Frank Stoltz ~ MTTA Hall of Fame 2002
Tonight we have the honor of inducting our second Montana Tow Truck Association Hall of Fame member. In recognition of his years of service to the towing industry, his service to our great country, and his support of MTTA, I would like to tell you a little about him.
Born on February 10, 1924, in Flasher, North Dakota, this towman-to-be was needed to help on the farm and never made it past 6th grade. He ran away from his brother's farm as a teenager and went to welding school. Subsequently, he went to Seattle and worked as a welder in the shipyards prior to joining the Army Air Corps before he turned eighteen. While in service, or just before, he received his GED. During World War II, he was a top-turret gunner on B24s and armed with bombs when enemy territory was reached. Arming bombs was a job that had to be done without wearing a parachute because the bomb bay catwalk was so narrow.
On June 21, 1944, he was on a raid from Shipton, England, to an industrial complex outside Frankfurt, Germany. The plane, named The Liberator, was hit by flak that crippled the plane. They lost formation and couldn't keep up. Suddenly, Messerschmidt 109 fighters closed in, lining up on the gunners' blind spot behind the tail as they dived to gain speed. They peppered The Liberator, rupturing the gas bladders, shooting the tail off, and sending the aircraft into a spiral headed downward. The crew bailed out, however, the co-pilot did not make it.
This young airman bailed out into what was to become a harrowing stint as a prisoner of war. When he bailed out, he got caught in the slip stream of his parachute and the intense pressure broke several ribs. It was nearly a month before he received treatment, and then merely some bandages from a medic at one of the camps. In May of 1945, after having been marched for a seemingly endless number of miles, sometimes chained five abreast, starving, freezing, and without sufficient blankets to keep them warm, the prisoners found themselves in an unfamiliar silence, no sounds of battle. The war was over. And this young man who had weighed 175 pounds when he left the States now weighed around 125 pounds.
In 1946, this former POW went to work as an apprentice in auto-body work, and then, in 1955, he opened his own auto body shop in Miles City among the famed prairie dogs and called it Frank's Body Shop, which now has 8 employees. He met his wife at this time and started a family. His first wrecker was a '55 Chevy 3/4-ton with a Holmes single-line wrecker body. His son, Tim, told me that he had completely restored this tow truck a few years ago. Frank is a member of the Towman 500 Club, an organization for the first 500 towers in the United States. Frank is a lifetime member of MTTA. And, despite his World War II experiences, Frank is still a pilot and he owns and flies his own airplane. In fact, he flies in to Helena for many of the board meetings.
On September 20th, 1997, at the VFW POW/MIA ceremony in Miles City, Frank was presented with the mdeals he was awarded in World War II, the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Prisoner of War Medal, the Victory Medal, the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with silver and bronze stars, the American Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Purple Heart. Frank is active in the Miles City and Montana POW organizations.
Frank and his wife of fifty-four years, Patricia, have five children, Dan, Debra, Melissa, Patrick, and Tim who works with his father at the shop. Melissa's daughter, Mary Pat, resides in Bozeman and is here with us tonight. I'd like to thank Tim and Melissa for so graciously sharing details of Frank's life and providing pictures and newspaper articles for tonight.
Frank, on behalf of the Montana Tow Truck Association, it is my pleasure to present you, the eipitome of a self-made, successful businessman, with this plaque as a token of MTTA's appreciation and friendship for your many years working for the towing industry and serving MTTA. Your country, as well, salutes you for your dedication and service.