Frank Wolking: June 16, 1955 - October 15, 2008

Frank Wolking onstage at the 24th National Cowboy Poetry GatheringThe "Westgrass" band Sons and Brothers joined us for the 24th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and now sends us the sad news that band founder and member, Frank Wolking, has sadly lost his life following a valiant battle with cancer. We at the Western Folklife Center feel very blessed to have been able to have Frank and the band with us last January and with sympathy are posting Frank's obituary from their website:

"Frank Wolking; beloved husband, father, brother, business owner, community leader, and stellar musician; lost his long, brave battle with cancer on October 15, 2008. He died as he lived, surrounded by his loving family and friends in the warmth of his own home and among the instruments and memorabilia of the music he cherished. Memorial services will be held at the First United Methodist Church, 420 N. Nevada Ave., in Colorado Springs at 1:00 p.m. on October 25.

Frank was born in Florence, CO, on June 16, 1955, to Charles and Lucille Wolking both of whom preceded him in death. He graduated from Florence High School in 1973 and went on to attend the University of Kansas before entering the construction trade. He married Valorie Costello on April 28, 1979, and just as she had been by his side though every adventure that life offered; she was with him when he died. So too were his boys and fellow band members: Mike, Aaron, and Joe. 

Frank and his family moved to Westcliffe, CO, in 1999 where he continued his business (with Valorie) called PSI Plumbing and Heating LLC. Frank was a master plumber, and his work was highly respected and sought after throughout the construction industry in an area which spanned several very large counties. About the same time that the family was putting down roots in Westcliffe, Frank founded a band which he called The Sons and Brothers. The band, which included his three sons and his brother, Fred, (who was also with him when he died) provided an avenue for him to do the two things he loved most-perform music and share it with his sons. In 2005 in conjunction with his wife and sons Frank founded Sons and Brothers Events which provided equipment, shelters, counseling, staging, and sound reinforcement for many area events, including the acclaimed High Mountain Hay Fever Festival for which Frank also served on the Board of Directors. The Sons and Brothers Band hosts the festival which is a non-profit event that provides financial support for the Custer County Community Clinic. Frank and his company were also instrumental in the production of the Wet Mountain Western Days, an annual community celebratory event for Westcliffe, CO.

Frank Wolking was known by all who got to know him to be a model father and brother, a loving husband, a steadfast friend, a faithful Christian, and a just and honest citizen. But at his very core-in his soul-he was a musician. He was a dynamic multi-instrumentalist and a soulful vocalist.

He had a rare gift for selecting songs that the Sons and Brothers' audiences reacted to with sheer delight and heartfelt emotion. His greatest joy was in making music and it always showed.  In less than a decade The Sons and Brothers Band became known throughout the region, and they were just breaking onto the "national scene" when Frank contracted cancer.  Still he lived the dream of all musicians--to go out with a bang. Throughout his illness Frank never missed a gig. His final performance was his best. It occurred at the largest "Americana" festival in the country which is held annually in San Francisco.  Frank and his boys overwhelmed the crowd with their trademark drive combined with soulful harmonies. And then they went on to play for the all-star musicians that such a festival draws at the "cast party" and got a standing encore from the stars themselves.  That last performance was just 11 days before he left us.

He is survived not only by his wife and sons but also by his brother, Fred; his sister, Jackie; two daughters-in-law, Lindsay and Callie; numerous brothers and sisters-in-law, cousins, nieces, and nephews, and by many, many fans who still have his fine recordings to remember him by.

His was the strongest hand I ever shook.  His fight was the bravest I ever saw. I cannot believe that a heart so big, so generous, so loving, so true could ever stop. I know the Angel Band is better than ever now, pushing the beat like never before--throwing out all the stops. Gifts may be sent to the Frank Wolking Medical Fund c/o Colorado Mt. Bank, 1000 Main St., Westcliffe, CO 81252.

- - Ron Thomason 10/16/08 "

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