"The Show Must go On!"
Article written by: Terri Wykoff
ABOVE Photograph: Frank (age 68) arrived at
Jerry Wilson's Restaurant without any sign of his oxygen tanks nor his dependency on that
oxygen 24 hours a day.
Prior to Frank Wykoff's arrival at Jerry Wilson's restaurant, El
Gordo in the San Gabriel Valley, CA -- there was a storm
of fury and arguments at his home between his concerned wife, Ethel
Mae, and himself over his irresponsible decision to ignore his
medical needs and doctor's orders to bring his needed oxygen tanks to his
Hall of Fame Indoctrination ceremony.
How the story began ...
Frank was suffering from a serious case of emphysema; and felt
insecure leaving the close security of LaVina Hospital in
Arcadia, California -- where he was a frequent patient.
Frank became depressed. He received notice
by the National Track and Field Hall of Fame Committee that he was chosen
that year to be indoctrinated into the Hall of Fame, but he
didn't want anyone to know he was too sick to travel to Charleston,
West Virginia to personally accept that great honor; and simply wrote that
he would be unable to attend due to his wife's ill health and inability to
Frank then received a call from his friend, Jerry
Wilson, who advised him that he and his friends planned to
have Frank honored close to his home in Alhambra; and that
Jesse Owens himself was to do the honors to officially assist in
It was after that telephone call that Frank perked up -- until he
recalled that he was ordered to wear oxygen tubes in his nose day and
night -- due to the fact that he only had 10% lung capacity left in each
lung. Not wanting anyone -- especially reporters, to ever see him in
such a pathetic state of health, he decided to practice breathing without
the assistance of his needed oxygen tanks. Frank
was determined to attend his Hall of Fame ceremony without any
noticeable sign of dependency on any life supporting aid.
Frank & Ethel Mae COMPROMISE.
Ethel Mae called Jerry on the phone, and Jerry convinced Frank to bring
the oxygen tanks -- assuring Frank that someone would hide the
tanks in Jerry's office in case Frank needed a fast boost of breath.
Frank was a nervous wreck upon arrival -- terrified someone would see
the oxygen tanks being rolled into the restaurant making him appear as if
he was on his death bed. He became increasingly agitated -- growling
at his family until he entered the restaurant; and like magic,
suddenly there was a big smile on his face to look his best for the
He finally calmed down enough to enjoy the party as best he could.
Neither Frank Wykoff nor Jesse Owens knew at that
moment in time (1977) that they would
both exit earthly life the same year (1980). Frank passed away first on January 1, 1980
-- Frank's wife, Ethel Mae followed Frank on February 2, 1980, and
Jesse Owens departed March, 1980.