• info@howardcountymuseum.org

  • 1200 West Sycamore, Kokomo,
    Indiana 46901

  • (765) 452-4314

Frank Stein

In 1944, when Frank Stein was a 25-year-old graduate student at Columbia University in New York City, he kept noticing a certain young woman who walked past his laboratory each day to get a cup of coffee.

Frank was a research physicist working for Nobel-Prize winner I.I. Rabi on the Manhattan Project that resulted in the development of the atomic bomb. The woman – Eleanor Bankoff – was a Columbia alumna who worked in the project’s patent department. After finally meeting and a two-year courtship, Frank proposed on Valentine’s Day 1947. The pair were happily married for the next 64 years.

The couple’s legacy of memories and milestones is legendary. His expertise in solid state physics and semiconductors made him a leader in national and international engineering associations. She was the first female judge in Howard County, Indiana. (Based on her achievements, she was inducted into the Hall of Legends in 2015.) Together they raised three children in Kokomo, Indiana, and are lovingly remembered by 17 grandchildren and great-grandchildren and a legion of friends.

The son of a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, dentist and his wife, Frank taught for a time then rose rapidly as a researcher at Westinghouse and General Instrument Corp. In 1963, the family moved to the Midwest when Frank became Chief Engineer at Delco Radio in Kokomo.

Cultured and curious, Frank and Eleanor worked tirelessly in the Kokomo community, most notably as the guiding force of the Kokomo Community Concert series for classical music. Frank was a fixture at high school science fairs and was a devoted Morning Musicale patron. He served as chairman of the Kokomo Fine Arts Association, helped develop the Haynes Apperson Festival, and was a proud member of Temple B’nai Israel.

A true renaissance man, Frank served on the Indiana Humanities Council and consulted for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Besides classical music and the arts, he reveled in nature and museums, and he loved polar bears (he went to Manitoba with the Smithsonian to see them in the wild). He died in 2014 at the age of 93. Eleanor, later a lawyer and jurist, had died in 2011 at age 88.

At home, family life was vibrant and fulfilling, daughter Joan Stein Jenkins, a California lawyer and mediator, remembered. Family dinners were family time, and Frank was “always our champion” in support of her and brothers Robert, a New York doctor, and William, a translator in Costa Rica.

Her father loved reading to them, Jenkins said. “I can remember him, sitting in the hallway between our rooms with Wordsworth, Lewis Carroll, or Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.’” An all-time favorite poem was Sam Walton Foss’ “House by the Side of Road.” Perhaps no better words could ever express the memory of Frank Stein, than “let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”