World traveler Frank Alvin Janzen, 79, embarked on his latest journey on February 16, 2023, departing from Olathe, Kansas. He was born in Chanute, Kansas to Herman Alvin Janzen and Frances Fussman Janzen (née Helen Frances Fussman) on April 4, 1943. His family also lived in Humboldt and Dodge City, Kansas. As a child, he lived with his mother, father (who was a sanitary engineer), and brothers in both Brazil (1947) and Vietnam (1956-57). He is a graduate of Washington High School in Kansas City, Kansas in 1961 and the University of Kansas in 1968. He received a Master’s Degree from the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont in 1995 and a Master’s Degree in Education/TESL from the University of Kansas in 2004. Frank called himself a “travel artist.” He has spent a total of over 25 years living, working and traveling outside the United States, visiting more than 50 countries along the way: meditating on a hill in India, teaching English at colleges in Oman and Aden, building a pharmacy with the Peace Corps in a Senegalese village. He had a position with USAID in Mali right after the Peace Corps and later worked in Somalia and then Guinea.
It was in the Army, which he enlisted in 1962, that Frank discovered his aptitude for languages and eventually became fluent in Polish, German, Russian, Arabic and Swahili. At the US Army Language School in Monterey, California, Janzen studied Polish six hours a day, five days a week for an entire year. And then, just like that, he went to Germany, where he was stationed from 1963 to 1965, then after his leave to Poland, where he studied in a foreign exchange program through the University of Kansas. During what he called his hippie journey, Frank hitchhiked through Europe and Asia, traveled from Venice to New Delhi in a Volkswagen bus driven by a Canadian couple he met along the way, and volunteered with the United Nations and the Peace Corps in Africa. Frank never stayed too long in one place, but always returned to Lawrence, which he considered his home. He didn’t own a car until he was 50, but he did have a driver’s license. When in Lawrence, Frank was involved in community affairs and his efforts resulted in a plaque honoring legendary Lawrence pencil salesman Leo Beuerman that now stands at the corner of 8th and Massachusetts Streets.
His older sister Sue Moffat of Omaha, Nebraska predeceased him. Survivors include brother Bill Janzen of Roseville, California, sisters Sarah Marshall of Boulder Creek, California and Heidi Janzen of Carlsbad, California along with many nieces, nephews and cousins.
A viewing will be held on Friday, February 24 from 1 to 3 pm at the McGilley & Frye Funeral Home, 105 E. Loula Street, Olathe, Kansas. A service with military honors will be held at 2:00 pm in St. Joseph Cemetery 1100th Street Humboldt, Kansas. A “Celebration of Life” will be held this spring in Lawrence, Kansas.
Memorials may be sent to the Peace Corps Foundation 3601 Connecticut Avenue NW #504 Washington DC 20008.