Franklin W. Roberts—1932-2017

Frank Roberts in costume for a party celebrating the Cheney family. Photo courtesy the Roberts Family

Frank Roberts transitioned on Sunday, July 23rd, in peace at 85. The Sylvia Park neighborhood will miss him.

Frank was a larger-than-life character, a Topanga-classic personality. Born in Glendale, he moved to the Fernwood area in the early ‘60s. Ten years later he bought a home on Callon Drive and, later, the property next to the Mountain Mermaid on Sylvania Lane. Frank spent most mornings sitting on his porch reading the newspaper and playing his bluegrass classics for the neighbors to enjoy.  

His love of nature and Topanga Canyon was infectious and enduring. He was a proud advocate of individualism and loved to rebel against traditions and rules. He respected anyone who aligned with him in being a rule breaker and Topanga suited him well in this regard.

His past was full of adventures from high-speed car and motorbike racing on famous tracks around California, to speeding around L.A. with his buddies in America’s first-ever biker gang. His old Sprint race car sits atop his garage on Sylvania Lane to this day. Many wonder how he got it up there. It was his way of preserving his past joy: “It’s a tribute to my madness.”

He started life as a roofer, then moved on to become a real estate “salesman.” He served in the Coast Guard as a young man and was active through the Korean War. This period sparked Frank’s love of travel and travel he did throughout his entire life, all over America and to countries too numerous to mention, exploring different cultures and the beauty of this world. For a short time, he settled in Mexico, which he wrote extensively about.  

He loved art. Over the years he supported artists with a passion, being both generous and committed. He helped young Topanga artists as a mentor and, at one point, dabbled with oil painting himself.  

Frank also supported the First Nation tribal people throughout America helping build schools and hospitals. He often visited Alaska, the only state that allowed the tribal people to coexist with European Americans, who arrived there because of the gold rush. He felt Alaska was an example of how the “Lower 48” should reinstate tribal rights and sovereignty.  

He often talked about the Great Depression and how as a child it taught him to mistrust the banking system and to care and value for your own stability. He lived his life with no bells and whistles, repairing and restoring rather than replacing where possible.  

Frank had intense interest in the political goings-on of the country. Always curious, he read avidly on the subject and would try to look at all points of view.   

Frank had his ornery side; as a Gemini, he could change moods on a dime and many stories about this part of him exist. I called him “Beauty and the Beast.” For instance, back in the day, you could find him shooting his rifle into the evening sky, yelling, drunk and crazy; or duking it out with a neighbor or two whom he did not agree with; or the story he told at the Topanga Historical Society event at the Mermaid.

Back in the day when it was a gay club, he went over there with a loaded gun, pissed off because, yet again, the patrons were parking all over his property. He left not able to talk to the owner, who then, in turn, showed up at Frank’s house to find him sitting on his rocker on the porch with the gun leaning against the wall behind him. The owner leaned across Fran,k picked up the gun and pointed it straight at Frank’s head, unaware that the gun was loaded. Frank kindly asked him to call the police to arrest him and ended up in jail for that. Afew days later he was bailed out by the owner of the club, who then became a good buddy. That was Frank!!!


By Clare Brown


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