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Frank P. Saul Ph.D.

1930 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
Frank P. Saul, PhD

Frank Philip Saul, 87, died on June 16, 2018. He was born on October 31, 1930, in New York City to Freda and Joseph Saul. Very fittingly, he developed a passion for studying the human skeleton. He attended Brooklyn Technical High School and graduated from Brooklyn College in 1952. While at Brooklyn College, he worked at the Museum of Natural History in New York. He then earned a PhD from Harvard University in physical anthropology in 1972. While still a graduate student, he coined the term and established the concept of osteobiography (life history written in bone). He wanted a new word and approach that would encompass the usual age, sex, race, stature and measurements data derived from skeletal remains, but go beyond them to draw a more complete picture of the individual as a person—an idea that guided his life's work, and developed into the concept of a biographic profile in forensic anthropology and bioarchaeology.

During the Korean War, and after one year of graduate school, he enlisted in the Air Force and was sent to Wright Patterson Aero Medical Laboratory where he worked on fitting people safely into cockpits and protective flight clothing, including designing suits for "extreme high altitude flight" (as space flight was then known). He met (and measured) many of the original astronauts, and a photo of him in a contour-measurement device (which he helped develop) became one of the most famous Life magazine covers of all time. He then returned to graduate school at Harvard.

After a brief stint teaching physical anthropology at Pennsylvania State University, where he married his life and professional partner Julie Mather Saul, he moved to Toledo in 1969 as charter faculty at the Medical College of Ohio (now University of Toledo Medical Center). He taught anatomy from 1969-1990, and then served as Associate Dean for Continuing Medical Education, retiring as Professor Emeritus, Anatomy, and Associate Dean Emeritus, in 1994.

Frank (almost always co-authoring with Julie) was a leading researcher on the ancient Maya in Central America. Together they excavated burials and studied the skeletal remains to learn more about the Maya and their civilization, working at various sites with several archaeological projects. He and Julie were always happiest in a field camp, surrounded by howler monkeys, archaeologists, and students, and took great delight in bringing their children (Joseph and Jennifer) along on excavations. Despite experiencing several serious medical set-backs, Frank was determined to continue field work, and did so until 2009.

Frank (again, working with Julie) was also one of the leading figures in forensic anthropology and disaster response. He was Diplomate and President of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. Frank was Senior Consultant in Forensic Anthropology at the Lucas County Coroner's Office (Toledo), and a Forensic Anthropology Consultant for the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office in Detroit, and together they worked on over 900 cases, mostly for Lucas and Wayne Counties. From 1997 to 2011 he served as Commander of the Region 5 Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) of the Department of Health and Human Services, National Disaster Medical System, having worked on many disasters (including the September 11 World Trade Center disaster).

Over the course of his career, Frank (with Julie) published many books, articles and chapters, and led countless workshops and training courses—directed at everyone from high school children to police to fellow professionals. In 2017, he and Julie received the T. Dale Stewart Award for lifetime achievement from the Anthropology Section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. (They also received more informal awards for most disconcerting poster presentations two years in a row.)

Due to debilitating kidney and heart disease, Frank eventually had to give up the work he loved. He derived great enjoyment, though, from getting to know a large number of health care professionals (many of whom were former students or colleagues) for whom he had enormous affection (and to whom his family are very grateful). After a long (and fiercely fought) struggle, Frank died in home hospice care on 16 June, surrounded by loved ones, after enjoying several delicious tastes of favorite non-hospital foods.

Frank hated formal events, large gatherings, and the need to wear suits. According to his wishes, there will therefore be no official memorial service. However, he loved good meals with good friends and good conversation. So there will be many of those - each a memorial to him that he would have appreciated. An especially important one will occur when Julie returns to the University of Texas Archaeological Field School in Belize next season to toast him with local beer, tortillas, and beans in the place he loved so much.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations (tax deductible) be made to the University of Texas Belize Field School program, which has meant much to him over the years. Online donations can be made at https://utdirect.utexas.edu/apps/utgiving/online/nlogon/…; This link takes you to the Liberal Arts Page and the Sub Department should be listed as the Texas Archaeological Research Laboratory (TARL). Fill out the special information box indicating the donation is for the Belize Field School program, in Frank's name. Checks can be sent to TARL at: 1 University Station, R7500, Austin, Texas 78712, with a designation for the Belize Field School program in Frank's name.

Frank is survived by his wife Julie, children Joseph and Jennifer, daughter-in-law Lisa Leutheuser, son-in-law Raymond Drainville, and grandson Theo Drainville-Saul.

Condolences may be made to the family at www.witzlershank.com.

View the online memorial for Frank P. Saul, PhD

Published in The Blade on June 21, 2018
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