The community mourns the loss of 'Mr. Frankfort' Leo Day
By Chapin Jewell
SHORT GAP - Over the last several weeks, as word made its way out that Leo Day was very ill and in need of prayers, people responded. It was the least people could do for a man that had done so much for so many of them, particularly those within the Frankfort community.
When word came late Thursday and early Friday that Day had indeed succumbed to his illness, there was deep sadness, sure, but there also began a celebration of a life well lived.
Whether it be in his role as husband, father and grandfather, a businessman, or an unequaled supporter of his alma mater, Frankfort High School, Leo Day lived his best life and lived it to the fullest.
First and foremost, he was indeed a family man. Second to that, he was a successful businessman as owner of Day’s Salvage Yard, among other things. Third, he was a friend to all. Still, Day found time to support his daughters in all their activities at Frankfort High School and supported his alma mater for over 20 years as an officer in the Frankfort Athletic Booster Club, in addition to serving as the football team’s water boy.
In the wake of his death, one social media comment referred to Day as “Mr. Frankfort.” While normally you tread lightly in doling out such a distinction, when it came to Leo Day, he checked all the boxes to earn the title “Mr. Frankfort.”
Consider. After winning a state championship in 1975 as a junior with the Ridgeley Blackhawks, Day then became the first starting quarterback for the newly opened Frankfort High School during his senior football season in 1976. Day helped lead the Falcons to an impressive 9-1 record in their opening campaign. In addition, he excelled at other sports for Frankfort to include wrestling and baseball.
In adulthood, Day would then go on to serve the Frankfort Athletic Booster Club for two decades. That’s 20 years of dedicated service as an officer in the organization, often as president or vice president.
If that’s not enough, Day also served as Frankfort football’s water boy for many, many years, all the way up through the recently concluded 2020 season.
“Mr. Frankfort,” indeed.
“I can remember back when he played football, back when he was the first quarterback at Frankfort. Of course, I was only a young boy at the time, but I attended all those games with my dad,” Frankfort head football coach Kevin Whiteman noted.
As Whiteman describes, what began as admiration for an older athlete and role model would eventually grow into a close friendship between the two men. Beyond a friendship, there was the common love the two shared for Frankfort football as alumni, in Whiteman’s role as coach, and Day’s roles with the Booster Club and as the water boy.
“I knew Leo way back then, and as I grew, probably in my 20s, I started connecting with him and becoming friendly with him. Of course, he has worked with the football team all these years. When I was an assistant, he was the water boy, and he’s been the water boy since I’ve been head coach. We’re really going to miss him.”
According to Whiteman, “He spent 20 years as the president or as an officer in the Booster Club and he did a great job. Nobody went without, lets put it that way, nobody went without. He worked hard to make sure there was always a lot of money in there.”
In Leo Day, Whiteman describes a man that did so much for the community, not just Frankfort High School but the community at large.
“I will say this, and this is coming from the bottom of my heart, you’re not going to find a more selfless person than Leo Day in this world. He put others ahead of himself, constantly. The community will never understand what he did for people. He did so much quietly for people behind the scenes, nobody will ever have a clue what he did for people,” Whiteman explained.
“Just for myself, he’s always been there for me in whatever capacity I needed him for, as a friend, as a coach if there were things I needed for football. When I was down and out a couple years ago, he was there for me,” Whiteman stated. He checked on me almost every single day, he had people checking on me. He brought me down there to work with him, just to help keep my mind occupied, he just did so much for me.”
According to Whiteman, “He was just a big, loving teddy bear, basically. He came across with a little bit of a hard edge, but he was just a big teddy bear.”
Day made his presence known, especially on the sidelines during football games.
“It was like having another coach out there. Especially during a timeout, so many times during a timeout, I would have to turn around and say ‘be quiet Leo,’ he’d be in there coaching and yelling at the kids. He loved it,” Whiteman stated. “He loved being there, he very seldom missed a game, no matter where it was, and he would always drive by himself to away games. He would go anywhere he needed to go to be there. He just loved it.”
Kristal Weaver, current president of the Frankfort Athletic Booster Club, described what Day meant to the Frankfort community, along with current Booster Club plans to honor his memory, “You can’t think about Frankfort High School without thinking of Leo Day. As much as anyone, Leo loved his school and worked tirelessly for decades to support Frankfort’s student athletes.
“In memory of his efforts and contributions, the Frankfort Athletic Booster Club will be establishing a scholarship in his memory.”
Recent past-president of the Frankfort Athletic Booster Club, Missy Clark, also spoke fondly of Leo Day’s contributions to Frankfort Athletics through the Booster Club, and lauded Day’s insistence that the kids, and nobody else, needed the first priority in all the work that was done.
“I worked with him for probably six years as he was the president and/or vice president, he and Terry Puffinburger sort of flip-flopped that role back and forth. During that time I learned a lot, I learned so much, and we had a lot of really good and fun times as a group,” Clark stated.
“Leo was very passionate about certain things. Sometimes we had to help him see the other side of things, just as sometimes we needed to see his side of things. But no matter what, it was always about the kids,” Clark stated. “He always ingrained that in everything that we did, that it was always about the kids. It’s not about the principal, it’s not about the coaches, it’s about the kids.”
During Day’s tenure with the Booster Club, a lot was accomplished. And along the way, great fun was had among everyone involved.
“A lot of things got done, always, like uniforms, equipment, etc. Toughman was always a big fundraiser for us. Leo was always a presence at Toughman. Even after he left, he would pop in at Toughman and say hi to all the Toughman folks,” Clark stated. “He was a lot of fun to work with. He was very dedicated. He was just Leo, a great guy.”
Clark, as the Frankfort Football mom and mother of two Falcon football players over the last decade, also saw first-hand Day’s work as not-your-average water boy.
“I think to him being the water boy meant the world to him. Because even after he left the Boosters, he was still connected to the team he loved, Frankfort Football. He was just such a part of Frankfort Football, always. The boys just loved him, they gravitated to him. He took that job very seriously. Both of my boys have been with Leo as their water boy, and before that, both of my boys were water boys with Leo.”
Leo Day’s exploits as a star athlete at Frankfort, as a leader and volunteer with the Booster Club and as a water boy get most of the attention here because, after all, this is the sports page. But to tell the full tale of a life well-lived, you must consider Leo day in totality, as a family man, businessman, and community supporter.
“He loved his girls. His wife and his girls were his life.,” Clark stated. “He would help anyone. He would give the shirt off his back. He was just helpful always, helpful in every way.”
Leo Day gave his all to his family, to his friends, to his customers, and to the community in general. Still, he found time to give his all to his alma mater, Frankfort High School.
Rest in peace Leo Day, rest in peace, “Mr. Frankfort.”