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Gerry Frank — Cake Contest Judge, Bakery Owner, and Political Mind — Has Died

Frank, the chief of staff to Senator Mark Hatfield, was also known for his love of Oregon food and drink

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Gerry Frank stands in front of three cakes at the Oregon State Fair.
Gerry Frank, judging his chocolate cake contest at the Oregon State Fair.
Molly J. Smith

Gerry Frank, a longtime Oregon political advisor and chocolate cake aficionado, died this Sunday at the age of 98.

Known primarily for his career as Senator Mark Hatfield’s chief of staff and familial ties to the Meier & Frank department store chain, Frank was also an enthusiast of all things Oregon, sharing his statewide food and beverage picks in a recurring Oregonian travel column and guide book, Gerry Frank’s Oregon. He was also known for loving pastries, owning the celebrated Salem bakery Gerry Frank’s Konditorei and judging the Oregon State Fair’s chocolate layer cake contest (named for him).

Frank was born in Portland in 1923, the great-grandson of Meier & Frank department store co-founder Aaron Meier. He fought in World War II, and then finished his collegiate years at the University of Cambridge. He worked for the family business before transitioning into politics in the 1950s, becoming the loyal advisor and chief of staff of Senator and Governor Mark Hatfield.

However, Frank was just as widely known for his penchant for food and drink — in particular, for desserts. In 1959, Gerry Frank’s Chocolate Layer Cake Contest began at the Oregon State Fair, which he judged for 60 years. He opened Gerry Frank’s Konditorei with Barney Rogers in 1982, specializing in layer cakes; the cafe now serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner alongside slices of chocolate buttercream. Frank sold the business to the cafe’s manager in 2017.

Frank was well-traveled, visiting over 150 countries in his 98-year lifetime; however, he developed a reputation for his Oregon travel tips, especially when it came to restaurants.

“He was a fixture in our community in so many ways — for 60 consecutive years, he sat on the stage at the Oregon State Fair to judge the chocolate cake contest, always filling the room with laughter,” Gov. Kate Brown says in a press release. “Gerry packed a lot of life into his time here with us.”

Gerry Frank leaves a legacy in Salem and Oregon [Statesman Journal]
Oregon businessman and civic leader Gerry Frank dies at age 98 [Oregonian]

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