By Betsy Finklea
Gerald Berry of the Dillon Historic School Foundation appeared before the Dillon City Council at their January meeting to make a big announcement.
A contribution of $308,000 has been made to the Dillon Historic School Foundation for the DHS 1936 Auditorium restoration project by Frank X. Hursey, a Dillon native and graduate of Dillon High School.
Berry said that Hursey had been following the Dillon Historic School Foundation’s progress as recorded in The Dillon Herald. Berry said Hursey called him and said he was very much interested in saving and renovating the old auditorium at his alma mater. Berry said they have had several calls giving updates. Over the past month, Hursey has offered advice and his own financial support with the donation.
Berry read the letter sent by Hursey to the Dillon City Council. It reads:
To: The Dillon City Council Members and Fellow Dillonites
From: Frank X. Hursey
Today, the Dillon Historic School Foundation’s “DHS 1936 Auditorium Project” received a check from me to restore the old auditorium to its original grand look. My contribution was $308,000. (Note: This generous gift was donated to cover the costs of items and installations necessary to upgrade the 1936 Auditorium by equipping it with light and sound systems, a video system, interior and exterior lighting, custom-made fencing, and restorations of two pianos).
I have been asked to write a bit about my life experience.
I always thought my education at East Elementary, Middle School, and Dillon High School (Class of ’62) gave me the foundation to attend higher learning schools and meet life’s challenges. I occasionally see some of my high school classmates and connect with others through email. Unfortunately, some of my close school friends have passed on, but they are still fondly remembered.
I was born at St. Eugene Hospital in 1944. My three sisters, Jane, Judy, Joan and I grew up on Washington St. and then Roosevelt St. The fifties had to be the best time ever to experience childhood: unlocked bicycles and freedom to safety roam anywhere. It was days of climbing trees, digging tunnels, fishing, and later hunting. A Saturday movie was ten cents admission and the same for coke and popcorn. My first job at age seven was selling boiled peanuts and snowballs on Main Street. Later, I had a paper route (The Charlotte Observer) and enjoyed reading the news before others got up to face the day. The Russian Sputnik was an eye opener for all of us.
My father, Frank, worked for The Dillon Herald for many years. The paper in those day was printed using lead linotype plates. His machine was by a window, and kids enjoyed watching the movements of the machine parts as type was formed.
In 1963, my father passed. My mother, Judy, Joan, and I moved to Connecticut as there was work available for Judy and me. I was lucky to work on the Apollo (“Man to the Moon”) Program as an engineer aide at Pratt and Whitney Aircraft. After this experience, I decided to study engineering. I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Hartford. Later, I earned a Master’s Degree in business management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Hartford).
I married my wife, Nancy, fifty-five years ago and have three children: Kristin, Heidi, and Jon, and nine grandchildren. They all have a love for education.
What I really wanted to do over the years was own my own business. In 1987, I started OnSite Gas Systems to manufacture oxygen and nitrogen generators. This endeavor is still going strong after 36 years. It’s ironic that a product I use in the gas company, zeolite, turns out to be a hemostatic agent. I tested it and miraculously, it stopped the bleeding. I got a patent for it, and with the help of a marketing genius, sold the packaged product to the U.S. Marines. It is called QUIKCLOT and some are calling it historical. It is used now by all branches of the military, as well as commercially and has saved thousands of lives. A book called “QUIKCLOT In The Blood” author Charlie Barber, is being published May 30th of this year. A potential movie is to follow.
Recently, the University of Hartford named a campus building in Nancy’s and my name. It is called The Francis X. and Nancy Hursey Center for Advanced Engineering and Health Sciences. It will produce world class engineers and nurses. Nancy is a retired RN.
We also built Camp St. Mary’s in Uganda, based on a camp I attended in Richland, South Carolina as a child. Here children are learning life skills, ecology, fish farming, gardening, and religion.
I have always enjoyed home ownership, and Nancy and I have been fortunate to own several. One of my favorites is on the ocean in Garden City. I still love beach days, boiled peanuts, field peas and butterbeans.
So, my life has been interesting, and I owe so much to Dillon. It was, and probably still is, a great place to grow up and live – a place where a small town boy can make a difference in the world, and I thank all who have helped me along the way.
Frank X. Hursey
January 8, 2023