Dale Clarke Franz is a former newspaper reporter and editor who ventured into the largest contiguous acreage of state forest in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and found rich material to write about. After gathering history, his own forest experience, and the expertise of half a dozen contributors into a book in 1985, Franz went from managing a bookstore to operating a photographic studio. With continued interest shown for the book, he was persuaded to update it for a new edition two decades later.
During his first 22 years in Northern Michigan, he helped organize an environmental organization that stopped a multinational corporation from opening a chemical plant over a vulnerable northern Michigan aquifer. That led to his appointment as a county planning commissioner and then as the first independent planning and zoning administrator for the county’s 500 square miles of northern Michigan land surrounding Gaylord.
As a teenager, Dale Franz grew fascinated with well-composed words at Royal Oak High School (later Dondero) by writing and taking pictures for the school paper, and by struggling, as he saw it, to make sense of poetry. To his surprise, classmates praised him as a young man who actually understood some of it.
He has lived or worked in Edison, Metuchen, Perth Amboy, Fords, and Delran, New Jersey; Virginia Beach and Norfolk, VA; Glenside and Philadelphia, PA; Waters, Dover Township, and Gaylord in northern Michigan, and Detroit, Royal Oak, Richmond, and Ann Arbor in southern Michigan.
For a year after college (Wayne and Michigan State universities) he was the editor, sole reporter, and the photographer and photoengraver of a weekly paper in Richmond, MI.
He spent four years of America’s military draft era on active duty as a Navy officer. He learned that those fellows with better vision who were learning to fly naval aircraft had quick minds and cool presence in the face of danger; it motivated him to apply his own resources in gathering, evaluating, and disseminating the information that when well done became intelligence.
Franz trained in Pensacola, FL, received a commission as Navy ensign, then studied at the Defense Intelligence School in
Washington. He cruised the Mediterranean Sea for several months aboard the Navy carrier USS Forrestal in 1962, visiting ports in Spain, Italy, France, and Greece. For two years in Virginia Beach, VA, he was an aviation training squadron briefing officer by day and a copyeditor for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot evenings.
After active duty in the Navy, he was a reporter and then city editor and photo editor of a newspaper in central New Jersey (the Perth Amboy Evening News, now called the Home News Tribune).
As a Naval Reserve officer, Franz studied strategic planning in WashingtonD.C., Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA, and computer language in Boulder, CO.
He spent the mid-1960s on the New Jersey paper, then moved to the Telegraph Desk of the Philadephia Bulletin, at the time one of the largest afternoon papers in the country. Among articles he handled were those about the Vietnam War, the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate investigation, and the Apollo moon landings. While in Philadelphia, he took graduate courses in American History at Temple University.
At Heart Lake in northern Michigan with his wife and two sons, he resumed his own boyhood companionship with dogs, jogging every morning on wooded trails, and in summer swimming in the lake before bicycling alone 10 miles to the bookstore in Gaylord. He learned later during urban dog walks that the scrubby edge of untended vegetation is more interesting to alert beings than the manicured lawn of a park.
He’s had an active community life, organizing such things as a lake association, the Headwaters Environmental Group, a resources management advisory committee, a natural food cooperative, a rejuvenated arts council, and a writing workshop.
He’s enjoyed exploring how legal precedents and governmental rules affect people, including such areas as land use. He’s also enjoyed reading literature, science, history, poetry, mythology, and public affairs. Franz has had an affection for movies since his childhood, when he would go with his parents to double-features twice a week.
During his years in the north woods, he maintained contact with journalism in part through lively conversation with his brother-in-law, Don Caswell, a noted copyeditor for the New York Times until his retirement. He returned with his wife to the north woods near Gaylord in 2014.
In recent years, Franz has concentrated on our relationship to life around us. In 2018 he published another book, Jack: A Journey.