Mary Winifred McDaniel Frobos and Walter Philip Frobos
The Froboses were from Alabama, but moved to Athens at the behest of the notable artist, Lamar Dodd, when he came to the University of Georgia. Mr. Dodd wanted Mr. Frobos available to make frames for his paintings. In Athens Mr. Frobos worked a steady job for the Athens Lumber Company. He was a skilled woodworker and a very competent man in many respects, but among other things at Athens Lumber Company he handled art supplies. He worked on the side making frames for Mr. Dodd. He and Mary also acquired quite a few Dodd paintings, many as gifts from the Dodds themselves. Years later, near the end of Mary’s life when she was in an assisted living apartment, a fire struck. Everyone got out alive, but there was some destruction of property. At that point Mary had given most of her art to Bill, her grandson, but she still had a few Dodds. Mary did not know how it happened or who was responsible, but somehow the Dodd paintings she had all made it safely outside.
Mr. Frobos was himself a painter, who eventually developed a notable regional reputation for portraiture. He also became well known as an art restorer in a period when that skill was not as highly specialized as it now is. Among other major restoration jobs he restored after fire what was said to be the largest framed painting in the world: the painting of the interior of Saint Peter’s, Rome, in the University of Georgia Chapel. When decades later that painting was restored again it was said that the Frobos work was excellent for its time. Mr. Frobos also was hired to restore the paintings in the interior of the state capitol building in Atlanta. He reported that every painting in the public sections of the capitol had been vandalized to the height of a tall man’s upstretched arm, punctured by penknives and other sharp objects. And there is a telling illustration of the effects of original sin.
At the time Saint Stephen’s formed Mr. Frobos had virtually stopped attending church. As soon as Saint Stephen’s began, however, he was up every Sunday, nattily dressed in a bow tie, and ready to go to church before Mary was. If Mary had not loved the parish on her own, she would have loved it for restoring to her husband his love of Sunday worship.
The Froboses had a very good and long marriage. Mary said that every day of their lives after dinner, whether good or bad, her husband would thank her for a wonderful meal.
The Froboses had one daughter, Susan, who had married, divorced, and had in turn one child, Bill. Susan lived in Athens after her divorce, but she became quite sick when Bill was a little boy. She died in the night when he was about six. His grandparents did not awaken him, but in the morning told him that his mother had died while he was asleep. Of course he had known she was ill, insofar as a young child can understand such a thing. Bill went to church with his grandparents and mother and attended Peggy Andrews’s Sunday school class. When Mary told Bill of his mother’s death she said to me that he looked sad but said to her, ‘It’s all right, Nana. Mrs. Andrews told us about Jesus and Easter.’ Many years later at his grandmother’s funeral I told Bill that I had no sermon to preach to him on the occasion except the sermon that he himself had preached to his grandparents at six years old. Susan’s death was not the only grave sorrow the family had. In truth they understood the gospel well from their own experience – the sorrow and loss and promise and restoration. Always Bill was a great joy to them, and his children became so as well. When old enough Bill changed his name legally to his beloved grandfather’s and then and always gave back love for love.
Mr. Frobos died just as the parish was moving into our church building after four and half years in borrowed quarters. Walter had talked about what he would make for the building with his great talents in paint and wood. It was not to be. Instead his family and friends gave one of our first stained glass windows in his memory. It is a window of Saint Dunstan, himself an artist and craftsman, and is one of my favorites.
Mary continued to live for some years in their house on Hill Street. Later, as she required more help, she moved to Gainesville, near to where Bill and his family had moved. At first she lived in her own apartment on Green Street, then later went into an assisted living home. In her years down the street from me in Athens I always knew if I were in need of cheering up, I could stop by. Her kindness was a sure cure for any gloom. She was universally loved by everyone who knew her, with never a mean word about anyone. I think she was probably kind all her life, but sorrow and loss gentled her further. She lived well into her nineties. I visited her occasionally in Gainesville – not as often as I wish I had. When I expressed regret for not coming more often she would say, ‘I know you’re busy as a bee’, and cheer me up again as theoretically I came to cheer her. On one of my last visits to her in Gainesville I asked how she was. She said, ‘I woke up this morning and nothing hurt. So it is a good day.’
Now nothing hurts and all is well. I do not think I ever had two kinder people and better Christians in my parish than Mary and Walter Frobos.