Frank is donating two elaborate handmade toys, below, for A Winter’s Tale auction on Feb. 4.
You can view and bid on Frank’s toys in the silent auction here | At age 95, Frank Mansfield has built hundreds of his signature trucks, trains, and earth-moving toys. He took up woodworking in the late 1940s after serving in World War II, and through the years he’s donated some of his most elaborate pieces to raise funds for Methodist Home for Children.
The first truck, he gave because his friend Freddie Schrimper asked him.
The rest, Freddie says, were all Frank.
Born in Massachusetts, Frank was 3 or 4 years old when his parents died and he was placed in an orphanage. He was never adopted, but he entered foster care and settled with a family that gave him a good home.
“I don’t know who my parents are,” he says. “I have no idea who taught me to read and write. I couldn’t take you to any school I was in until high school and junior high.”
But his foster family lived across the street from his junior high school, and the proximity helped him get involved in extracurricular activities for the first time in his life. He discovered the Boy Scouts: “I didn’t know anything about it except they had a scout troop, and I wanted to get in.”
Frank found his place in scouting and went on to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. After high school, he entered the U.S. Marine Corps and served as an aerial gunner during World War II, then moved to North Carolina and worked in industrial equipment sales. He retired from Dillon Supply Company after 30 years.
Along the way, Frank found ways to serve and guide young people, as others had done for him: He taught Sunday school classes to Methodist Orphanage children at Edenton Street United Methodist Church, and he spent 50 years in scouting, including 25 as scout master. The toy-making expanded his woodworking skills and his circle of friends.
Today, Frank likes to entertain guests, especially his former scouts, and revisit some of the toys he made, testing the ladder extensions and wheels after all these years. There have been so many trucks and earthmovers, they run together in his memory now. But we think it’s safe to say that our two pieces are his favorites:
“Every one is my favorite,” he says with a chuckle, “once I make it.”