Inspiring Okeechobee: Frank DeCarlo loves people even when they aren’t lovable

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Frank DeCarlo is getting ready to do some cooking.

 

Frank DeCarlo doesn’t see today, he sees what he will leave behind, says his daughter Sarah Reno. He doesn’t care about himself at all she explained. “Everything he does is either for his family, God, his church or to help someone else.” He loves his family, and his dream is to have a legacy to leave them someday.

Frank was born in Newark, NJ and has two sisters — one is his twin and one is older. His father passed away a few years ago, but his mother is still living in Saint Augustine along with all the cousins.

The DeCarlo family lives on what Sarah laughingly calls a 30-acre compound, each in their own home with the exception of adopted son Chris who moved to the big city. Frank has five children — two girls, Sarah and Autumn, and three boys, Tony, Frank Jr. and Chris — and most of the family work with him in his business, American Drilling Services. Sarah explained, Chris was adopted after he came to visit as a foreign exchange student from China for eight months. He stayed in their home and when the time came for him to leave, he asked Frank if he would adopt him. Chris told Frank his parents supported his decision and would pay for everything including his college expenses. This was their way of trying to give Chris a better life. By this time, Sarah said, the family loved Chris and of course, Frank said yes. Not long ago, Frank made a trip to China with Chris when Chris got married and he was able to meet Chris’ parents for the first time. It was an emotional experience for everyone, she said.

Frank loves his church, Christ Fellowship, and one of his favorite things to do is to cook breakfast for them on Sunday mornings. He goes out on Saturday nights and purchases the supplies, and then early on Sunday morning he starts cooking. Sometimes he cooks for the Wednesday night youth group fellowships and he often volunteers to grill for charities. He even cooks for Christ Fellowship in other countries sometimes.

Frank’s son Tony said, “Dad loves people and he does things to help others so often that he forgets he even did them. Many times people have come in to the shop and asked, ‘Do you remember the time you did this…?’ But Dad never remembers. He doesn’t remember because doing nice things comes naturally to him. It’s not an unusual occurrence for him to stop and change someone’s tire or to buy someone a bag of groceries so those things don’t stand out in his memory.” Honestly, he would give away the shop if we didn’t stop him, Sarah jokes. He also doesn’t keep track of wrongs done to him, says Sarah. “He does not hold grudges, ever!”

Debi Large, one of Frank’s friends said he is one of the most giving, compassionate and sensitive people she has ever met. “He’s humble and hates attention. If he believes in a cause, he’s all in from building to cooking to running around helping in every area, and yet he is humble enough to be completely content picking up the trash,” she said.

The Pregnancy Center is near and dear to his heart because abortion breaks his heart, and he feels they are helping to prevent that. He serves on their board and helps in any way he can.

The Real Life Children’s Ranch is another of Frank’s passions, and Sarah said if he could spend the rest of his life anywhere, she believes it would be there. At Christmas time he takes the kids on buggy and airboat rides. He makes sure they all get free t-shirts and gifts, and several times a year he stocks up their freezer.

Sarah said her dad spreads himself too thin. “He’s the hardest working person I’ve ever known in my life,” she said. When they were younger, he ran a half-way house out of their home. He would go pick men up after they finished their time at Faith Farm or Dunklin and bring them home with him. He would teach them a trade and mentor them. For a while, he did horse camps for kids in the summer so they could learn to ride. He made mission trips to Haiti and built a well-drilling rig and sent it to the Rotary Club of Haiti. He even dipped strawberries in chocolate in the middle of the night at Brown Cow to help them get ready for Valentines Day for the last four years.

Kirk Corwin, an employee, said, “He accepted me for who I am. He inspired me to help the community after the hurricane, and we fed the linemen.”
“He never does anything to be recognized,” said Tony. “He does it because it needs to be done.”

“Dad taught us to be generous. He believes if he holds his hand open, God will continue to fill it. He gives expecting nothing in return — to a fault almost. He stresses me out where I can’t sleep sometimes, but he has taught us to love people even when they aren’t lovable, said Sarah.

Who inspires you? Nominate your personal hero as a subject for a future Inspiring Okeechobee feature. Email your nomination to okeenews@newszap,com.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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