Few people live to be 100 years old, and even fewer can claim to have had a lifetime as remarkable as that of Frank Lutz.
Just two months after his centennial birthday celebration, Lutz — Limestone County’s oldest World War II-era veteran — died Wednesday.
In addition to being survived by an older sister, three children, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, he is also survived by his wife of 66 years and fellow wartime hero, Nell Lutz.
Frank Lutz was born Oct. 4, 1911, in Spangler, Pa. A lifelong outdoorsman and lover of natural history, he would explore the woods around his boyhood home in New Jersey. He and his family established the nation’s first self-guided nature trail at Harriman State Park in Tuxedo, N.Y.
“He was a naturalist from way back,” said his son, Tom Lutz of Mt. Juliet, Tenn. “He was extremely interested in natural history, birds and plants. Bankhead Natural Forest was one of his favorite haunts.”
After attending public schools in Ramsey, N.J., he continued his schooling at Phillips Exeter Academy. In 1933, he graduated from Brown University with a degree in chemistry.
After working in the textile industry in Millville, N.J., he enlisted with the U.S. Navy during World War II. It was in Portsmouth, Va., where Lt. Junior Grade Frank Lutz met his future wife, Nell Smith. A Florida native, she had enlisted as a WAVE, or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.
In a story published in The News Courier in 2009, Nell said she was an assistant paymaster at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, and Frank always arrived promptly to collect his paycheck.
“One day we were both on the bus and we got to talking about fishing and I said I just love to go fishing, but I didn’t have a canoe,” said Nell. “He said he had a canoe. Then one day he turned up at my work with a canoe and asked if I was ready to go fishing.”