Francis "Frank"'s Story

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Francis Marion "Frank" Marks, 85, died Tuesday, March 14, 2017, at the Norman Regional Healthplex following an extended illness. Memorial services will be at 2 p.m., Saturday, March 18, at First Baptist Church, 211 W. Comanche St., in Norman.

Mr. Marks was born June 17, 1931, in Edmond to Luther Whitfield II and Mary Alice McCaulley Marks. He was the fourth of their five children. He grew up in Edmond where he worked on the family farm in his early years. By his own account, he became a committed Christian at the age of 9 where his family regularly attended Edmond's First Baptist Church in Edmond. At the age of 17, he made a commitment to Christian service at the Falls Creek Baptist Encampment near Davis, OK, in 1949.

While at Edmond High School, Mr. Marks was a successful athlete. He made All-Conference in football and was elected co-captain of the Edmond Bulldog squad as a senior full back. He was voted the State High School Outstanding Wrestler as a senior, winning in the heavyweight division over the returning champion. He also earned All-Conference recognition in track as a quarter-miler.

Mr. Marks received a four-year wrestling scholarship to the University of Oklahoma, where in 1951 and 1952 he was part of the National Championship Sooner wrestling teams coached by the legendary Port Robertson. He went on to become a Big 7 Champ three years in a row, and an All American NCAA-runner up at 167 pounds in 1953, his senior year. Mr. Marks remained friends with his former EHS and OU coaches and mentors, Ted Anderson and Port Robertson, respectively, until their deaths.

While attending OU, Mr. Marks was active at the First Baptist Church and Baptist Student Union in Norman. During his freshman year, he was licensed to preach and was often asked to speak. While speaking in one of the Sunday School classes, he caught the eye of a local beauty, Janette Ann Thomas. Ms. Thomas made it her mission to catch his attention whenever possible, usually by sitting in front of him at church. Mr. Marks finally noticed her and asked her out on a date. Their first date was to a professional wrestling match at the Oklahoma City Stockyards.

Mr. Marks, who majored in letters, graduated with a Bachelor's Degree from OU in 1953. He and Miss Thomas married on June 5, 1953, after which they moved to Berkeley, CA, where he attended Golden Gate Theological Seminary. He was ordained by the First Baptist Church of Edmond on August 7, 1955, with Dr. M.E Ramay, Edmond, officiating. Mr. Marks received his Master's of Divinity in 1957.

While a seminarian, Mr. Marks served as associate pastor of the Mission San Jose Baptist Mission in Fairmont, CA, after which he served as pastor of the First Baptist Church, Keyes, CA, in 1957, and pastor of Highway Village Baptist Church, Modesto, CA, in 1958. Mr. Marks accepted an invitation to pastor the First Baptist Church of Balko, OK, in October 1959 where they remained until 1961. By this time, the couple had two daughters, Kim and Kelly.

While attending OU, Mr. Marks had received an ROTC commission in 1953. He had attended a chaplain's school in 1957 and was called to active duty in 1961 during the Berlin Wall crisis. The young family moved first to Fort Chaffee, AR, then later to Mannheim, Germany, the first of many tours of duty as an Army chaplain for the next 16 years. While in Germany, their third child, Kent, was born. In Germany, Chaplain Marks also earned his wings at the U.S. Army Airborne School in Wiesbaden.

After three years overseas, the family moved stateside to a series of U.S. Army bases, including the Savanna Army Depot in northern Illinois; Fort Sill, OK; Fort Hamilton, NY; and Fort Bliss, TX. In between, Chaplain Marks completed two one-year tours of duty in An Khe and Pleiku from 1966-67, and Nha Trang from 1970-1971 during the Vietnam War. in 1967, he received a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam. While in Vietnam, Chaplain Marks not only served his country, but was able to help build a church for some of the missionaries working with Vietnam's war orphans.

Chaplain Marks served a second tour of duty in West Germany in the small town of Bad Kreuznach. Upon the family's return in 1977, Chaplain Marks left active duty, but remained active in the Army Reserve until his reserve retirement at the rank of Chaplain Lieutenant Colonel on June 13, 1981.

In 1981, Chaplain Marks began a civilian occupation as a chaplain at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, working with maximum security prisoners, including those on death row. He also supervised chaplain responsibilities with the trusty units and the women's units. He worked at the McAlester prison for 10 years and for 6 1/2 years at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, the maximum-security women's prison in Oklahoma City.

Upon retiring in 1984, Chaplain Marks and his wife moved back to Norman. They also moved their church letter back to First Baptist, where they served for more than 20 years as Sunday School superintendents for the senior adults.

Despite retiring from his state job, Chaplain Marks did not believe in retiring from his call to serve Christ. He volunteered for 21 years as a chaplain at Griffin Memorial Hospital in Norman, one of the state's largest mental health facilities. The hospital twice nominated Chaplain Marks as the agency's volunteer of the year for his service. Chaplain Marks also did volunteer work at the Veteran's Hospital in Norman, and was a frequent visitor to patients and their families at local hospitals.

Chaplain Marks worked tirelessly for those who had no way to receive help. At the prison, he convinced volunteers to donate hundreds of greeting cards for prisoners to send to their family members for their birthdays and during holidays. In Norman, he often worked with the Gideons and other groups to obtain and distribute Bibles to patients and veterans.

When not working, Chaplain Marks enjoyed swimming and working in the yard during the warm months. His hobbies included stained glass, wood working, building bird houses, and craft stepping stones. His favorite winter activity was attending OU wrestling matches. Mr. Marks and his wife loved to travel, and also enjoyed watching any OU sports event and the Oklahoma City Thunder on TV. They were devoted to their children and four grandchildren, attending church with them, attending their extra-curricular activities, and frequently gathering for special events.

Chaplain Marks was preceded in death by his parents; his older brother, Luther Whitfield "Whit" Marks III, of Edmond; and his sister, Martha Lou "Marty" Sanders, of Tulsa.

He is survived by his wife, Janette; daughter Kim A. Marks, Norman; daughter Kelly and Robert Fredericks, and grandchildren Eric and Shea, Norman; son Dr. Kent and Esther Marks, and grandchildren Theo and Zoe, Port Jefferson Station, NY; brother John W. Marks, M.D., retired, Oklahoma City; and brother, the Rev. Charles "Freddie" Marks, Lawrence, KS.

In lieu of flowers, the Marks family requests contributions of gently used or new Bibles be taken to First Baptist Church-Norman, where they later will be distributed by local volunteers in the community. There will be drop off points at the exits before and after the memorial service. Monetary donations for Bibles can be made out to First Baptist Church-Norman, with a memo designating the "Frank Marks Bible Fund."
Published on March 16, 2017
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