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April 27, 1999

Frank Eby was an integral part of the Perry business community when he closed his cleaning shop a few years ago. He was a craftsman, skilled at his trade, but he also shared his time with most of the worthwhile civic projects that came along during his long tenure in that shop just off the square. He was a town booster, a builder and a devoted worker in his church. We've missed his smiling countenance around town and now, with his death at the age of 92, the loss is even more profound.

Frank responded to his country's call during World War II and entered military service even though he was a bit older than most of the recruits around him. Before that he lived and worked through the Great Depression, operating heat-generating equipment long before we knew about airČ-conditioning. I never heard him seriously complain about that aspect of his chosen vocation. It seemed he was always preoccupied with the goal of removing a spot from the delicate fabric of some lady's fine dress, or blocking a gentleman's Stetson, or pressing a pair of trousers sharply but carefully so that no telltale shiny surface became a residue.

Many people will remember him best for the annual Cherokee Strip celebration parades, when he and his wife, Mabel, would ride their tandem bicycle in lazy loops around the square, dressed in period costumes lifted straight out of Perry's early days, Their performances became such a tradition in that yearly September ritual that many of us still looked for Frank and Mabel on the 16th even though we well knew they had retired some time earlier. Frank was interested in the history of this area and was, in fact, a part of it.

Some 50 or more years ago, Perry had a number of dry-cleaning shops, and Eby's Cleaners was one of the best. Let me name some of the others: Perry Steam Laundry, operated by the Martin family at 211 Seventh Street; the Art Cleaners & Walt's Haberdashery, operated by Walt and Thelma Bittman on the north side of the square; the 1-2-3 Cleaners, just up the street from there and operated by Zack McCubbins; and Carrie Denning's Unique Cleaners at 435 Elm Street, now the home of the Shady Lady Steak House. Perhaps there were others that I've forgotten, but I think that's all of them.

Frank was the youngest of nine children born to George and Ermina Eby, and he was the last surviving sibling. All of the Ebys were well regarded and had close connections to Perry. We miss each one of them, and send our condolences to Frank's wife, Mabel, their five sons and daughters, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Through Frank and on their own, their family has had a lasting and positive impact on this community.