Vale Edith Franks – a great environmentalist

Edith Franks at her last Landcare planting bee. Photo supplied

Edith Evelyn Franks nee West (1926 -2018) has passed away peacefully surrounded by the love of all her family.

At 92, she died of having lived a life long enough, although not long enough for the many people who loved her. Her three children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren will miss her beyond description, as will many others.

Edie arrived in Byron Bay on a steamship during the great depression as a baby. Her family, like many others, were very poor, times were hard and family life even harder.

After a brief time in the flood prone end of Lismore, Edie’s family relocated to Brunswick Heads where she spent her early years living in hessian-sack housing behind the dunes. These were the happiest memories for her and the place where her deep love of nature began.

Eventually the family moved back to Lismore where she attended high school and stayed until joining the navy late in WWII. Following the war, Edie spent a few years travelling up the east coast to Cairns, partying and working as she went.

Always ahead of her time she then travelled to her mother’s birthplace of Denmark in the early ‘50s, an epic journey for the time, but one of many she would embark on in her long life.

She also lived in PNG for a few years in the 1950s, stories from those days were eye opening to say the least.

She married late, became mum to three beautiful children and raised her family in the suburbs of Brisbane, a place that stifled her spirit. Her marriage ended in the early ‘70s so Edie moved back to Byron where her mother still lived.

She set up the first youth hostel, Edie’s Place, in her home on Burns Street in the late ’70s, a place where she befriended many travellers. This time opened doors to many more travels and adventures, all of which she embraced fully.

Edie spent the rest of her life fighting for the environment. A few of her big fights were helping to stop the Byron jet port and the Broken Head Academy. She then turned her sights on uranium mining and got herself to the Jabiluka blockade, getting arrested at 71 for protesting – she is still wanted in the NT!

Edith Franks remembered by BEC. Photo supplied

There was never a protest she wasn’t at, a cause she didn’t write letters for or a petition she wouldn’t sign if it was to protect her beloved Byron and its natural state. She was an activist and fighter for the environment from long before it was a trend, washing out plastic bags to recycle since the ’60s.

She was an unassuming lady who you may have passed riding her bike around Byron, something she agreed to give up on her 90th birthday but sorely missed. Not many years ago you may have picked her up hitch hiking to Bangalow or Broken Head to work on one of her bush regeneration projects. You may have even met her at the Environment Centre where she volunteered for many years, or at the Byron Markets selling her No Uranium Mining t-shirts.

She was a legend and left a legacy hard to beat. Her open heart and love for all living things was infectious, her curiosity to learn was endless, her energy to get involved never ceased, still planting trees at 90, although she needed a chair.

A life so well lived it is impossible to condense. Edie was an inspiration to many not least we, her family, and was as beautiful in death as she was in life.

For those wishing to contribute to Edie’s legacy, we ask that you plant a native tree or donate to an environmental charity in her name. No cut flowers please, she never wanted to steal from the bees.

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