Twelve years ago, Frank Dean Baity of Elkin was killed on I-77 when he was working a towing incident for Southeastern Cars & Parts. Two weeks ago, he was initiated in the International Towing & Recovery Museum Wall of Fame in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
“He was a great man. Everybody liked him,” said Baity’s friend, Rudy Holbrook, of SE Cars and Parts, who attended the induction. “He would do you a favor any way he could, even if you or he was under stress. If you didn’t have the money, he would take care of you anyway. He never left anybody stranded.”
Baity died 12 years ago during a towing job on I-77. Another towing service had called and asked Baity to come out and help him. There had been a wreck on I-77 and the man doing the towing for them was elderly and needed assistance. When Baity started coming down the road loaded, an out-of-state truck driver came along and ran straight into the back of Baity’s vehicle, knocking him off the road and killing him. Holbrook said the truck driver, they later found out through a state trooper, had ran into him at 75 miles per hour and had been driving 16 hours on the road non-stop.
“He just ran over him. That’s all there was to it,” said Holbrook. “It was one of the worst things that ever happened to me. When you’re close to somebody like that, they become just as much family as they are an employee.”
Frank Baity was married to Susan Baity, and he had two children and two stepchildren.
“He was a wonderful person,” said Susan Baity. “It didn’t matter who they were or where they were, he was always willing to hep anybody.
“I met him previously when I was in high school and then we went our separate ways until we ran into each other again later,” she said. “He went through a divorce and I went through a divorce and it all just fell together. He would have had four grandchildren which he would have spoiled rotten. He was just a very special person.”
Holbrook knew Frank Baity for 20-plus years and had become colleagues and friends during that time.
“He was the type of person who got along with everybody well,” said Holbrook. “He was a pretty comical guy and a true friend, more like a brother. I don’t have any brothers, I have three sisters. If I had a brother, he would have been one of them. We grew up together, but we were never friends until we went to work. When you work with somebody, you’re with them all the time.”
Baity worked a tough job on the road, always having to go out around the clock, rain or shine, on the interstate.
“It’s a tough job,” said Holbrook. “Twenty-four-hour days, seven days a week, you’re always on call whether it’s 2 in the morning, 3, whenever. He always went, he never turned anything down. He was a dedicated guy, even in the worst of weather.”
Baity was remembered at the International Towing & Recovery Museum Wall of Fame in Chattanooga. Twenty-two people were inducted the same day as Baity, and about 1,000 people attended the ceremony on Sept. 10.
“I’m glad we got him on that wall. We were visiting in Chattanooga and we received an application,” said Holbrook. “They were nice people at the museum. When they called, they had to have a newspaper article, birth certificate and several pieces of information. We sent that in and they sent me a letter saying they were received it. A week later, he was on the wall.”
“I was really pleased,” said Susan Baity. “It was bittersweet. I was tickled that somebody had recognized him. All the kids were there, both his and mine, his grandchildren, and several of our family members.”
“We had never seen such a crowd,” said Holbrook. “There were a lot of people who couldn’t get in. That’s how well liked he was. He was such a good guy.”
Even 12 years later, Baity has continued to be remembered by locals for his hard work, kindness and generosity, and dedication to his friends and family.
“He was wonderful with me,” said Susan Baity. “After he passed away, a girl told me, ‘Frank would tell us what you were wearing.’ He would talk to me all the time in the morning before work. He loved Christmas. He loved getting the stuff ready for Christmas and getting the stuff ready for the kids. The way he was with the kids. We went to the beach and he would get out and play with the kids in the pool. My favorite memory though was when we got married, where he was in his uniform. I will never forget that.”
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.