Frank Shankwitz, an Arizona highway patrol officer who, after helping a terminally ill boy realize his dream of becoming a motorcycle cop, founded the Make-A-Wish Foundation and served as its first president, 24 Jan died at his home. In Prescott, Eries. He was 77.
His wife, Kitty Shankwitz, said the cause was esophageal cancer.
Mr. Shankwicz was on patrol in April 1980 when one of his supervisors radioed him to return to Phoenix headquarters. The department learned of a boy named Chris Grecis who wanted to be a motorcycle officer when he grew up, like Ponch and John, his favorite television shows, “CHiP. He also had end-stage leukemia.
The department had decided to make Chris’ wish come true, if only for a few days. A police helicopter transported him from the hospital to the police headquarters where he was being treated. Mr. Shankwijt was to greet the front, on the front of his motorcycle.
“Shankarjit has written in his memoir” Wish Man “(2018),” I was shocked when I discovered that he would be brought in a wheelchair when the door opened and a pair of sneakers emerged. “” Out step Chris, an excited 7-year-old boy who seemed so full of life that it was hard to believe he was ill. “
Mr. Shankwitz showed Chris his motorcycle, and after that and other officers gave him a badge, the head of the department made him an honorary officer. Chris felt well enough to go home that night, and the next day officers gave him a custom-made uniform.
To become a motorcycle officer, however, Chris had to pass a driving test, which he did in his front yard, on his small battery-powered motorcycle. Mr. Shankwitz promised to bring him a special badge worn by the motorcycle police; He also told NBC, the network that broadcasts “CHiPs”, and asked the show’s stars, Eric Estrada and Larry Wilcox, to autograph a photo.
The next day Chris was back in the hospital, and by the time Mr. Shankwij arrived with the badge and picture, he was in a light coma. Chris had hung his uniform from the bed, and the boy awoke as soon as Mr. Shankwicz put a badge on his shirt.
“Am I an official motorcycle cop now?” Chris asked.
“You sure do,” Mr. Shankwitz answered.
Chris died that day. Mr. Shankwicz and a colleague attended his funeral in southern Illinois, borrowing a pair of Illinois Highway Patrol motorcycles to accompany him to the funeral.
On the flight home, Mr. Shankwitz attempted to process all that had happened. He realized what the department has done for Chris, something he and his friends can do for other children.
Before embarking, he planned to become the Make-A-Wish Foundation a few months later. Today the organization has 64 chapters in the United States and 36 internationally, which have granted “wishes” – From “eat in a restaurant” to “meet the Pope” – Seriously ill children over 500,000.
Frank Earl Shankwijk was born on March 8, 1943 in Chicago. His father, Frank Paul Shankwitz, was a salesman in Montgomery Ward. His mother, Lorraine Geraldine (Matthews) Shankwitz, was a waitress.
When he was 2 years old, his parents split up and his custody was fiercely fought – his mother abducted him several times, only to make an uneasy arrangement with his father. When Frank was 10 years old, he took him with him to Arizona, where they lived in a trailer in the town of Seligman, located close enough to the Nevada border, which Mr. Shankwicz recalled after seeing the glow from atomic bomb tests.
Mr. Shankwitz joined the Air Force soon after high school and served as a military police officer for five years, mostly at bomber bases in England. He left service in 1965 and moved to Phoenix, where he worked for Motorola and enrolled in night classes at a local community college.
Although he was rapidly building a white-collar career – by 1970 he had a wife, two children and a mortgage and earned a college degree and a series of promotions – he was growing restless with office life. Some of his high school friends had joined the Arizona Highway Patrol, and it did not take much kajoling to apply for him. He was accepted in 1972; In 1975 he became part of an elite motorcycle unit tasked with patrolling the entire state.
In 1978, Mr. Shankwijt was chasing a drunken driver when another drunken driver blinded him. His partner declared him dead, but a pass-off-duty nurse performed CPR, reviving him. It took him over a year to recover, and shortly after returning to duty he met Chris Grecis.
A few months after Chris’s funeral, Mr. Shankwicz and five others founded the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 1980. It developed rapidly: within a few years it had become a national organization, with state chapters almost monthly.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters Christine Chester and Dennis Partlow; Three grandchildren; And two great-grandchildren. Her first marriage, to Suu Dara, ended in divorce.
Mr. Shankwitz never took a salary from Make-A-Wish and remained an active-duty state trooper until 1996; He later worked for the State Department of Motor Vehicles. He received the Presidential Call to Service Award twice and the subject was 2019 biopic “Wish Man”, starring Andrew Steele as Andrew Shankwitz.
Mr. Shankwitz stepped in as the foundation’s president in 1984. But he remained its most ambassador for decades, advising chapters on traveling the country and meeting with “wish kids”.
He wrote in his memoir, “I wake up every day with a passion to change my life.” “It was once enough for me to have a father, a shepherd and a highway patrol officer. But my destination changed. “