Aug. 13, 1948, to Dec. 21, 2012
William Swift Franke, 64, of North Conway, NH, passed away surrounded by his family on Dec. 21, 2012, at Memorial Hospital following a long battle with cancer. Bill was born on Aug. 13, 1948, in Oak Bluffs, MA, to Nancy Hazelton Swift Franke and William Henry Franke. When Bill was six, the family moved from Martha’s Vineyard to Medfield, MA. As a teenager, Bill moved to North Danville, VT, where he lived with the family of Ann and Guy Hodges. Following graduation from Danville High School in 1966, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam during the Vietnam War before being honorably discharged as Sergeant E5 in 1969.
Bill’s professional life revolved around fly fishing. In 1972 to 1973, Bill tied flies professionally in Aspen, CO. When he returned to the East Coast, he completed a Machine Operator course at the New Hampshire Vocational Technical College in Berlin. In 1974, he launched Timberline Rods with a partner. Through the company, he designed and developed a line of four-piece pack rods. In addition to those sold under the Timberline Rod name, he produced hundreds of pack rods under the L.L. Bean and Eastern Mountain Sports labels.
In 1988, he opened W.S. Franke Custom Fishing Rods in North Conway. At this time, he also designed a replacement foot for Pflueger Medalist reels, which led to the creation of One-Pfoot. Eventually, this company branched into designing and machining all replacement parts for Pflueger Medalist reels. He sold One-Pfoot in May 2012 and the company continues to thrive under its new ownership.
As a licensed guide, Bill introduced many people to the challenges and rewards of fly fishing. Bill’s dedication to the sport was personal as well as professional. He spent as much time as possible on the spring creeks of central Pennsylvania, and fishing for trout and landlocked salmon in New Hampshire and Minnesota. He also loved fishing for Atlantic salmon in the Maritime Provinces of Canada, especially spending time each year on his beloved Miramichi River in New Brunswick. As an outdoorsman, he also enjoyed bird and deer hunting every fall.
Bill was defined by his passion for life and family. Under his lead, his family’s motto was “It’s always an adventure.” From fishing tours, camping excursions, visits to museums, day trips to see Broadway shows in New York City, midnight excursions to L.L. Bean in Freeport, and a wide variety of “mystery tours.” Bill’s enthusiasm was infectious; he found and shared joy in the smallest details of life.
Bill leaves his wife of 40 years and the love of his life, Karen Sims Franke, of North Conway; two daughters Megan Hinckley and her husband Dave of Arlington, MA, and Michelle Ruth Olds and her husband Doug of Kurtistown, HI; and three grandsons Emory Swift and William Douglas Olds and Malcolm Charles Hinckley. He is also survived by his siblings: sister Gale Rad of Medfield, MA; brothers Dean Franke of Silver Lake, NH, and Alexander Franke of Conway, NH; Conrad Franke of Newport, VT, and Eric Franke of Plainville, MA; his father-in-law William L. Sims of State College, PA; brother-in-law Richard W. Sims and his wife Norrine, of Port Matilda, PA; six nephews and a niece; as well as members of his Vermont family: Ann Hodges of North Danville, VT; Rita and Don Laferriere of East Haven, VT; Carol Hodges of St. Johnsbury, VT; Guyla and Brad Woodbrey of Raymond, ME; and Tim Hodges of North Danville, VT.
A celebration of Bill’s life will be in the summer of 2013. Additional details will be forthcoming. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions in honor of Bill be made in support of Jen’s Friends Cancer Foundation, PO Box 1842, North Conway, NH, 03860.