February 09, 1955 - Present
Despite a long list of accomplishments, 2023 Medal of Courage honoree Francis “Frank” Ciavattone Jr. is best known for his kindness, character and generosity. Frank is a living example of what it means to overcome insurmountable obstacles, providing support and inspiration to others along the way. Frank credits his athletic and professional success to the foundation he built during his outstanding wrestling career at Norwood High School.
Coming from a family of manual laborers, Frank was built like a brick house and put his strength to use in life and athletics. Frank’s athletic journey began when he joined the wrestling team in junior high. That year, the high school coach gave ninth graders the opportunity to wrestle at the high school level; Frank was the only ninth grader who joined. Ultimately, he became the first wrestler in school history to wrestle for four seasons. Frank’s year-round strength training made him the ideal upperweight, while his charisma made him an irreplaceable teammate. Frank was known by his teammates for treating everyone as the most important person in the room; he would wrestle, train, lift, and work with absolutely anyone, regardless of their skill level or capabilities. This leadership and comradery continued every off-season when Frank transformed his family’s barn into a weightlifting gym for all to enjoy. Carl Puzin, a former teammate, recalled “Not only did Frank provide a place for athletes to go, but he also provided heat, electricity and plenty of Olympic steel. He helped any athlete desiring strength skills. Everyone was welcome at his home gym, and it was open 24/7 year round. If it ever snowed, there was always a path shoveled from the road to the gym; that’s how Frank was and still is.”
Frank entered his senior season as a massive, pinning machine with a 54 inch chest and arms like tree trunks. He won the prestigious Lowell Holiday Tournament, then steamrolled his way to becoming the Southeast Sectional Heavyweight Champion. Frank entered the 1973 Massachusetts State Tournament as the #2 seed at heavyweight with a season record of 21-0, 20 of those wins being by pin, and finished third. The top six heavyweights on the podium that night undoubtedly stand as the most outstanding group of heavyweight placewinners in Massachusetts State Tournament history. That group now includes three inductees of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, as well as an All-Pro, 14 year veteran of the NFL. Frank finished his season placing third in New England, with a 33-2 record. Throughout his entire high school wrestling career Frank was recognized by the Norwood athletic community for being a monstrous competitor on the mat, while always displaying kindness, sportsmanship and respect off the mat.
After Norwood High, Frank went straight to work, blazing the trail for what would eventually become his family business, Frank Ciavattone Construction, LLC (which he still operates today). He also began competing in strength and weightlifting competitions. At age 23, while building his business and kickstarting what would become a world-renowned weightlifting career, Frank was diagnosed with his first bout of cancer. Facing this adversity in the prime of his life gave Frank a new perspective and also reignited his passion for teamwork, comradery and giving back to his community. Since the beginning of his competitive career and his first diagnosis, Frank most notably amassed over 30 World Championship titles from both the US and World circuits and became the first American to lift the world-famous Dinnie Stones – all while facing multiple recurrences of cancer. Frank has both broken and set world records, earned many special recognitions from multiple organizations, and won several regional and local competitions. Frank’s proudest accomplishment is not a singular lift or event, but the fact that his entire weightlifting career was achieved drug and substance free.
Throughout his weightlifting career, Frank never stopped working or investing his efforts back into his home community. His most meaningful work has been promoting the values of hard work, dedication and wellness through athletics to help a number of organizations he has worked with, mostly on a volunteer basis, spanning over 30 years. For the towns of Norwood and Walplole, Frank hosted and sponsored a variety of fundraisers, speaking engagements and school events. He also hosted a number anti-bullying and anti-drug events where he promoted the benefits of healthy living to the town youth. In 2015, Frank was recognized by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Wrestling Coaches Association as a contributor for decades of strength training he provided to wrestlers of surrounding towns through Frank’s Barbell Club. Frank was also recognized by the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, where he organized strength and wellness programs for inmates to participate in. Frank’s history with cancer spurred his involvement with the American Cancer Society, where he has become a regional fixture. In addition to many fundraisers/benefits, Frank has proudly sponsored a long list of cancer-affected children through the Make-a-Wish Foundation. He has a large collection of letters from child cancer victims (and survivors), caregivers and family members with whom he has maintained relationships over the years.
A proud husband, father and grandfather, Frank currently resides in Walpole with his wife Colleen. He still owns and operates his construction company and Frank’s Barbell Club. Above all, Frank is a fixture in his community, known for always providing that snow-shoveled path for anyone in need.
Medal of Courage