Muriel Franck is remembered as a self-appointed civic watchdog quick to take a bite out of any perceived political injustice.
For many years the fiery fixture at Penticton city council meetings would take politicians to task on issues ranging from development to the environment.
And it wasn’t just in council chambers elected officials could expect to be held accountable for their actions or lack thereof.
“Time and time again when I was in office for the city, mostly the morning after a council meeting, I would be challenged in the street if I didn’t give Muriel the time to ask her questions and show her respect for her dedication to city affairs,” recalled former Penticton mayor Jake Kimberley. “Despite our differences on city affairs, I had, and still have, a great deal of respect for that dear lady and the way she watched over city council and bringing forward her never-ending interest in what was happening in Penticton.
“She was a tiny little lady, very short, very slight, but a real force to be dealt with.”
Even though he was often the target of Muriel’s intense interrogations, Kimberley was deeply saddened by the news of her passing just before Christmas.
She had been living at Haven Hill Retirement Centre and would have been 98 on Dec. 24.
“I will say outside of council she was one of the sweetest ladies I’ve known. She would never ridicule me or put me down or any council member for that matter,” said Kimberley, who served three terms as mayor in the 90s. “It’s funny, to this day there are still people who ask who that lady was that used to give me such a bad time.”
Regarded as somewhat of an oddity, she reportedly never married, had few relatives and was known for having holes cut in the ice during the winter so she could go for a swim in a somewhat flagrant (for the times) two-piece bathing suit.
The Okanagan Archive Trust Society has a number of photographs of her icy escapades which always drew a crowd.
Her knack for keeping an incredible filing system was also legendary and the former mayor said it was not unusual for her to ask a question of him at meetings and produce a newspaper clipping, saying: “That’s not what you said three years ago.”
Kimberley admitted there were times she became a little exasperating, especially at the end of a long meeting.
“She was constantly onto everything, not necessarily what we were dealing with at the time. She would go on about everything and anything and it became quite a task to deal with her,” he said. “That was when I changed the policy of council — as a result of Muriel, God Bless her — to say that any questions of council had to relate to issues around the agenda that night but it was her public forum and she loved it.”
Surprisingly, at least to some people, Muriel never ran for city council, choosing instead to stay at arm’s length and do her work from the outside looking in.
Although their styles differed, Elvena Slump has followed somewhat in Muriel’s footsteps with her letter-writing campaigns on various city council activities.
And while the two never met personally, they did communicate in writing, usually about animal cruelty issues which was another of Muriel’s passions.
“I think she did a real service to the community a wonderful service to the community,” said Slump. “We need more people like her. She was a real character with her polar bear swims and wearing a bikini. It’s too bad we don’t know more about her.”
Muriel is another of the colourful characters of Penticton’s history and she appears in the centenary publication put out by the Okanagan Historical Society.
According to Kimberley: “Muriel will never be forgotten. Bless her. May she now rest in peace.”