American journalist, photographer and foreign correspondent for the Associated Press Matthew Franjola died on January 1, 2015 at 72 years old.
In 1964, Franjola trained to join the Peace Corps, but wasn’t selected for the program.
After his rejection from the Peace Corps, he joined the staff of a war supplies company and was sent to South Vietnam during the 1960s, where he joined the Associated Press.
He covered events in Cambodia and Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
He later worked as a gold miner in Zimbabwe (as the country transitioned from Rhodesia) and South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s.
A former UPI colleague, David Hume Kennerly, said Franjola’s fluency in Vietnamese saved their lives.
Franjola overheard South Vietnamese soldiers speaking among themselves that they would leave the two Americans pinned down as Vietcong fighters approached, he recalled.
Franjola was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1942 and was raised in Franklin Square, New York, Grace Franjola said.
He studied at the state university in Cortland, New York, with the intent of becoming an athletic coach.
“He was kind of a cowboy. He wasn’t going to report to an office, wear a tie and all that,” said Grace Franjola, who lives in Connecticut.
She said her ex-husband also mined for gold in Zimbabwe as it transitioned from white-ruled Rhodesia and worked in South Africa.
His return to New York after decades in Asia and Africa was a difficult transition because he was unfamiliar with the culture, she said.
She likened it to bringing “King Kong out of the jungle.” “He put a lot of effort and a lot of work into his time on the Board of Education.
He was chair when I was in the selectman’s office and he always brought a unique perspective to that,” said Washington First Selectman Mark Lyon.
“He was a warm, loving, active and very intelligent and skilled person who would do anything for those he loved and cared for,” said Woody Dugan, a friend and former Washington resident.
In addition to his ex-wife, he is survived by two daughters, three brothers and three sisters, she said.
Kennerly said Franjola “was a man’s man, an adventurer, and a really great guy.” He added: “I think he found journalism to be the ultimate adventure.”