New Castle News

Closer Look

November 22, 2013

Remembering Kennedy: Lawrence County man stood silent watch over the body of a slain president

(Continued)

NEW CASTLE — MILITARY BACKGROUND

A member of 1stBattalion based in Fort Myer, Va., Franus was drafted into the infantry in 1960.

His orders were to take him to Germany, and he was excited about the chance to visit another country. “I came from a poor family and had never been anywhere,” he said.

But advice from the company commander changed his mind. “He said the Honor Guard had selected me and it would be the opportunity of a lifetime,” Franus said. “Why they picked me, I don’t know. You couldn’t have any blemish on your record, so I guess I didn’t.”

When he reported for Honor Guard training, Franus learned that only three of the 24 candidates would remain. He made the cut.

Franus was raised in a house where hard work was expected and talking back was not permitted. That upbringing served him well in the military.

AT THE WHITE HOUSE

Franus was often present when dignitaries visited the White House .

“Kennedy and other world leaders would walk in front and we would follow,” Franus said.

The list included presidents, prime ministers, defense ministers and chancellors of Ethiopia, Ecuador, Brazil, Honduras, Venezuela, Germany, Somalia, England, Luxembourg, India, Italy, Japan, Chile, Egypt, Turkey, Afghanistan and France.

One time the first lady walked up to Franus and two of his group as they were waiting to take part in a ceremony.

“It was sprinkling, but she asked if we could take off our rain cap covers from our uniforms,” Franus said. “She didn’t think they looked nice.”

When he left the service, Franus returned to Lawrence County and worked at Babcock and Wilcox steel.

As a member of the Honor Guard, there were other highlights for Franus. He took part in wreath-laying ceremonies at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier and was part of the drill team that appeared on the Mitch Miller and Jimmy Dean television shows.

Franus and his wife of 47 years, the former Lillian Babich of Wampum, were married in 1966. They have two children, John, 38, and Stephanie, 36. Thomas and Lillian honeymooned in Washington and visited JFK’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

As the country looks back on that day in Dallas 50 years ago, it will be personal for Franus.

“It’s a time we mark in American history,” said Franus, who turned 75 earlier this month. “The older I get, the more I realize what an honor to have done what I did.”

(Email: d_burcham@ncnewsonline.com)

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