Thursday, July 15, 2004

Frank Florence Jr. was Baptist minister

Wrote about WWII ordeal as POW

By Rebecca Goodman
Enquirer staff writer

COLD SPRING - The Rev. Frank Florence Jr., former pastor of First Baptist Church of Cold Spring and a World War II prisoner of war, died Saturday of an intestinal infection at Jewish Hospital in Shelbyville, Ky.

The Rev. Mr. Florence, a resident of Taylorsville near Louisville, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's 15 months ago. He would have been 83 on Aug. 17.

He was a pastor in Kentucky for 45 years and spent three years as a missionary in Colombia. He served churches in Louisville, Willisburg and Tompkinsville as well as at Kento-Boo Baptist Church in Florence. He spent his final six years as a pastor at First Baptist Church in Cold Spring, retiring in 1982.

"He was a very compassionate person and was so careful not to hurt anyone's feelings - to make sure everyone was included," said his wife of 61 years, Elizabeth Vater Florence.

Born in 1921 in Harrison County, Ky., the Rev. Mr. Florence attended the one-room Hopeful School in southern Campbell County and Butler High School in Pendleton County. He graduated second in his class from Georgetown Baptist College and received a master's degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

The Rev. Mr. Florence was a machine gun section leader with the 3rd Battalion, 317th Infantry Regiment in France during World War II. A prisoner of war for several months, he served as chaplain for his fellow POWs, delivering Sunday sermons to more than 1,000 men in Stalag III-C near Kostrzyn, Poland.

In January 1945, he and his comrades were freed by the Russians and walked from Poland to Odessa on the Black Sea, where they were met by Americans. The Rev. Mr. Florence received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, as well as a citation for his service as a chaplain.

He wrote a memoir about his war experiences called Feet of Clay and one about his childhood called Hopeful: Back to These Hills.

Pendleton County Schools selected the Rev. Mr. Florence as its alumnus of the year in 1999. His picture hangs on the wall next to a plaque on the high school's "Wall of Fame."

In addition to his wife, survivors include: a son, Terry Allen Florence of English, Ind.; two daughters, Linda French of Coxs Creek, Ky., and Nancy Whitlock of Taylorsville; nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Visitation is 11 a.m. today at Grants Lick Baptist Church, 175 West Clay Ridge Road in Alexandria, followed by the funeral at 2 p.m. Burial will be at Oakland Cemetery in Grants Lick.

Memorials: The Gideons International, P.O. Box 140800, Nashville, TN 37214-0800.

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