Family Pay Tribute To St Albans Dad

30 July 2014, 05:47 | Updated: 30 July 2014, 07:05

The family of a dad from St Albans, killed in a car crash, say he was their "superstar".

58 year old Roderick 'Rod' Franks died following the crash in Nottinghamshire on July 20.

His family have released the following tribute:

Rod and his wife Dot moved to St Albans in 1984 and have lived there ever since. They had two children together, Becky, the older of the siblings, and Mike. They all have fond memories of Rod.

Rod was born in Shipley, West Yorkshire, in 1956. He grew up in the town, which sits just outside of Bradford. Rod studied at the University of Huddersfield and met Dot at a brass week in Lancashire in August 1975.

After finishing his degree, Rod completed a postgraduate degree at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Throughout his studies, Rod specialised in playing the trumpet and in 1977 he was appointed Principal Trumpet of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra at the young age of 21.

This appointment saw Rod move to Norway for seven years and after two years living apart, Rod and Dot married at All Saints Church in St Helens, Lancashire before returning to Norway together for five years.

In 1982, their first child Becky was born and within two years they all returned to England and settled in St Albans where Rod joined the Phillip Jones Brass Ensemble as Principal Trumpet. Rod was always ambitious and played freelance for many orchestras and bands in the UK and was a founder member of the English Brass Ensemble and London Brass.

A year before joining the London Symphony Orchestra in 1988, Mike was born. From 1990, Rod shared the Principal Trumpet chair with former mentor and close friend Maurice Murphy before Maurice retired in 2007.

Prior to this in 2002, Rod was awarded the Coat of Arms by the University of Huddersfield for his services to music and later, in 2011, he became Honorary Doctorate of the University. Rod was also a Professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

The Principal of the Royal Academy of Music, Professor Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, said: "Rod had become an important part of the Academy team. I will remember his incisive understanding of what students needed, genuine warmth and of course his legendary and remarkable courage. And what a player."

The Artistic Director and Head of Brass at the Academy, Mark David, added: "Rod was a consummate musician, teacher, colleague and gentleman. He was an inspiring individual and I truly count myself fortunate to have known him."

The London Symphony Orchestra also paid tribute to Rod describing him as 'passionate about the education of future generations of musicians' and that they were deeply saddened to learn of his death.

His family described Rod as having a real passion and energy for his work, expressing that he particularly enjoyed being part of the London Symphony Orchestra. It was in this role that he played the trumpet for iconic pieces of music in many films, including Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park and, more recently, The Monuments Men.

Mike said of his father's work: "Dad really enjoyed his career and was so proud of his work, particularly his involvement with the Star Wars music."

Other highlights of his career included playing Vivaldi's Trumpet Concerto with Maurice at the Barbican Centre in London. Rod's family has strong memories of this performance as it marked his return to music following his recovery from having a brain tumor removed in 2002.

After having the operation it wasn't known if Rod would survive, let alone play the trumpet again. After a long and extensive period of recovery, he made a triumphant return in front of a crowd of several thousand people, including the surgeon who had operated on him.

Mike said: "The Concerto was a big piece of music for dad as the soloist. I remember just before the concert started one of dad's front teeth came loose and fell out. He looked at me, shoved the tooth back into position and said 'Don't tell anyone about the tooth' and then went out and gave one of his best performances! This summed up dad; nothing ever stopped him from delivering."

Outside of work, Rod had a number of hobbies including watching golf and supporting Leeds United Football Club. The family didn't have any pets but Becky said: "Dad was enough!"

The family took a number of holidays together and particularly enjoyed their time in the Canary Islands, Majorca and Portugal. They would go fishing, walking and play mini golf and football together.

Rod was also a grandfather to Becky's son, Harrison, aged two and a half. Becky said of their relationship: "Harrison worshipped his granddad, he was like his shadow. If dad was in the room he would get all of Harrison's attention, mum and I didn't get a look-in. It was a mutual love."

Dot remembers her husband as a "kind, generous, funny, loving and a typical Yorkshire man."

"We enjoyed socialising in the brass band world and would often go to contests together."

Mike added: "Dad was a great storyteller. He had a dry sense of humour, was quick-witted and would tell the best one-liners. He was always smiling."

The family all agreed: "He was a star. A superstar. In every sense of the word. He was the most strong and determined person in all aspects of his life. He battled through some terrible times but always in an extremely dignified manner, he was determined to let nothing stop him. He was the definition of bouncebackability."

Dot added: "We will all miss him and I would like to express my thanks to my daughter and her husband Richard and my son and his wife Terran as they have been extremely supportive."