of YMCA Camp Thunderbird. He was a long-time member of the Good Fellows organization and remained a strong supporter of their good work throughout the community.
Frank served on the Board of Directors of Lance, Inc. and the NC Board of Transportation. He enjoyed a long tenure on the Board of NCNB/Nations Bank (now Bank of America).
He also served on the Board of Central Piedmont Community College and the Charlotte City School Board during the years when the Charlotte city school system and the Mecklenburg County school system merged.
Frank was especially thankful for his years serving on the Board of Charlotte Country Day and he remained an active member of the Dowd Foundation. He gave of his time, his sage advice and his support to many other organizations and causes that promoted and provided educational and cultural enrichment opportunities, health services and youth development programs to the Charlotte Mecklenburg community.
Frank had a tender heart and was a generous supporter of animal welfare organizations. He was a member and past president of the Charlotte City Club and a member of Charlotte Country Club and Providence Country Club.
A Charter member of Myers Park Baptist Church, he joined in 1943, Frank served in various positions of leadership over the years. He was a former Chairman of the Board and a lifetime Deacon. He often mentioned how beautiful the Sanctuary was and what an outstanding music program the church maintained. He had a personal connection to both.
He was a member of the church choir for many years and his mother and father, founding members, were actively involved in making many decisions concerning the interior and exterior design of the church as well as the purchase of the magnificent Aeolian Skinner organ.
The stained-glass window, located in the chancel, was given by his family and remains a source of inspiration and beauty. Frank was a man of strong faith and good character.
In 1981, after 32 years of marriage, Frank lost his wife, Sally, to leukemia. They were blessed with six children and many happy years together, especially on their farm, Red Bird Hill.
In 1984, Frank married Anne Bradford Waters of Lynchburg, VA, whom he had met at Myers Park Baptist Church. Together with Anne’s two young children, they moved to a farm located in Wesley Chapel, Union County. This would be their home for the remainder of his life and a place where he found a true sense of peace and contentment.
In his later years, Frank continued to enjoy listening to his extensive music collection. He remained an avid reader and became a devoted follower of the many excellent travel shows, military documentaries and Masterpiece Classics series on PBS.
But his happiest times were spent simply sitting with his wife, Anne, on the front porch of their home at sunset. It was here that he reminisced about his early years, growing up in Charlotte, recounting numerous stories of happy times spent with his many childhood friends who were to remain lifelong friends. He spoke often of summers on his uncle’s farm near Rock Hill, SC, vacations at the North and South Carolina beaches and at the family home in Montreat, NC.
Also, among his fondest memories, were his five years at Camp Sequoya. It was there, he would say, that he learned the fundamentals of sports as well as developing a true sense of comradery and sportsmanship.
Frank believed in the value of a good day’s work. He found great satisfaction in the hard but rewarding work of farm life. Frank had an innate appreciation for nature and for the natural beauty of his native state, especially the view at sunrise from his mountain house overlooking Valle Crucis. He was a humble man and lived a life of gratitude and thankfulness for his many blessings.
He also lived life with a twinkle in his blue eyes and a delightful sense of humor. Frank Dowd was a generous man, a kind and gentle man and a good and Godly man. He loved his Lord, his country, his family and his friends and his many loyal dogs who were such good company for the journey.
Like so many of his generation, he was a mentor and role model, speaking most eloquently by example, through the life that he lived. Frank Dowd will be missed by all who knew him.
In addition to his parents and wife, Sally, Frank was predeceased by his brother, Roddey Dowd, Senior and brothers-in-law, Robert Carson and wife, Lillian, McAlister Carson and VanAngelo Keriakos.
He is survived by his Anne, beloved and loving wife of 35 years, her mother, Margaret Hughes Waters and her sister Kim Waters Keriakos.
He is survived by his sisters-in-law, Elizabeth (Pepper) Dowd and Elinor Carson. He leaves to cherish his memory, his children; Elizabeth Dowd Wood and husband Jenner, Carson Dowd Howard and husband Jeff, Willis Frank Dowd IV and wife Janis, Abigail Dowd Beck and Billy Splane, Perry Dunlap Dowd and Tom Herzog, McAlister Dowd and husband John Hennis, Andrew Christian Waters and wife Amber, and Margaret Elizabeth Rowley and husband Aaron.
He is survived by twelve grandchildren; Sally Dowd Wood and husband Niko Schutte, Francis Miller Wood, E. Jenner Wood, IV and wife Emily, Sally Howard McCaffrey and husband Joe, Cameron Howard and husband Max Perkins, Abigail Howard Garabrant and husband Matt, Diana Worth Dowd, Sally Carson Dowd, Willis Frank Dowd, V, Carson Rebecca Maxwell, Rachel Dowd Maxwell and Grayson Elizabeth Rowley. He is also survived by eight great-grandchildren, as well as many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
The family offers a sincere thank you to Frank’s friends who were able to stay in touch with him over the years, and brought him great joy and to his dedicated caregiver and friend, Kanica McVay, who helped him continue to live such a good life. We are especially grateful for the personal respect and professional care of those in the medical community who looked after Frank and for the nurses and staff that supported them.
His family, especially his wife Anne, will remain forever thankful for the wonderful care Frank received during his long stay with Atrium Pineville Hospital and for the assistance of Blue Dot, Care Weavers and Hospice of Union County during Frank’s last days. Kindness knows no limits.
A memorial service to celebrate Frank’s life will be held at Myers Park Baptist Church, Saturday, November 9, 2019, at 11:30 AM. A reception to follow in Heaton Hall.
Gifts given in Frank’s memory may be made to The YMCA of Greater Charlotte (Dowd Family YMCA), 400 East Morehead Street, Charlotte, NC 28202; Myers Park Baptist Church Music Department, 1900 Queens Road, Charlotte, NC 28207 or the charity of your choice.
Arrangements are in the care of Kenneth Poe Funeral & Cremation Service, 1321 Berkeley Ave., Charlotte, NC 28204; (704) 641-7606.
Online condolences can be shared at www.kennethpoeservices.com.
Published in Charlotte Observer on Nov. 3, 2019