An Award-Winning Life
By Christy Brudin
During his remarkable career, Frank E. Braxton, Sr., has held positions ranging from shoemaker to political appointee.
He learned several trades, pursued a few different careers and discovered a couple of passions. Frank E. Braxton, Sr.’s, lengthy resume includes positions ranging from his early work as a shoemaker to his many political appointments.
While Frank’s job titles are impressive, they don’t reveal his incredible work ethic. His lifelong commitment to service is best reflected by the wide array of awards that adorn the walls of his apartment at Atrium Village.
Atrium Village is a Senior Lifestyle Community in Owings Mills, Md., offering independent living, assisted living and memory care. Frank made the move to Atrium’s assisted living community after a series of illnesses left him hospitalized.
Unsatisfied with the care he had been receiving and looking for answers, his family decided to have Frank transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital. His mysterious symptoms, including uncontrollable shaking, began to clear up in just a few days.After a brief stay in rehabilitation, Frank moved to Atrium Village and quickly became an active member of the community.For Frank, who recently celebrated his 98th birthday, getting involved has always come naturally. A native Washingtonian, he pursued many different opportunities before delving into local politics. Shortly after graduating from Armstrong Technical School in Washington, D.C., Frank became a shoemaker.
“I found out that I wasn’t a good shoemaker pretty quickly when I started working in one of those fast shoe shops,” he recalled.
After discovering that shoemaking was not his calling, Frank struggled to get another position. “Jobs were hard to find back in the 30s,” he said. “Those of us who actually lived in D.C. had very little chance of getting a good government job.”
Determined to make his own way, Frank began shining shoes at a barbershop that served an elite clientele. “One of the lawyers who came there ended up giving me a letter of recommendation to work at the post office,” Frank remembered. “Because of his letter, I got a job. It was 66 cents an hour, but that was a good job.”
After this crucial recommendation, Frank’s career really took off. He eventually got an appointment at the Government Printing Office. However, shortly after starting his new job, Frank was drafted and joined the U.S. Army. Following a brief but distinguished military career, he returned to the States and was called back to the U.S. Postal Service.
A postal worker by day, Frank also became a watchmaker. “I did anything I could to make an honest living, and I made watches for about 15 years,” he said.
During his tenure at the Postal Service, Frank became involved in The National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees Union. He served as the Vice President of the local chapter and later became the Financial Secretary of the chapter. His involvement with the union continued even after his retirement. “Our local president became the national union president,” Frank recalled. “By this time, I had retired, but he appointed me to serve as chair of the retirees division.”Even while working full time, Frank amassed a significant amount of experience in local politics. Through the years, he held both elected and appointed positions in the D.C. government. He is most proud of his service on the First District Citizens’ Advisory Council. The Council was responsible for advising the commander of the D.C. Police Force about the services the community wanted and needed.“While I was on that Council, we earned the confidence of the neighborhood and also of the police officers,” explained Frank. “We were able to achieve amazing reductions in crime.”
Frank’s many political positions also included an election to the Democratic State Committee and an appointment to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, among others. The Board investigated alleged abuse of power by police officers and made recommendations for punishment.
While he is immensely proud of his work in the community, Frank readily admits that it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of his wife, Geneva. Frank and Geneva met on a streetcar in D.C. Frank had a girlfriend when they first met, but he knew that something was different about this young woman. “She just struck a nerve,” he recalled fondly. “There was something there that I just really liked.”
The couple married and had two children, Frank, Jr., and Yvonne. While Frank pursued his personal and political ambitions, Geneva provided stability for the family. “I was able to do so much because I always had the backing of my wife. I think now of the many nights that she was left alone while I was out doing something for someone else. She always supported me,” he said.After Geneva passed away nearly 20 years ago, Frank continued to live alone in their home. Last year, he started to have some health issues, including episodes of uncontrollable shaking. Frank was leaving his doctor’s office after a follow-up visit when he collapsed. It was this episode that led to his eventual transfer to Johns Hopkins Hospital. While Frank was recovering, his grandson found Atrium Village, and the family has never looked back.
“I would recommend this community to anyone because of the care we receive,” said Frank. “At home, I would miss taking my medicine or run out of medicine. Since I’ve been here, I don’t have to worry about that.”
Frank also enjoys having three delicious meals prepared for him every day. Perhaps, most importantly, he loves the genuine interactions between staff and residents. “The personnel here are very attentive to all of us,” he said. “You often see them hugging the residents and giving them attention, and the residents return the affection.”
In addition to great amenities and personal relationships, Atrium Village offers a variety of spacious apartment styles, including floor plans that residents can personalize with favorite furnishings and cherished possessions. Residents also enjoy events and programs, scheduled transportation to doctors’ appointments and local shopping.
Since moving to Atrium Village, Frank has quickly adjusted and made friends. He has become an integral part of his new community and continues to give back in any way he can.
Pointing to the diverse plaques acknowledging his service as a politician and a community volunteer, Frank notes, “All the awards you see here are for things I did because I wanted to. I never wanted to be paid for the things I did. If I couldn’t do it out of the goodness of my heart, I didn’t want to do it.” Whether he was serving his customers, his constituents or his community, Frank’s commitment to service never wavered, and he always delivered his help with a smile. That, it turns out, is the key to an award-winning life.