Capt. Frank Mallory’s two jobs: Brooke & KFD

Tom KingOur Town Heroes, South Knox

We all bear the burden of the heavy loads we carry around in life. Some loads can be simultaneously crushing, debilitating and devastating. Frank Boyd Mallory’s burden is huge, without a doubt. For him, life has blessed him. His load is his life. He embraces it.

Mallory is a Knoxville Fire Department (KFD) captain at the Headquarters Fire Hall in downtown Knoxville. This is his 25th year with KFD and his 19th year working at headquarters. He’s a hometown hero, reared on Beaman Street, an Austin-East High School graduate, class of 1989. The family home still stands. His sister lives there today.

This 52-year-old has a second job, and he works more hours there every week and every day than he does at the fire hall. The job at home is named Brooke. She is 24 and severely autistic. Her vocabulary is very limited and her father says intellectually she’s a 5-year-old. She can’t be left alone, ever. Someone must bathe her, help her with brushing her teeth and controlling her violent outbursts. She wears adult diapers.

Security doors and cameras surround the outside of their South Knoxville home to keep Brooke safe. She has broken windows, bashed in sheetrock walls. Plexiglass shields their TV screens. Her sensory issues include never wearing socks and wearing only lightweight, short-sleeved shirts of any kind.

Brooke Mallory and stepmother, Whitney Mallory

Mallory says she eats the same foods daily – pizza, healthy “Tiger” chili with vegetables, the special bread he makes in their bread machine, cheese sticks, brownies and popcorn.

Mallory is her primary caregiver, but he has help. His “support staff” is Whitney, his second wife, he married in 2019; oldest daughter and big sister Allison, 25, a University of Tennessee graduate working in Seymour for the Boys & Girls Club; and Mason, Whitney’s 17-year-old son who attends South-Doyle High School.

When Mallory is at his KFD job, Whitney and Mason step up and Allison will help when needed. “Brooke is 24/7/365 for us, but she’s really such a happy girl who loves playing on the computer and watching the same TV shows over and over,” Mallory says. “She’s really close to Allison and Mason and of course Whitney. We all support one another.”

It probably goes without saying, but Mallory added this: “… I have a lot more challenges at home than I have at work.”

Brooke first attended Fort Sanders pre-school, then Ridgedale, both special needs schools. Then she was at Karns Middle, Bearden Middle and two years ago graduated from South-Doyle High School at 22.

There’s a little more to this family you need to know. They love on four dogs and two cats, all inside pets. It is a home dominated by love and caring with a focus on Brooke.

Mallory spoke about his time at Austin-East. He played football his junior year, and as a senior he was voted “Mr. Austin-East” and “Most Likely to Succeed.” Some days it was not easy. Mallory’s father was of mixed heritage – black, white and Indian. “My Dad really was African-American and my birth certificate classifies me as an African-American,” he explained. “The guys at A-E called me ‘the dirty-looking white boy.’ It was hard at times.”

His fire career also began with a family issue. “I was like most kids – be a policeman or a fireman and that’s what I really wanted to do. In 1994 I was living with my parents when an uncle, Sampson “June” Mallory, who lived three blocks away, fell in his bathroom and his wife could not open the door. When I got there three KFD firemen were there from Station 6. They got through the door and did CPR and put a defibrillator on him. They worked and worked but could not save him. He had a massive heart attack. Watching them really impressed me and I knew that’s where I belonged.”

After high school graduation and needing a job, he went to work for Sam’s Club in 1990. Working full- and part-time, he spent 28 years there doing one job – changing tires. That’s how he met Whitney, who is a lead supervisor at Sam’s Club in East Towne. This high-achieving guy was named “Associate of the Year” at the West Knoxville Sam’s. From 1997-99, he worked two full-time jobs at Sam’s and KFD.

After applying at KFD, it took him three years to be hired, and that was on Feb. 10, 1997. In the world of “there are no coincidences” his first station was Station 6 and he worked with the same three firefighters who tried to save his uncle’s life.

As most firefighters know, the work can be stressful and dangerous. He’s had one burn injury over the years and worked many big fires and his share of vehicle accidents with fatalities and major injuries. But just like at home, he loves his work.

“This job has been family one way after another for me. If I have to leave abruptly for Brooke, I leave. They understand. The KFD family has helped raise money for bills. Guys volunteer to catch shifts for me. I love my job and KFD. Sometimes you can’t believe you’re working and getting paid. The people I work with mean so much to me, plus the training and life experiences.”

And mirroring his home life, he says: “There’s never a boring day on this job.”

When he can, he hops on his beautiful black 2006 Victory Kingpin motorcycle and relaxes as he rides. You may find him doing woodworking too, out back in his little shop.

Being a handy guy, he also maintains his dark green 1997 Chevy conversion van with its 204,000-plus miles. During the October fall break, the family will load up for a week at the Outer Banks. The van of course has a TV and the same DVD player and remote-control Brooke uses at home.

Is he thinking about retirement any time soon?

“I’m one of those guys that as long as my body is going good, I’ll be here. I still love being on the fire trucks. I thought above moving past being a captain, but that would get in the way of caring for Brooke. I’ve had enough challenges and changes in my life. I don’t work any second jobs now. When I retire at 65 and leave here, I’ll be done working. And I’ll always be with Brooke.”

Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia. If you have someone you think we should consider featuring, please email him at the link with his name.


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