JR Members have been paying tribute to Norman Franks, who has died at the age of 101. Norman’s father was born in Manchester before relocating to Sunderland where Norman was born. The family came back to Manchester when Norman was four years old. He went to school at North Manchester Grammar. During WWII, he served as a Staff Sergeant in Egypt, Iraq and Iran.
Norman had been a member of our Reform Synagogue since 1954 and was the Secretary from 1973 until he retired in 1999. Throughout most of those 26 years, Norman did everything from the day-to-day running of the Shul, the financial admin and communications. He was also a founder member of the Northern Jewish Theatre Group when it was formed after the War.
Rabbi Silverman said “Norman’s wit and humour was always sharp and fun. He was a raconteur extraordinaire and a composer of amusing monologues, which he presented on a number of celebratory occasions, in which his theatrical background showed through. Norman could tell you names, addresses and dates of birth without having to look them up; and he said that this ability went back to when as an army sergeant he was the regimental pay clerk and could tell you name, rank and number for scores of soldiers. I continued to contact him if I needed to know about someone from years back; and it was all there in his memory”.
Irene Gould also recalled “his amazing and amusing monologues”. She said he was “a wonderful man in every way, always willing to help you out” and remembered how he used his theatrical background to good effect when the Ladies Guild was running a fashion show. “We needed a catwalk and so Norman went along to the Free Trade Hall, where he not only found a suitable walkway but also a red carpet that Queen Victoria had used to open the building!”
David Astbury said “Norman was our treasure. Loved and unforgettable. As the General Secretary he was the first person I met at Jackson’s Row, which was probably the case for many of us. He was the public face of the shul, welcoming but not effusive, ferociously intelligent and focused. And you would see him every Shabbat, on the back row under the clock – giving the nod to the proceedings, nudging the reluctant, never taking any excuses, presiding like a magistrate”.
Anne and Harold Weinstock remembered how Norman always had time for people. “He was particularly kind to new members. He was always ready with a smile of encouragement and the offer of a cup of tea. (And a cigarette for smokers!) He was blessed to meet and marry Gwen. She nursed him lovingly these last months and we felt privileged to visit them both recently. Our hearts go out to Gwen and the family, we shall miss you Norman.”