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A renowned LPHS graduate

June 21, 2008
By Howard Riley,
Hey, you know what? A guy walks into an office (you all thought I was going to say a guy walks into a bar, right?) of the New York Herald Tribune in New York City and says to the guy doing the hiring, “How about a job?”… and the guy says, “Can you start tomorrow?”

That is exactly what happened to Peter D. Franklin, straight from graduating as class president of Lake Placid High School in 1951. Peter stayed with the Tribune for 10 years and rose through the ranks from copy boy to general-assignment reporter to assistant city editor. Peter’s family had moved to Lake Placid from England in the late 1930s, and he had also attended North Country School before entering Placid High.

But that was just a beginning for this award-winning journalist and author of a dozen books. How about these positions for an interesting career path? Director of public relations at Lincoln Center and then director of public relations at Avis Rent a Car world headquarters. Back to journalism as a reporter, columnist and managing editor of the San Antonio Light and then business editor of the Columbus Dispatch, just to name a few positions — and in addition, author of a syndicated food column for Universal Press Syndicate since 1984 that still runs today in 250 daily newspapers.

Career begins at the Enterprise

Peter began his journalism career covering football for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in the late 1940s and he told me he remembered having to drive to Saranac Lake and drop his copy through a slot in the door at 76 Main St., the location of the newspaper at that time.

He was a four-event skier in high school in jumping, slalom, downhill and cross-country and during our telephone interview told me he had even skied down the bobsled run. His sister, Hazel Franklin, also graduated from Lake Placid High, trained as a figure skater and went on to skate professionally with “Ice Capades” and “Ice Follies.”

A remote connection

Hey, you know what else? Peter D. Franklin is now Diana Britt Franklin. When I search old newspapers for local history stories, I always put in as many names as I can find, and that is how I found Diana Franklin, or how she found me. A recent column mentioned 14 children who had completed a proficiency test in skiing at the old Fawn Ridge Ski Center, and Peter D. Franklin was one of the students mentioned.

Diana then sent me an e-mail about the column and explained how she legally changed her name and gender, and after talking with her by telephone, I asked her how she felt about the change:

“I feel very fortunate to have had a happy and successful life, first as Peter and now as Diana. Although I transitioned from male to female less than a decade ago, for many years I felt as though I was born into the wrong body. Now my mind and body are at peace with one another; that is the only way I can explain it.”

A book review

Diana Britt Franklin, whose most recent book is “The Good-Bye Door,” is the winner of three literary awards and is a true story about a female serial killer. The Discovery Channel has filmed the story on location in Cincinnati for a new six-part series to run this fall entitled, “Deadly Women.”

Diana told me that she spent five years in the research, and in reading the book it becomes obvious why it would take five years because of the incredible details concerning the early life of convicted killer Anna Marie Hahn, the murders, the trial and the trove of pictures included of the judge, the detectives, the lawyers and, of course, of Anna Marie. Pictures in a true-crime story bring it to life.

Hahn was the first serial female killer to die in the electric chair. Diana traces the story of her family background in Germany to her settling in the German section of Cincinnati right through to her date with “Old Sparky,” Ohio’s electric chair. When the jury found her guilty of first-degree murder, without a mercy request, a death sentence was mandatory.

This is the detail I love in books and stories, as in this caption under a picture of Hahn: “When in court, Anna Marie always appeared impeccably turned out, thanks to her jail mates, who voluntarily arranged her hair, polished her nails, and pressed her clothes.” Reading the book, one feels like a spectator. She was executed on Dec. 7, 1938 at age 32.

You need not be a devotee of crime stories to enjoy this interesting story which gets right down to describing the personalities of the veteran detectives and of Judge Charles Bell, who was tough but “who wept when he sentenced Anna Marie Hahn to death.”

The book was hard for me to put down, and I recommend it as a great summer read by a “local” author.

Article Photos

Diana Britt Franklin at Anna Marie Hahn’s grave site in Columbus, Ohio. Inmates at the Ohio Penitentiary made the headstone.
(Photo provided by Diana Britt Franklin)



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