Fallen soldier’s memory still alive
Funeral set for noon Thursday; ceremony held before Friday’s football game
His sister-in-law affectionately knew him as Dork, his teammates called him Killer on the football field and he was notorious for breaking furniture simply by sitting in it.
He was Lucas Frantz, and his death has evoked fond memories for people in Tonganoxie.
Frantz, a 2002 Tonganoxie High School graduate, was killed Oct. 18 -- it was his 22nd birthday -- in Mosul, Iraq. Army Spc. Frantz was hit by enemy fire while performing a combat mission, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a press release.
Frantz's memory has been vibrant throughout Tonganoxie since last week.
Flags fly at half-staff.
Football fans held small American flags as Frantz's number and jersey were retired before Friday's Tonganoxie-De Soto football game.
And at noon Thursday, his family and members of the community will pay tribute to Frantz during funeral services at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Park in Tonganoxie.
His obituary appears on page 2A of today's paper.
The first date
Frantz's wife, Kelly, admitted that their first date didn't take them to the most romantic restaurant.
The couple ate at Taco John's in Lawrence -- as did some of Lucas' football friends.
But after returning to Tonganoxie, Lucas and Kelly walked around the high school track until 3 a.m.
As the couple started dating, he became a fixture in the Jeannin household.
"He was here a lot," Kelly's mother, Pam Jeannin, said. "And he was part of the family. It didn't take long at all for us to realize that he was ours.
"That was just Lucas. He was so comforting to be around and so easy to be with."
Lucas referred to Kelly as "Babe."
At the Jeannin house, though, the voices of Pam and twin daughters Kelly and Kim Qualls, and youngest daughter Andie Jeannin sometimes sounded similar on the phone.
When Lucas called he would say 'Hi, Babe, How you doin'?' Pam said.
"And a couple of times that was me," Pam said with a smile.
After learning that it was Pam on the other line, Lucas would stutter, Pam recalled.
"Oh, Lucas, that's fine," Pam would tell him.
Pam said Lucas, on occasion, would do that to Andie.
"She got a big kick out of it," Pam said.
Lucas and Kelly's first date was about five years ago.
In July 2003, the couple married in Leavenworth, but always planned to renew their vows in Tonganoxie after Lucas returned from Iraq -- at VFW Park.
Pam Jeannin said Lucas was a wonderful husband to her daughter.
"Being a parent, what always you want for your children is happiness," Pam Jeannin said. "Lucas brought Kelly all the happiness in the world.
"That's the number one thing for me. He did that for her. And that's all I asked for her."
Lucas Frantz was known as a Mr. Fix-It.
Phil Jeannin, Lucas' father-in-law, said that before Lucas went to boot camp, he built a front porch on the south side of the Jeannin house. Lucas left Tonganoxie before he could work on the east porch. Phil and a friend built the other porch, but arranged the wood planks opposite of how Lucas built the first porch.
Phil, laughing, said his friend told Kelly that Lucas built it the wrong way.
She knew better.
And it wasn't that Phil couldn't fix things around the house, but Pam said Lucas offered a helping hand.
"On several occasions, Phil would look at me and say, 'you don't think I can do anything,'" Pam said.
That wasn't the case, Pam said. She knew that Phil was busy and that Lucas "offered to do this."
Of course, their children had other ideas.
"Lucas didn't use duct tape," Kelly said, which Phil did.
"He did it right," Phil's stepson, Colby Qualls said.
Andie Jeannin and her brother-in-law had a name for each other.
"We were really close," Andie said. "We always called each other 'Dork.' I wasn't Andie and he wasn't Lucas. Andie, who is an eighth-grader at Tonganoxie Junior High, said she played competitive games with Lucas all the time, from basketball to cards to video games.
"He was a very fun guy," Andie said. "He would be so competitive yet he would be so nice at the same time."
And from futons to recliners, Lucas somehow seemed to break several pieces of furniture just by sitting in them. While in the Army, he managed to break a cot as well.
"Lucas is a big guy," Kelly said. "Everybody knew that about him. He just would kind of break stuff."
Army personnel once told Kelly that Lucas should be sent to the Army training so that products could be "Frantz-tested."
Friday night ceremony
Friday's pregame ceremony at the Tonganoxie-De Soto provided a patriotic setting.
Fans were given small American flags while large flags lined other areas of Beatty Field.
"Lucas was there," Kelly said. "He was definitely watching. It was perfect."
Her brother was impressed with the turnout.
"It's probably the most people I'd seen at a Tonganoxie football game," Colby Qualls said.
As Lucas' jersey and number were retired, several teammates and friends gathered near the family.
Announcer Phil Williams read a few words that were prepared for the ceremony.
He mentioned that in the Chieftain locker room, the words "play like a champion" can be found.
"Lucas, you played life like a champion," Williams said. "We love you."
THS coach Mark Elston had prepared the message.
"It was extremely difficult trying to get everything in there in a short amount of time and emotionally trying to write it," Elston said. "It took pretty much all of one afternoon."
During the ceremony, Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." played over the stadium's speakers.
The school paid tribute to a player known as Killer when he stepped on the football field.
"When he came to football practice and game nights, that was the enemy and he wanted to destroy them," Elston said. "When he put the helmet on, he was ready to scrap it out, but when he took the helmet off, you couldn't ask for a better kid."
Protesters expected again
Members of Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka protested at Friday's ceremony. The church is known for protesting against gays and, more recently, soldiers.
Billy Adcox of the Tonganoxie police department said a 39-year-old Tonganoxie woman was cited for disorderly conduct when she approached the protesters.
Members of the Combat Veteran Motorcycles Association countered the Phelps' group by revving their motorcycles near the group.
City Administrator Mike Yanez said Tuesday that Phelps' group planned to protest again Thursday at Frantz's funeral.
Yanez said he hopes there are few problems on Thursday.
"I think most of the local citizens kept their cool," Yanez said. "Losing our cool is what the protesting group expects. By maintaining composure we just show confidence in our own beliefs."
Members of Shannon Riley and Tina Reischman's families plan to protest the Phelps' group. Riley said she spoke to Tonganoxie police about supporting Frantz outside the park.
"We support our troops and we love Lucas," Riley said. "It's not right for them to be doing what they're doing."
Lucas' family, though, has focused on the positive feedback they've received, not just from Tonganoxie, but across the country.
"Everybody's just has been so amazed by it," Kim Qualls said. "It's touched everybody's lives here in Tonganoxie for sure."
And for her twin sister, Kelly, she has received support from many.
"That was Lucas' main thing, he wanted to take care of me," Kelly said. "He still is. He's making sure I'm still taken care of."