By Bob Golfen
The scene was a familiar one, the sale of a special collector car at Barrett-Jackson with all proceeds going to charity. Also familiar was the smiling face of Roger Frank, a longtime Barrett-Jackson regular who was on the podium at last year’s Las Vegas auction to help sell off his all original 1955 Chevrolet 210 to benefit the Barrett-Jackson Cancer Research Fund at TGen, in memory of Russ and Brian Jackson, and Festival of Hope in Scottsbluff, Nebr., Frank’s hometown.
But among those cheering the charity auction at Vegas, only a few knew just how special this sale really was. While raising funds for cancer research through the sale of his ’55 Chevy, Frank was also battling his own cancer demons. Yet there he was, grinning and having a great time as once again, he gave his all to help others.
Only after the sale of the car, when people from the audience stepped up to add more donations for the worthy cause, did Frank show his emotions, his eyes brimming with tears at the generosity of his fellow car enthusiasts.
“It was a profound moment on the auction block,” said Steve Davis, president of Barrett-Jackson, who was also on the podium during the sale. “It was a very touching moment.”
The Las Vegas auction turned out to be the last Barrett-Jackson event that Roger Frank would be able to attend. He died June 4, 2013, in Scottsbluff surrounded by the family who so often accompanied him to Barrett-Jackson events. He was just a few days shy of 67.
Frank, a longtime John Deere tractor dealer in Scottsbluff and a real estate broker, had been coming to Barrett-Jackson auctions with his younger son, Bryan, since 2006, when they arrived at the Scottsdale event as spectators, but then wound up buying a couple of cars, Bryan Frank said. They were hooked, and in 2007 they returned to take part in the action, selling and buying several cars during that auction. When the Las Vegas auction started up in 2008, they added that one to their Barrett-Jackson schedule; Roger Frank owned property and a second home in Vegas, so it became sort of their hometown auction.
“He always had a passion for cars,” Bryan Frank said. “It was kind of our time to get away from everything and spend time doing something we both enjoyed.”
They had attended some other collector car auctions in the Midwest but usually came away disappointed, he said. So Barrett-Jackson became the focus.
“We have a lot of respect for Barrett-Jackson. It was a more exciting experience, and we just felt that they treated their customers equal and fair, and that’s something we always tried to do in our business,” he said.
The Barrett-Jackson auctions became so important to them, he said, that he named two of his four sons in honor of it; one is named Barrett and the other, Jackson.
Roger Frank became a favorite member of the Barrett-Jackson family, Davis said, along with his own family who usually accompanied him to the auctions.
“This was a family-oriented group, just a delightful group of people,” he said. “He would always bring great cars and make an absolute adventure out of it. He always had a smile on his face.”
Roger Frank developed a wide circle of Barrett-Jackson friends and acquaintances, Davis added. “Roger was just one of those guys; if you met him, you liked him. Just a really super guy who loved cars and loved Barrett-Jackson. He became part of the Barrett-Jackson extended family and part of our community.”
The charity sale of the ’55 Chevy was typical for Roger Frank, who was always ready to share what he had with others who were less fortunate. “Roger was a very philanthropic guy. He was a very giving guy. His business success was something he shared with lots and lots of people.
“Even when Roger was fighting cancer — and the last Barrett-Jackson auction he attended was in Vegas — he was there to sell a car for charity. And that really, really gives you a sense of who he was and why he was such a great guy,” Davis said.
The first Barrett-Jackson auction that Bryan Frank attended without his dad was the inaugural Reno Tahoe event in August, accompanied by his mother and his wife and four sons. They soon found out how much Roger Frank was loved and missed.
“It was very overwhelming the number of people who came up and said stuff to us,” he said. “We were very glad we went, but it was tough at times. But it was still enjoyable.”
Bryan Frank said that he would continue enjoying the old-car culture and taking part in Barrett-Jackson auctions, partially because it was something that his dad expressly said that he wanted him to do.
“I got to spend quite a few private hours with him at the hospital,” he said. “One of his wishes was for me to carry on and keep doing Barrett-Jackson. He said, ‘I know that’s something you’ll enjoy and keep going forward.’ I decided I’d better carry on with his wishes.”
He will be at Las Vegas again this year with his family, Bryan Frank said, with cars to sell and maybe some to buy.