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Black History Month: Barbados man becomes successful dentist, community member and business man in Cranbrook

In honour of Black History Month, looked into the life of Dr. Oswald Bedford Franklin, a man from Barbados who made his way to Cranbrook to become a successful dentist and businessman with significant involvement in the community.

Wayne Franklin, Oswald’s son, said his father was a loving, community-minded man, who was forward-thinking.

“Every good golfer leaves a golf course in better shape than when they arrived, that was his outlook on business, with life and with people. He wanted to leave them better than when he first met them,” said Franklin. “It was the same with the Rotary Club, the College of the Rockies that he was Chairman of, the AOTS (As One To Serve) men’s club and the same with a lot of the different school boards he was a part of. A lot of the different things he was involved with, he had that golfer’s mentality and attitude towards.”

An article from the Cranbrook Townsman dated October 31, 1979. (Supplied by Cranbrook History Centre)

According to a Cranbrook Townsman article dated October 31st, 1979, Oswald served four terms as a school board trustee, he was also chairman and later a board member at the East Kootenay Community College (now College of the Rockies). Oswald’s involvement in the community also included a board membership and senior choir role at the United Church. He was also president of the Rotary Club from 1972 to 1974.

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Wayne Franklin also noted that his father was involved in the planning and opening of Pinewood Elementary School with then Social Credit Party MLA Terry Segarty.

Oswald Franklin came from a large family who went into a diverse range of careers.

“My father came from nine brothers and sisters and they all went on to become successful people, actually both my mom and dad’s family became nurses, a painter, school headmaster, piano teacher, trucking company owner, police officer, real estate developer, investor, federal accountant, accountants, engineer, dentist, and a city planner, among others,” explained Franklin.

Oswald’s wife, Wilma, came from a family with 15 children, including her. Wilma worked as a registered nurse.

Wilma Franklin holding Wayne as an infant in Altona, Manitoba in 1967. (Supplied by Wayne Franklin)

Franklin said his father worked as a train porter in the U.S. to pay for his education at the University of Manitoba and Toronto before coming to the East Kootenay. Porters were workers, who were usually Black men that attended to every need of the passengers.

“He put himself through school, just working in the summers. He first did two years of engineering before he changed his major, then he went on to do, I believe, seven years and got his doctorate in dentistry,” said Franklin.

His son said Oswald first worked as a dentist for the government, traveling between Cranbrook and Fernie. He later set up his own practice along Baker Street in the late ’60s.

Franklin noted that on top of being a dentist, Oswald also became a real estate investor who owned a number of properties around the community. This inspired Wayne, who is now a real estate agent, to follow that same path.

“Yes, he was a dentist, and an alternate part of him was that he was quite an investor. Watching him through the ’70s is a big part of why I came into real estate and started to sell and invest in real estate myself.”

Oswald suffered an aneurysm in 1984, and his health began to decline. However, Franklin said this showed him who his father really was.

“That’s where I got the pleasure of seeing the true measure of a man. We buried his wife, my mom, in 1995, his left side was paralyzed, he couldn’t walk or work or give speeches as he used to do on the school board to grad classes. That man couldn’t wait to get out of his hospital bed every morning, and he had such a zest for life after he had lost everything,” explained Franklin. “That spoke to me volumes, so much more than what he had done in life, because it’s what you do when you have nothing left. That’s a true measure of a beautiful person.”

Dr. Oswald Bedford Franklin was born on September 23, 1935, and passed away on March 8, 2002, at the age of 66.

Dr. Oswald Bedford Franklin passed away on March 8th, 2002. (Supplied by Wayne Franklin)

Story note: This article was written with the assistance of the Cranbrook History Centre. thanks Wayne Franklin and family for sharing Dr. Oswald Bedford Franklin’s story.

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