By Cathy B. Koplen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star
---- — Franklyn H. Rollins
COOPERSTOWN — Franklyn H. Rollins, a retired Cooperstown Central School music teacher, who was equally, if not more well-known for his excellence in the field of photography, "reached the end of the road" on Monday evening, Dec. 2, 2013, at Otsego Manor. A former resident of Linden Avenue and more recently the Clara Welch Thanksgiving Home, Frank was 96.
Born in Syracuse on Nov. 13, 1917, Frank was a son of Karl B. and Goldie (Holt) Rollins. Proud of a great-grandfather who served in the Civil War, Frank was fond of a photograph he possessed taken when he was a year old that featured five generations of his family. Raised in the University section of Syracuse, he lived there until the sixth grade when his mother and younger brothers — Eugene, who they called "Doc" and Tom — moved to Earlville to be closer to his maternal relatives in 1931.
At Earlville, Frank became interested in music and started informal musical groups at the school before the first band director was hired. When that director was hired, while Frank was still in high school, he lived at the Rollins' house. Frank once stated, "Three of the band directors stayed at my house. My mom used to take in teachers to make some extra money,” illustrating a custom of hosting teachers that has ceased in present generations.
Frank took his interest in music to college and graduated from the Crane School of Music at the Potsdam Normal School — now SUNY Potsdam — in 1941, majoring in percussion. He received his master’s degree from the Columbia Teachers College by taking summer sessions for three years to finish his degree in 1947. For 33 years, Frank taught band and choir at Oakfield, Cobleskill and Cooperstown schools before he retired from Cooperstown Central School in 1974.
In addition to his musical interests, Frank had a talent for photography that developed at an early age. It was in Syracuse at the age of 10 that Frank got his first taste of photography when he took a filled grocery store punch card and redeemed it for a camera and a roll of film at the local super market. After his grocery store camera Frank moved on to his mother's boxed Brownie, a classic camera he used on and off for years.
It was when he moved to Cobleskill to teach that his passion for photography truly flowered. Cliff Van Dervort, a professional photographer in Cobleskill, took Frank under his wing and taught him the trade.
Although he saw his photography skills flourish in Cobleskill, Frank grew tired of teaching there, and applied for the vocal teacher position at Cooperstown. After a successful interview with then-principal Nicholas J. Sterling Sr., he began teaching in Cooperstown in the fall of 1957. He first lived in a rented apartment on Pine Boulevard but soon after purchased his first, and only, house on Linden Avenue.
When the move was made to a new school building in February of 1969, the auditorium was opened with a production of "Oklahoma!" with Frank conducting the pit orchestra. He went on to conduct for five more musicals including "Guys and Dolls" and "South Pacific."
For a time he photographed the dress rehearsals for school musicals as well as productions staged by the fledgling Glimmerglass Opera Theatre. Several of the singers Frank taught or photographed throughout those years went on to professional careers in music.
Even after retirement Frank stayed connected to the school through his business, Rollins Photos — which boasted a motto he borrowed from his mentor, Cliff Van Dervort: "a complete photographic service" — taking almost all the photos for the sports teams and a number of senior-year pictures for graduates.
In addition to providing his photography skills to the school, he photographed the classes of the AT&T Data Communications training program held at the Otesaga Hotel in the 1960s. He held this job for nine years until AT&T closed the school in 1969.
For more than 25 years, Frank also photographed the Candy Stripers at Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital and was the official photographer to the Cooperstown Art Association and former Gallery 53 Artworks.
Frank also did copy work of many people's family photographs, and worked with many local photographers including Lady Ostapeck and Leila Durkin.
A multi-talented individual with many interests, Frank was also an airplane pilot, a painter, and at one time tuned pianos. Of the Episcopal faith, he was a member of Christ Church in Cooperstown.
He was preceded in death by his two brothers, Eugene "Doc" Rollins, who died in 1985 and Thomas Alden Rollins, who died in 2011.
Frank is survived by two sisters-in-law, Kathleen Rollins of Longview, Wash., and Alicia Rollins of Florida; and several nieces and nephews.
At Frank's request there will be no calling hours or funeral service. He will be laid to rest next spring in the family burial plot in Earlville Cemetery.
Arrangements are under the care and guidance of the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home in Cooperstown.