Elizabeth M. “Liza” Frank, who had a long career as a mental health counselor and during World War II served as a staff member for the Office of Strategic Services in London and later Paris, died of complications of dementia June 30 at Roland Park Place. The longtime Roland Park resident was 103.
“I first met Liza through her husband in 1999 when she was 81,” said Russell T. “Tim” Baker Jr., a former U.S. attorney for Maryland and a retired Baltimore lawyer, who became a devoted friend until the end of her life. “She had the most benevolent blue eyes and a smile that lit up the world, and that smile lasted to within the last few weeks of her life. It was just such an amazing smile.”
The former Elizabeth Morris Kleeman was the daughter of Arthur S. Kleeman, president of the Colonial Trust Co., and Alice Pentlarge Kleeman, a WQXR radio personality who was known as Alice Pentlarge and host of “What’s on Your Mind?” a radio forum of The New York Times. Mrs. Frank was born in New York City and raised in Manhattan and White Plains, New York.
She graduated from L’Ecole Miss Fisher in Switzerland, where she became fluent in French and German. She was 16 when she and her twin sister, Frances Alice Kleeman, entered Barnard College in New York City, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1938.
After leaving Barnard, Mrs. Frank enrolled in a yearlong Harvard University master’s program in 1940 called Museum Work and Museum Problems, taught by the noted Paul J. Sachs. She left before completing her degree because she was recruited to work on the public information desk at the National Gallery of Art in Washington that opened in 1941.
“I got her talking about the OSS somehow, and she had told me she had wanted to do something in the war and, through a friend, got an interview with them. This was in 1943, and she went to London as a secretary and clerical worker,” Mr. Baker recalled. “She talked about the bombings and spending nights sleeping in the humid Underground on hard concrete, surrounded by drunks and the smell of urine. She finally took her chances by staying above ground, and the house she was living in on the third floor had its roof blown off one night.
“Later in the war, they sent her to Paris, where she was on the Champs-Élysées on VE-Day, May 8, 1944,” he said. “I saw a picture of her from that time, and she told me she didn’t date even though she was drop-dead gorgeous. She never liked to talk about that much or the OSS. She was proud of her OSS but didn’t like blowing her own horn.”
“When she was with the OSS, she kept meticulous files and was excellent at notetaking,” said a daughter, Dr. Deborah A. Frank of Brookline, Massachusetts.
After the war, Mrs. Frank returned to Washington and the National Gallery, where she was a curator. One night at a Georgetown dinner party, she met the man she would fall in love with and marry.
“She was late, and as she stood in the foyer taking off her hat, she could hear a warm male voice from the living room where guests were sipping cocktails,” Mr. Baker said. “She told me she wanted to meet that man, and that man was Jerry Frank, and they married a year later.”
In 1948, she married Dr. Jerome D. Frank, who became a noted Johns Hopkins professor of psychiatry and was also an early outspoken critic of nuclear weapons and a civil rights activist. He died in 2005.
The couple settled into a home on University Parkway, where they raised their four children. After teaching art history at the Bryn Mawr School for a year, Mrs. Frank earned a master’s degree in 1973 in mental health counseling from the Johns Hopkins University.
She joined the Adolescent Psychiatric Clinic as a mental health counselor at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.
She worked for the Phipps Adolescent Outpatient Clinic, which later moved to Greenspring Station in Lutherville. After retiring in 2001, she served on the board of the Hampden Family Center and, a year later, was appointed a counselor for the pro bono Counseling Project.
“I always admired her abilities to move with the times,” said a daughter, Emily F. Frank of Guilford.
“She was very bright, cultured and very engaged in the issues of people around her,” Dr. Frank said. “She really was very European, perhaps more than we realized, and everyone who came to dinner at her home felt comfortable. She collected people and had a broad circle of friends to which she stayed connected.”
Mrs. Frank founded the Ladies Marching and Chowder Society, a group of women who met weekly at the Johns Hopkins Club.
Mrs. Frank was also a social activist and a longtime member of the Women’s Hamilton Street Club.
Dr. Frank said that she pushed for the admittance of Black people to the Hamilton Street Club. A member said that if the club did, they wouldn’t be able to bring friends. According to Dr. Frank, she replied, “If we don’t, I won’t be able to bring my friends here.”
Mrs. Frank was an accomplished needleworker and knitter and won first prize for her work at the Maryland State Fair in 1988 and 1999.
“She made sweaters and afghans, many of which were of her own design and really were works of art. They were museum-quality,” Ms. Frank said.
With the passing of the years, Mrs. Frank stayed socially and culturally engaged. She enjoyed traveling and attended Shriver Hall Concerts, of which she was a supporter, until she turned 100.
At Roland Park Place, where she moved in 1997, Mrs. Frank participated in the Iliad Program, adult education courses. “She was still talking courses until about a year ago,” Mr. Baker said.
Mr. Baker keeps a recording of the Brahams Requiem on his phone.
“I played it for her, and she sang it in German, German she had learned more than 70 years ago,” Mr. Baker said. “And she sang it full-throated.”
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When Mrs. Frank celebrated her 100th birthday, Mr. Baker asked her how it felt to be that age; and she replied, “Empty,’ he said. “She said that no one was living who knew her as a girl or a young woman and that her old friends were gone and that she had outlived everyone.”
Mr. Baker said he’d spend an hour with her each week, talking and “pursuing her,” and that she was known at Roland Place for being a speed demon on her walker. “She was famous for her speed and would just take off.”
Mrs. Frank did not pursue any special lifestyle to achieve centenarian status.
“She did not exercise and followed no special diet. She just had a very fine constitution,” Ms. Frank said. “She did give up smoking in 1969 and enjoyed sherry or a glass of Dubonnet but nothing to excess.”
“She enriched my life and loved being flirted with,” Mr. Baker said. “I miss her terribly and was very lucky to have gotten to know her.”
Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.
In addition to Dr. Frank and Ms. Frank, she is survived by another daughter, Dr. Julia B. Frank of Silver Spring, and six grandchildren. Her son, David W. Frank, died in 2017.