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A celebration of Jean Klein Frank’s life set for Sept. 13

By Suzan E. Hagstrom

A memorial service for Jean Klein Frank, a poet and philanthropist well known in La Jolla, is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13. The tribute will take place at the La Jolla Riford Branch Library, 7555 Draper Avenue, where Frank had hosted monthly poetry readings for the past five years.

The service is timed to coincide with the weekend closest to Frank’s birthday, Sept. 11. She died June 5 of congestive heart failure at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. She was 83.

Despite witnessing and enduring unspeakable suffering in Nazi Germany’s death camps during World War II, Frank, a Polish Jew, celebrated beauty in nature and the arts. She also looked for goodness in others.

Frank walked daily to La Jolla’s Windansea beach to meditate, enjoy the view and meet people. She called her favorite wooden bench there her “office.”

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Her monthly poetry readings, which began at the La Jolla Recreation Center in the 1970s, provided a forum for poets to share their work. Musicians, painters, journalists, singers and other performers participated in these gatherings, dubbed “Poetry Unlimited Art & Music.”

Besides nurturing artists and counseling friends, Frank showed her compassion by helping the indigent. She collected second-hand clothing and day-old bread, pastries and bagels to give to people in need. She often distributed any leftover food at the poetry readings.

During the past several years the San Diego Historical Society recorded Frank’s epic life story, which is also depicted in her memoir “Not Now, Not Ever.” Frank composed verse in several languages, including Polish and Italian. Images of ashes and fire, cemeteries and flowers highlight the recurring themes of destruction and renewal in her poems.

When asked, Frank spoke to school children about the Holocaust and its lessons of tolerance vs. intolerance. She was born in Kalisz, Poland. With the exception of one sister, Guta, Frank lost her entire family to Germany’s genocide of Jews.

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Although she recognized her place in history, Frank did not want to be identified solely as a Holocaust survivor. Instead, she preferred to be known for her literary pursuits and charitable work.

After the war, Frank rebuilt her life in Italy and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She and her second husband, the late Nathan Frank, moved to La Jolla in 1974. She is also preceded in death by her sister Guta and eldest son Michael Klein. She is survived by her son, Larry Klein of La Jolla.