Frank Reuter loved to learn. He was a scholar of Old English, teaching others to appreciate the history of language and an editor of modern English, especially proud of helping prison inmates publish their work. Throughout his life he strove to maintain the German he’d learned from his parents, who left Germany in the 1930s as authoritarianism transformed their homeland. Later in life, he found great joy in reestablishing contact with relatives who had remained behind.

Yet human language was not the only system that fascinated him. Despite a birth in the Bronx and childhood in urban New Jersey, or perhaps because of this, he developed a deep and lifelong interest in the natural world. An early Jesuit education developed into a deep respect for science, which appealed to his Teutonic instincts for rational order, the same desire to figure things out that led his father to start a business based on an improved valve design. As one of his intellectual heroes, Richard Dawkins, wrote, “The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver.”

Music was a love that led to love, as when an invitation to dance in 1962 led to a marriage of 53 years that spanned states from Alaska to Arkansas. He and Mary finally settled on an Ozark homestead in 1977, where they worked together to put down roots in the soil and the community. Their gardens flourished, vibrant blueberry bushes being an especial source of pride, and their kitchen overflowed with the fruits of hard work. A dedicated birdwatcher, he quickly became involved in regional conservation and education efforts, earning recognition as a Conservation Communicator of the Year from the Arkansas Wildlife Federation. Teaching himself to play guitar, he appreciated the storytelling built into folk music, reflecting the narratives of his intellectual world from Anglo-Saxon poetry to scientific discovery.

He and Mary were true life partners, building a happy marriage on a foundation of shared interests and values. They raised two children in the Ozark countryside, passing along his intellectual rigor and work ethic to both. The guitar and storytelling continues on in his son, Andy, and the love of science and nature in his daughter, Joanna. The family traveled often on road trips throughout the region, while memorable trips abroad included a visit to France with an adolescent Andy and time spent in Italy with college-age Joanna while studying abroad. Travel remains an important part of his children’s lives.

Late in life, as his health began to fail, he and Mary made the difficult decision to leave their home and gardens of 43 years and moved north to central Missouri, nearer to family and care. As he quietly slipped away, peaceful at home, he was kept company by loved ones telling stories at his bedside. Near the end, as we read to him from his beloved Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, he may have heard lines spoken in part by the Danish Queen Wealhtheow (after whom he’d wanted to name a daughter):

“You have fared in life so that far and near

Forever and ever, you will be honored…

Thus it is duly just

That one praise his prince in poem and story

And hold him in heart when he must head away

Forth from flesh elsewhere.”

Frank was preceded in death by his parents, Franz and Paula, and is survived by his sister, Rose; his wife, Mary; his son, Andy; grandson, Grant; his daughter, Joanna and her husband, Eric; and more relatives and friends than can be listed here. He was special to all of us and we are grateful for our time together.

  • Molly Hart is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. She has previously reported on state government. She can be reached at mhart@mail.missouri.edu.

  • Executive editor and Missouri Community Newspaper Management Chair

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