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Frank Joseph Napp

April 16, 1923 June 14, 2019
Frank Joseph Napp
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Obituary for Frank Joseph Napp

A Man Who Personified the American Journey

Born on April 16, 1923, in Elmhurst Queens, New York, Francesco Giuseppe Napolitano was a first generation Italian American and the son of immigrants Pasqual, born in Naples, and Gaetano Verde, born in Vico Equesena, Napolitano. Francesco was the youngest of eight children; he had six sisters and a brother. Growing up in New York during the ’20s and ’30s, Francesco developed a love of sports, music,dancing, gardening and most of all, education.

At the outset of World War II, at 18, Francesco volunteered for service in the United States Navy. Recognized for his intellect and leadership skills, Francesco was designated for an officers’ training program where he earned the rank of Lieutenant JG. During his Naval service in World War II, he was deployed in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean seas. At that time, Francesco adopted an American version of his name, legally changing it to Frank Joseph Napp.

When World War II ended, Frank entered Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA under the military educational program, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree and becoming the first college graduate in his family. Frank later attended the NYU Stern School of Business. At the outset of the Korean War, Frank was recalled to active duty as a Navy Officer.

In 1951, like many veterans, he met his future wife, Marlene Merkel, while at home on leave from the Korean War. The two met at a CYO Dance, started their courtship and married a year later. This began the 67-year marriage of Marlene, a young girl from Iowa who had moved to New York to become a model and Frank, a Naval Officer from Queens. Their marriage and love for one another have inspired all who have had the blessing of knowing them.

Frank and Marlene started their family while Frank was in the service. Retiring after 12 years in the Navy, the family continued to grow to include Nanelle, Lisa, Ken, Claudia, David, and Gretchen. Ultimately, the family settled in Middletown, NY, where Frank was a tireless husband, father, professional, and community volunteer.

As a father, Frank took an active role in his children’s education, encouraging them to endeavor to earn good grades to attend college. Frank and Marlene’s focus on education paid dividends, with five children graduating college, one earning a doctoral degree, one earning an MBA and two becoming attorneys. All four daughters entered the field of education either as a first or second career and one son is an award-winning photographer.

Frank built a successful business career as a commercial insurance broker with a variety of national insurance companies. He was known for being trustworthy and operating with a high level of integrity, allowing him to retain his clients’ business and friendship over the years. Frank had a 60-year career in the insurance industry and worked until his 90th birthday for Carefree Communities in Scottsdale, Arizona, overseeing insurance and risk management programs.

While in Middletown, where he and Marlene lived for 40 years, Frank was a community leader in Orange County. He volunteered and held leadership roles for the Lions Club, YMCA, the Mohegan Hose Fire Fighters, St. Joseph Elementary School, John Burke Catholic High School and the Knights of Columbus.

Frank’s impact was also felt beyond his immediate family. He was a true friend, father figure, and mentor to countless young men and women who came to know him through his children, his volunteering and his profession. A generation of men and women grew to love Frank and Marlene for their kindness and unwavering support. Although he fathered six children, Frank guided and helped raise many more who consider him a second father, one of his greatest gifts to others.

Frank’s interests were diverse; from being an avid gardener, nurturing a formal English garden, to an accomplished athlete, participating in numerous sports including football, boxing, golf, tennis, racket ball, downhill skiing, and deep sea fishing. He taught his children and grandchildren to swim. He loved to travel and had a love for Italy, where he visited multiple times. He was a terrific dancer, winning Lindy and Polka dance contests in high school. Frank enjoyed art, jazz, and Broadway.

In 1999, Frank and Marlene moved to Scottsdale, AZ, where they developed a new group of friends and spent much time with their son David Napp, a resident of the area. For the last five years, Frank lived in Hillsborough, NC, with Marlene and their daughter, Dr. Lisa Napp, and her spouse Jack Bernhardt.

In 2013, Frank lost the ability to walk on his own, becoming bound to a motorized wheel chair, but one of his greatest qualities was his ability to maintain his dignity throughout. Frank passed away peacefully at 96, at his home in Hillsborough, surrounded by his loving wife Marlene, all six children, his son in law and caregivers.

Frank is survived by his wife Marlene, Nanelle Napp, and her spouse Charles Cocke of Charlotte, Lisa Napp, and her spouse Jack Bernhardt of Hillsborough, Kenneth Napp of Oceano, CA, Claudia Abt and her spouse Pete Abt of Middletown, NY, David Napp of Phoenix, AZ and Gretchen Napp Harrison of Arlington, MA. He is also survived by his grandchildren: Ben Quinn, Colin Abt, Sam Napp, David Abt, Liliana Bernhardt, Kenneth Napp, Jr., Rachel Harrison, Alison Napp, Andrew Harrison, Daniella Napp, and Joaquin Kitaoka.

Instead of flowers, please send donations to Hospice and Palliative Care Center of Alamance-Caswell, 914 Chapel Hill Road, Burlington, NC 27215 or your local Hospice organization.

A memorial service will be held in September 2019 in Hillsborough, NC, with more details to come.

The family is being assisted by Clements Funeral & Cremation Services, Inc. in Hillsborough. Online condolences may be sent to

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