Wolfgang Franz was 14 when he escaped from East Germany, risking being sent to a uranium mine if he was caught. He was 21 and a journeyman carpenter when he immigrated to the U.S. with no English, $13 in his pocket – and a heart full of hope.
His unlikely sponsor? A fellow carpenter, a first generation American whose parents had emigrated from Norway, a man who'd fought in Germany, lost his brother to a German bullet, and – struggling with bitter hatred – was following his pastor's advice in a search for personal peace.
Franz found work as a carpenter, eventually enrolled on probation at Central Washington University, graduated in four years at the top of his class and went on to earn a doctorate at Washington State University. Then he returned to CWU to teach economics, building a reputation along the way for public service that earned him recognition as a Distinguished Professor Award honoree in 1987.
Now 82 and retired, he's trim, active, still weighs almost to the pound what he did as an amateur boxer in his younger years and is an avid ballroom dancing enthusiast who hones his talent in classes at the college.
He's also a man with a keen appreciation for efficiency. It's what prompted Franz to write a letter lauding Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) Anita Schiltz, the newest provider at KVH Internal Medicine.
Flash back to late November 2016 when Franz developed diverticulitis. He called the clinic and saw Schiltz at 9 a.m. She had ordered a blood test, analyzed it and called in a prescription all within three hours.
Then came the extra step. At a follow up appointment a short time later, Schiltz noted that the test had shown his sodium level was low and advised him to discontinue a medication he was taking for acid reflux.
Franz doesn't relish falling ill, but when he came down with a urinary tract infection in February 2017 he was delighted to find that his experience last fall wasn't an anomaly. “I called the clinic at 7:30 a.m., saw Anita at 9 a.m. and had a urine test half an hour later,” he says. “Within an hour, I had a pill in my mouth.”
Consider Franz duly impressed by what he calls “superb and efficient treatment right here at home from Anita Schiltz.”
“As a professor of economics I love efficiency,” he says. “At KVH Internal Medicine, I not only got outstanding care but also incredible efficiency.” The only thing that might impress him more is if Schiltz loved ballroom dancing, an activity he took up at the age of 71.
Accomplished at everything from the tango to the cha cha, it's the slow waltz that owns his heart, the polka that draws him to Oktoberfest in Leavenworth every fall and the jive that earned him raves on a “Dancing with the Stars” cruise he and his wife Joyce took to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
A hip replacement he had seven years ago slowed him only for a short time. “When I got to Oktoberfest I danced with sixty women,” he says laughing, dancing around the living room of the Ellensburg home he built himself where he and Joyce raised their two sons. “I can dance about three polkas in a row without a rest.”
Some time ago, he says, he and Joyce sat together chatting theoretically about how they hope to die when their time comes – hopefully not for awhile yet.
“Dancing at Oktoberfest,” he told her. She looked at him. “You mean you'd rather die in the arms of a young woman you barely know than in my arms?” she asked.
“And then,” he says, grinning, “she laughed.”