Be Well, Marsha 3/1/16

Hark! We herald Frankye

By Marsha Bonhart
One of my favorite hymns as a child growing up in the Lutheran church was, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” a joyful Christmas ode that celebrates the birth of Jesus. The title is part of the opening verse followed by, “glory to the newborn king.” Those words and melody struck my memory when I heard the Dayton community lost one of its servant angels. In the words spoken to me by Rev. Bilal Momin, “Marsha, Frankye left us.”

Frankye Herald is one of those people with a force field surrounding her—and for years, until February 17, the day she died, she shared that energy with all of us.

Describing Frankye as a community health advocate is not enough. It wasn’t just her job, it was her life’s passion and she spent decades sharing knowledge to free us from the mindsets that keep us unhealthy. Her work pleaded with us to improve our lives; eat better, get physical, see a doctor and dentist regularly—and for anyone who didn’t have the insurance coverage, she developed programs to set you on the right path. Can we count the number of lives she saved with her activism? No. Can we count the number of people who were awakened by the fervor of her messages?  Yes.

The Dayton African American Wellness Walk, a 5k non-competitive fitness event, addresses disparity in health care education and coverage. Held annually at RiverScape MetroPark in downtown Dayton, the AAWW began humbly but respectfully with 200 walkers and grew exponentially under the drive of the dedicated whirlwind we know as Frankye Herald. Last year the walk and its 4,500 participants celebrated as one of the most complete and successful community health events in Ohio. Each June, the walk brings scores of vendors specializing in heart health, activities for children to learn how to practice healthy habits and consequently teach their parents, chronic disease prevention, dancing to get even the most sedentary moving, chair yoga and topic discussions by professionals from presenter and Frankye’s employer, Premier Health.

For more than two decades, the registered nurse bettered the physical well being of more than 20 thousand women in more than 1,000 community health presentations. That includes the Hispanic Women’s Health Project for which she developed a study to look at preventing disease in that population. Her name was synonymous with Miami Valley Hospital’s Mahogany’s Child, a program created to educate African American women about improving their health and the health of their families.

Since its inception in 2001, scores of thousands of local African American women have participated.

“If you want to make a difference in the health and well being of the African American community, you want to talk to its women. Part of the social crux that stirs involvement in that population is attributed to women,” says Shaun Hamilton, system director for community health and benefits for Premier Health and Frankye’s supervisor. What Frankye knew is with the right approach and service line, she could educate a large part of that ethnic group and reach her goal.

She used schools, churches, community centers, parks—anywhere that could provide a back drop for her to serve information. The annual Red Carpet Heart Line Dance Extravaganza is a party with a purpose. Two days after her death, as scheduled, the activity center of Bethesda Temple Church on Salem Avenue rocked with celebratory music and a question and answer session with Premier Health cardiologist George Broderick. Hundreds showed up to get more information about being heart healthy, get physical with serious line dancing and pay homage to Frankye Herald.

“Frankye had such a heart for the health of this community, she wanted it to be her life’s work,” says Hamilton.

Frankye’s efforts also targeted specific diseases—she chaired the Breast Cancer Task Force of the Greater Miami Valley, served on community health committees to help reduce community health disparities and used her grant writing skills to garner more than $100,000 to reduce the incidence of obesity in minority women and children. Her good friend, Jackee Momin, says under the Brighter Futures program, young mothers learned the benefits of breast feeding from Frankye. She often went door-to-door, visiting homes, teaching them nutrition tips to better feed their children. “I think she wasn’t happy about the health in her community and just wanted to see people get healthier,” says Momin.

Frankye was most recently involved in Women in Motion: Empowered by Dance, a health initiative created by Dayton Contemporary Dance Company as part of the arts organization’s year long salute to women.

“I think Frankye’s death has created a loss in at least three areas,” says RoNita Hawes-Saunders, executive director of DCDC. “First, we will miss the beautiful smile that you could hear in her voice. Second, we have lost the community’s connectivity. We don’t have an individual to connect our selves and our bodies. And third, we have missed the opportunity to thank her for committing her adult life to help us in ways we don’t even know we need to be helped.”

We will not forget her. She has left an indelible mark on this community and the lives of its members. Her work will be woven into the lives of those who have not yet been born, but will benefit because of her dedication. Hark! We herald our angel, Frankye. Glory. Glory. Glory.

Be well,

Marsha

To register for the Women in Motion: Empowered by Dance health conference, March 10-12 at Dayton Crowne Plaza, please visit ticketcenterstage.com or call 937.228.3630.

Marsha Bonhart is a freelance writer and public relations/marketing consultant in the Dayton area. She can be reached at MarshaBonhart@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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