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Remembering Frank Manwarren

Museum Info

Hollywood Museum

1355 N. Caheunga Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 464 - 2727
SAT 10a - 4p

Harbor Museum

638 Beacon Street
San Pedro, CA 90731
(323) 464 - 2727
SAT 10a - 3p

Off-hour tours available
by special request.

Remembering Frank Manwarren

Happy New Year! Pau Gasol, MySafe:LA and the LAFDHS visit a local school
Frank ManwarrenThe Los Angeles City Fire Department, as well as the Historical Society, lost a great retired member, supporter and friend when Frank Manwarren passed away this past week. Frank was fireman's fireman - dedicated, professional, hilarious, and was a man of courage, faith, and generosity.

I first met Frank nearly a decade ago, when I had my first experience with the LAFD Historical Society. I was sitting in the kitchen, talking with then Assistant Chief and LAFDHS President Bob Defeo, when I noted a photo of a group of firemen at the table in the same kitchen. Chief Defeo grinned and pointed to a bald man in his early eighties, who was sitting next to him. The man gave me a toothy smile and then turned away. I was initially taken aback but after a moment,  realized the goofy grin from the bald man was a signal - he was in the photograph. That began a mutual admiration relationship with Frank Manwarren, fireman, general contractor, waterscape designer, and photographer. (Photo: Frank Manwarren cuts his birthday cake at the LAFDHS in 2005)

I knew Frank far less than most of those who are actively involved with the LAFD Historical Society. Regardless, I enjoyed every moment spent with him. He always had a ready handshake, would ask about the things going on in my life and that of my wife, and was eager to share stories about his career, both in the fire service and the military.

He often spoke of his son, of whom he was very proud. He tearfully recalled the loss of friends who died while he was on the job, and he brightened whenever he saw his friends Bill Rolland, Julian George, and Ted Aquaro.

During the last year, I asked Frank on numerous occasions if he'd sit down for a video interview to talk about his past and the many things he accomplished. He would always grin, and find a way to get out of it. I wish he would have agreed, but out of respect, I didn't push him beyond asking every time I saw him! This past fall, I walked into the museum kitchen and Frank was having lunch. He saw me, gave me that big grin, extended his hand and said, "How are you? And, NO!" It was a hilarious moment, and it was very much an example of Frank being Frank.

Every firefighter has an interesting story to tell. But Frank was one of those unique individuals who really had a LOT of stories to tell. From struggling through a living hell in China during World War II to taking pictures for the LAFD during the Bell Air Fire, the Watts Riots and even to his amazing waterway creations for Disney and Busch Gardens, he lived a full life and was mentally vibrant to the very end.

He would have been 90 this coming June. It is the same month the LAFD Historical Society hosts their retired firefighter luncheon. I'll miss Frank at that luncheon. I know everyone who knew him will miss him every day. His last email to me came just a few weeks before he passed away - writing, "next year will be much better. Keep working hard and we will win." There's no better advice for anyone.

To learn more about Frank and his life, please click here.

Donations in the name of Frank Manwarren can be made to the Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Society.

13 Comments

Thank you for this really terrific story. If there was ever a story that wanted to make you join the fire department, this is it.

January 30th, 2010 // By John Espinosa

David,

I'm moved beyond words and even grief by your stirring tribute to Frank Manwarren. In speaking with our Brother Frank over the years, I learned many things about our Fire Department, life and most importantly - about myself.

As certain as the Museum and Memorial he helped found and sustain, Frank's legacy will be one from which we all can and should take part.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

I'm honored to have shared the premises once occupied by a legend like Frank during my years of service at Old Fire Station 27.

January 30th, 2010 // By Brian Humphrey

I did not know Frank Manwarren. Thanks to the words and description by Mr. Barrett, I feel as if I did. The firemen from the 50s and 60s were a remarkable breed, and as I came on, went from house to house creating my own rep, I heard about men like Frank Manwarren. Thank you Mr. Barrett for your descriptive article. Rest in Peace Brother Manwarren.

