I just read The Lexington Herald-Leader — online version — and saw the sad news that my good friend, Frank Anderson, had passed away today at the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.
News like this aways surprises you; no matter what the age, and Frank was 73. You always remember the younger, stronger version, and you wonder where the time has gone. Regrets set in. Sorry that you didn’t take more time out of your busy schedule to put in a call and ask how your old friend was doing. And, a sense of depression washes over you. Death is not an easy bell to answer.
But, just as I read on through the story of his news, I suddenly saw a lot of pictures snap right through my memory bank. And, then, I realized, that is exactly what Frank would have wanted. He would have wanted to leave a photo album for each of his friends; for every person he knew and liked; and for all of his buddies who shared a dream and a life of making the newspaper business the best it could be.
And, he left a vivid one for me, a young sports reporter and columnist who just so happened to cover many of the same events that Frank was assigned to capture, as well, for nearly 11 years. From 1977 to 1988, my world was tied up in words. Frank’s world, on the other hand, was committed to images. And, I only dreamed to capture his pictures in less than 1,000 words. But I never could.
There were the times when Frank would come out to “The Press Box” at Keeneland, and hold up and hold court until the day’s feature race would finally roll around. Then, he would make his way to the track surface; set up his normal perch along the rail; and he would capture some of the greatest athletes in the world in full stride.
There were times that we spent at Churchill Downs before and after the annual festival that we know as the Kentucky Derby. He would finish his business and then rumble up to me and sit quietly by, never saying a word, until I had finished writing. Exhausted, I would look up, and Frank always — always — had a beer in one hand for him and a beer in another hand for me.
There were the times when Frank would travel down to Richmond, and would take some of the greatest photos I’ve ever seen of the Eastern Kentucky University’s world-class football team, at the time.
There were the times when Frank would join me at old Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, and he would meet me in the writer’s and broadcasters dinning room. We would eat and share stories and laugh. Frank liked to laugh a lot. And, then he would ask me if I had any special requests for photos of any Reds’ players I may be writing about. I told Frank then, and often times, that he knew more about photos than I would ever dream about and he would know a good “shot” when he saw one.
He saw many of them. And, he took them, too.
He worked 42 years for The Lexington Herald-Leader. He took iconic photographs of former basketball coach Adolph Rupp and others of John F. Kennedy, and his brother, Robert. In 2003, Frank won an Eclipse Award from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association for a photo he took from the press box at Keeneland. Jockey Patty Cooksey was on the track surface, injured, when a horse looked to be headed right towards her, and two track attendants trying to assist her. The photo needed no caption.
After I left the newspaper in 1988, I still got to see Frank from time to time. Every time, we both stopped to chat. And, catch up. Always, we left each other’s company with a smile on our faces.
A few years ago, my good friend, Rob Murphy, and I bred a filly by the name of Platinum Tiara. Although she did not run well in the Alcibiades at Keeneland in the Fall of 2000, we shipped her to Churchill Downs — where she ran second beaten only 1/2-length by Caressing in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
As I was headed down to the track, my eye caught Frank’s and he gave me a thumb’s up. I gave him one back.
Several days later, I got a package in the mail. I opened it, and it was a stash of photos that Frank had taken of the beautiful, stone gray filly. Some of photos were in the mornings leading up to the Breeders’ Cup. Some of the photos were of Platinum Tiara grazing at her barn. And, some of them were of her in the stall.
But my favorite was a head-on shot of Platinum Tiara digging in and giving every inch of her heart to try and get to the wire first on that cold November day. I had it framed and it sits proudly in my house at Kentucky Lake.
It is a memory of one of my favorite racehorses ever. And, now, it is a memory of one of my favorite people — ever.
Frank Anderson was a big man, in so many ways. Physically, he was imposing. His gruff words were, at times, imposing to those who did not know him well, too. But, most of all, his heart matched his size — inch for inch.
Frank Anderson was a world class photographer. Along with Ron Garrison, Charles Bertram and the late E. Martin Jesse, Frank Anderson helped form one of the best group of photographers to ever capture life on film.
More importantly, Frank Anderson was a world class person. And, he was a world class friend.
He will be missed.
Go rest high on that mountain, my dear friend. And, don’t forget to take your camera along with you. I am sure you can capture glory.