Franklin Eades Penn, 93, known to all as “Frank”, died from cancer at home on Dec. 15.
He was born in Baguio, Luzon, Philippines on May 21, 1919 to William Lee and Olivia Eades Penn. He completed Manila Central School in 1936 and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1941 with a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in mechanical engineering, where he was a member of the Mechanical Engineering Honors Group and Sigma Chi Fraternity.
Following graduation, he joined Dupont and during World War II was part of the Cambridge, Massachusetts based National Research Corporation where he helped perfect the high vacuum technology used in the mass production of penicillin and blood plasma for the war effort. In April 1946, Penn moved to Plymouth, Fla., joined the design team, and, ultimately, became chief engineer at the first Minute Maid plant where the production of orange juice concentrate subsequently revolutionized the citrus industry in the USA and then Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.
Coca Cola acquired Minute Maid in 1961 where Penn was vice president of the Minute Maid Division. In 1964, he joined National Bulk Carriers, Inc. a privately held company belonging to Daniel K. Ludwig. NBC operated a large fleet of bulk ocean carriers (oil, ore, coal, grain, etc.) As assistant to the president, Penn was responsible for the management of NBC’s agricultural projects which included oranges in Panama, paper pulp in Brazil, flowers in Honduras, vegetables in Belize and beef cattle in Venezuela.
Penn joined Velcro Industries Nev. in 1972 as vice president for manufacturing. He then became president and chief executive Officer in 1973, directing the company as it grew from early stage developer of a newly patented technology to a global household name. Penn retired from the corporate world in 1981.
Upon retirement, he began his second career in community service, starting in 1984 with three terms on Darien’s Planning and Zoning Commission. The last five of his twelve years there were as chairman. Elected to the Darien Library board of trustees for two, three-year terms starting in 1996, he declared this to be the “Best volunteer job in Darien!”
Penn joined the Senior Men’s Association in 1990 and served as president for two years starting in 1995. Having become a member of the Darien Community Association in 1999, he became active as building manager in 2001 and oversaw the renovation of the gardens and greenhouse. He was named to the DCA Board of Trustees in 2002.
Tennis was his sport and he indulged in it whenever he could. As a long time member of the Tokeneke Club and at King’s Highway Tennis Club, he played tennis until he was 88. For the entertainment of all at family gatherings, he would often write poetry, and then, to much laughter and amusement, perform a bit of his doggerel.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, June Craver Penn of Darien; his children, W. Lee Penn II and his wife Linda Walker Penn of Madison,, Maitland Jade Penn of Mount Desert Island, Maine and Lucia Lee Penn of Monkton, Md.; three grandchildren and nine nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at the Darien Community Association on Thursday, Jan. 3 at 11 a.m. The Edward Lawrence Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.
Memorial donations may be made to The Darien Library, 1441 Post Road, Darien, CT, 06820 or the Darien Community Association, 274 Middlesex Road, Darien 06820.