Frank NOVITO 1921-2014
Lifelong West Seattle resident, Frank Novito died peacefully at Mount St. Vincent March 7, 2014. Frank was long active in the West Seattle community.
He was born in 1921 to Joseph and Mary Novito, Italian immigrants who, true to the American Dream, owned several successful Magic Cleaners in the West Seattle and Morgan Street Junctions. Frank attended Lafayette, James Madison, and West Seattle High School.
Every morning before school, Frank would ride his bike down to Alki to work at Lloyd’s Boathouse and then back up Fairmount Avenue to WSHS for his classes. He quickly became known among Lloyd’s customers for his fishing prowess in Elliott Bay, and became a favorite of those who wanted to know where the “prime” fishing spots were. He had many stories to tell of near-misses with ferries in the dense fog.
After graduation, Frank went to work as a riveter at Boeing, and just like in the movies, he met his bride-to-be, Helen Gembolis, who was his “bucker.” They married in 1944 and eventually had three children, Wanda, Gail and Ralph, all who attended Holy Rosary School. Frank served in the Army until WWII ended, when “Old Mr. Fiedler” took a shine to Frank and offered him a sales job at Gene Fiedler Chevrolet, located where the QFC now stands. Frank sold cars there for over 40 years, often ranking as the top salesman in the entire Pacific Northwest. Frank had enduring friendships with many return customers.
In 1952 Frank purchased a cabin on Dabob Bay near Quilcene, which continues to be a cherished gathering place for his family. All his life Frank was a master fisherman, and his tables were often full with salmon, crab, shrimp, clams, oysters, and geoducks that he had caught at the cabin on Hood Canal. He had a sixth sense about just where to drop a line or put a trap. He was also a hunter, and went on trips in quest of pheasant, deer and elk with a group of friends with names like Gai, Sposari, Agostino, and Maranti.
Frank was a long time member of the West Seattle Sportsmen’s Club, and served as its president. In the 1950’s, Frank also served as president of the West Seattle Hi Yu. He was active in the Holy Rosary Parish.
Frank gathered with business pals every morning before work for coffee at Vann Brothers Restaurant in the junction, where his portrait was one of dozens of customer portraits hanging on the walls. In 1978 the group gained some notoriety when, after the West Seattle Bridge was rammed by a passing ship, it formed the “Rump Committee for West Seattle” (a not so subtle play on words) and advocated secession from Seattle and the creation of an independent City of West Seattle. For the most part, they were just kidding—weren’t they?
Frank was a fixer and he loved to tinker. He would much prefer repairing something to replacing it, whether the item was big or small. He was good with cars, engines and motors, and when he applied a screwdriver to a carburetor, a cranky engine was quickly tamed.
He was a man of few words and direct in conversation, yet his speech could be whimsically inventive. If Frank had a car he thought would be good for a nephew, he would tell him the price was “wholesale wholesale.” When Frank did something for someone and the person asked how much it cost so he could repay him, Frank would indicate he did not expect repayment by replying firmly, “A dollar three eighty-five.” If he disagreed with someone, he would tilt his head and say, “You know, you’re a little goofy.”
Frank was one of those people who commanded respect without ever raising his voice. He was a man’s man, larger than life: without show or fanfare, his love flowed to his family, who revered him. He will be profoundly missed.
Frank is survived by his wife of 69 years, Helen; children, Wanda Fulcher (Joe), Ralph (Debbie, d. 2012), Gail (Wendy Harris); grandchildren, Maria Dewar (Andrew), Annie DeSimone (Dana), Jeanne Fulcher and Rachael Novito; great-grandson, Gino DeSimone; and sisters, Helen Briglio and Elsie Sacco. Frank was predeceased by his brother, Dominic.
The family would like to thank the staff at Mount St. Vincent for the wonderful care Frank received for the last three years of his life. Services were March 15, 2014 at Holy Rosary Church.
Published in The West Seattle Herald Section of The Westside Weekly March 21. 2014