Retired Court of Appeal Judge Frank D Upchurch, Jr, of St Augustine passed away on Thursday, October 4, 2012, at the Bailey Center for Caring at the age of 90-years-old; the result of injuries suffered in a fall.
Frank was born in Fernandina Beach on August 19, 1922 and grew up with his brother, Hamilton, in St Augustine. Their father, Frank D. Upchurch, Sr., was a prominent St Augustine attorney, mayor, and state senator.
Frank attended local schools and earned his pilot’s license at the St Augustine airport at the age of fifteen. He attended the Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee and after graduation attended Washington and Lee University.
At the outbreak of World War II he left school to join the Army Air Force. He flew A-20 Havocs with the 417th Bombardment Group, a light bombardment unit of the Third Air Force that saw extensive action in the New Guinea and Philippines campaigns. Before deploying to the Pacific, Frank was seriously injured in a crash on a training mission. After several months in the hospital, he returned to St Augustine to recuperate.
While home, he met Mignon “Tis” Thayer, whose father, Admiral Louis M. Thayer, was stationed at the Coast Guard Officer Training School that had been opened in the Ponce de Leon Hotel.
In early 1944, Frank joined his squadron in New Guinea for the duration of the war. He flew seventy low-level bombing and strafing missions against Japanese forces and achieved the rank of captain. After V-J Day, Frank was discharged from the service in San Francisco and finished college at the College of the Pacific.
Tis and her family had also relocated to San Francisco after the war, and Tis and Frank renewed their acquaintance. They were married in 1948 and settled in Walnut Creek, California, where Frank went to work in the canning business for his uncle, Hamilton Davis. He supervised canning operations and piloted the company plane on business on the west coast, Central America, and the Caribbean.
In 1958 Frank, Tis, and their four young children moved to Gainesville where he attended the University of Florida, College of Law. He graduated in 1960 and returned to St Augustine to join his father and brother Hamilton in the practice of law at Upchurch and Upchurch.
In the 1960s Frank served on the city commission. In 1978 he was appointed to the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Daytona, where he served until he retired in 1988.
When Flagler College was founded in 1968, Judge Upchurch joined Lawrence Lewis and John D. Bailey, Sr., as members of the inaugural Board of Trustees of the college. Together they hired Dr. William L. Proctor as the college’s first president. Judge Upchurch served on the board until he retired in 2009 and was chairman from 1992 until 1998. He, Hamilton Upchurch, their family and friends endowed the Frank D. Upchurch, Sr., Pre-Law Program at the college.
During his retirement, the Judge continued flying well into his seventies. He and Tis also enjoyed boating and cruised extensively together and with family and friends.
Judge Upchurch is survived by Tis, his wife of almost 65 years; daughter Mignon “Dee” Beranek, her husband, John, Dee’s daughter Sarah Brockenbrough, and Sarah’s husband, Will; son Frank D. Upchurch III, his wife, Katherine, their children Will Jones, Susan, and Katherine; daughter Robin Allen, her husband, Dr. Steve Allen, Steve’s son Baxter, son Crane, his wife Eileen, and their son Jack; and son Kramer T. Upchurch, his wife, Sandy, and their daughter Sydney.
Judge Upchurch will be missed by his family and remembered as a good-natured, generous and faithful father and husband with many friends and a long, rewarding life. He will be fondly remembered by many.
Arrangements for a memorial service will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations in Judge Upchurch’s memory may be made to Flagler College or the Bailey Center for Caring.