January 31st, 2010 // By A brother firefighter

Frank was a dear friend and I will miss him. He introduced us to Yoshikawa and was a leader in the establishment of a LAFD Memorial.............transporting a scale model of the Wall of Homor in his own car while apologizing that his vehicle looked a little untidy/lived in. Wonderful sense of mischief and a great smile. How lucky we are to have known him.
Liz

January 31st, 2010 // By Elizabeth

Thank you! Frank was such a great person. I had the opportunity to discover some of his film work from China is in the National Archive. I will miss him.

January 31st, 2010 // By Michael

Frank...You were loved...you will be missed

January 31st, 2010 // By Connie

I first met Frank at a Hydro-scape b-b-q in what was my first industry event for Western Landscaping News.

Frank bought me a beer and began the first of countless stories about his exciting and full life.

From world travels building rock and water features, to the accomplishments of his son in following his footsteps, Frank always had a kind word for most everyone.

Frank loved his wife Dottie, his son David and his daughter (I'm sorry I never met her and can't remember her name). I know she was there throughout his life and was the apple of his eye.

Frank once said that the only thing he ever did behind his wife's back was unzip her dress. He was loving and loyal to the end.

His stories of the Fires department and landscape business always came with a twinkle in his eye . . . A twinkle that said that he had enjoyed one of the most fulfilling life's of anyone I have ever met.

There are so many stories and remembrances that to list them all would take another lifetime.

Frank will be missed, he will always hold a spot on the masthead of our magazines and will definitely hold a spot in the hearts and minds of me, my wife and kids, and the staff of LASN . . .

God Bless you Frank and God Bless his children and grandchildren!!!

February 5th, 2010 // By George Schmok

<<<<<>>>>> Frank Manwarren <<<<<>>>>>
What a magnificently pleasant man.
So fun to be around, so cleaver and interesting.
Cared deeply about people and the Arts.
Could listen to his stores for ever and yes I tell other your
stores because they are so entertaining.
We all love him very much and are sad he's gone.
We all always loved a visit from Frank over the years.
What an wonderful full of life individual.
Will always be amazed at his dancing, he danced me,
at Danny & Stephine's wedding we looked like pros and I don't dance.
When he lost his wife Dorthy he was broken up missed her so much.
He missed his friend Ralph Peters my dad very much too.
Frank thanks for the good times we treasure you precious memories.
And wished we could hear more of your stories to tickle our funny bones.
Miss you Frank,thanks for living young at heart as long as you did, Rest in Peace.
<<<<<>>>>> Frank Manwarren <<<<<>>>>>

May 2nd, 2010 // By Abbie Peters

I worked for Frank in 1979 on the Falls Mall in Florida anyone remember that job would love to get some pics of it. RIP my friend you gave me a lot of opportunity back then

September 4th, 2010 // By Paul Clark

I couldn’t think of enough good things to say about Frank.
He was such a great friend to my husband and our family.
What a joy to receive a visit form Frank. Or visit him and see the great lily pond he built.
How wonderfully grand he could dance in a ball room.
How he loved art and nature of Gods creation.
We miss him very much and happy he left some work behind for the world to see.
And are most curious about see his photos in gallery or exhibition some day.
What a great sense of humor and a fantastic story teller.
We will meet again on the gold shore, where thine is the Kingdome and the glory for every God Almighty Amen

September 29th, 2010 // By Barbara Peters

I would like to express our sincere condolence to the family of the late Frank Manwarren. Frank always wanted to help the projects of the Japanese garden which we were involved. His product of granite stones was very impressive. His contribution and help to our projects is greatly appreciated.
Takeo Uesugi, Ph.D. FASLA

September 4th, 2011 // By Takeo Uesui

Was Frank Manwarren related to the Mnawarren's that lived in Minnesota.There names were Art and Ralph Manwarren and they lived by Walnut Grove.

October 21st, 2011 // By patricia bias

was Frank Manwarren related to the Manwarren that lived in Minnesota .their names were Art and Ralph Manwarren they live near Walnut Grove.Could you let me know.

June 18th, 2012 // By pat bias

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