W. Heywood Fralin

William Heywood Lee Fralin was born in 1940, in Union Hall Virginia. The youngest of three boys, Heywood was named for writer Heywood Hale Broun.  It was his mother’s desire to give all three sons strong names.  Mrs. Fralin was from Scruggs, Virginia and taught school in a one room Franklin County school house which is still standing and located in Explore Park.  This young teacher barely started her career when at the age of nineteen she met the man she would be married to for 50 years.   His mother was strong-willed with a great work ethic and strong belief in the virtues of an education. 

Mr. Fralin was born in Union Hall, Virginia and with a 7th grade education plowed the farmland around him from the age of 11 until he married at the age of 31.  Starting a new job, he followed the exodus with his wife into Roanoke to work at the silk mill later known as the American Viscose.  As Mr. Fralin matured, he had entrepreneurial instinct, and, with a partner, opened and operated an automobile service station in Garden City. This venture lasted until 1945 when he sold his interest.  Taking his earnings, Mr. Fralin began a business constructing homes in Roanoke County and Roanoke City. This continued until he built his last home for Heywood on Wycliffe Avenue in 1972.  He died in 1973.

While in grade school, middle school and high school Heywood was a decent student.  He played on little league sports teams at an early age and has enjoyed being a spectator his entire life.   The bar had been set and young Heywood graduated from Jefferson High School in May 1957 and was accepted into the University of Virginia after turning 17 in June.  He joined a social fraternity and made the social adjustment most college students do.   He would add that he often enjoyed social life a little too much.  He graduated in May 1962 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. “My mother would have preferred that I attend Virginia Tech, but I had a rebellious streak and because my brothers went to Tech, I chose Virginia.”    The competitive and academic prowess held by Heywood led to American University Law School and in two and a half years he obtained his law degree by January 1965.  It was quite apparent that a law degree would be a great background for business.

Heywood returned to the Roanoke area to begin his law career under the mentorship of Tracy Lloyd and was paid $200 per month.  Over the years with several mergers, his firm became Jolly, Place, Fralin, and Prillaman, with Heywood being the managing partner.  Heywood’s specialties were real estate law, representing developers, HUD loan closings, and estate planning. He mostly represented the business side of law and rarely ventured into trial law.

This dedicated lawyer was a true asset to his family as brother, Horace, partnered with Elbert Waldron to create Fralin and Waldron, Inc. (F&W), a development and construction company.  Heywood was the legal counsel to the business and honed his specialties as his brother went from home and multi-family construction to the development of Skilled Nursing Care Centers and Retirement Centers.  The Skilled Nursing business is very different today than it was when it started.  The acuity level is much higher and most residents in the skilled nursing facilities go home in 30 days or less.  They operate more like rural hospitals operated years ago.

 The sudden death of Horace Fralin in 1993 spurred Elbert Waldron to reach out to Heywood and convince him that he would be the most natural fit into the Fralin and Waldron enterprises.   Heywood had a working knowledge of the business dealings as he originally did the legal work setting up the businesses and securing the loans to finance the businesses.   Four years later the death of Mr. Waldron led to another natural fit from the Waldron family.  Elbert’s daughter, Karen, came on board in 1997 and the new team has led the many businesses for the last 15 years.  Heywood’s focus was with the Skilled Nursing Facilities in VA and NC plus the Assisted Living Centers.  Karen’s focus was the multi-family operation and construction, the construction company having been purchased by Elbert Waldron at Horace Fralin’s death.  Even with this defined order of business, major decisions for the company would remain the same since the doors opened in 1962. Both partners would meet and discuss the issues before making any major decisions.  This arrangement worked in the beginning and continues to be a successful collaboration.  Heywood is quick to add that work has been pleasant and successful because we have surrounded ourselves with a “crackerjack” staff which number almost 7,000 full and part time employees based in Virginia and North Carolina. 

Heywood espouses a keen observation that understanding politics on all levels is important for existence and survival in health care.   It is also important for higher education which has been a life-long passion.  His first and lasting impression of courting a politician to share industry concerns was setting a meeting with the late Senator Hunter Andrews.  Sen. Andrews was a formidable member of the Senate Finance Committee and Majority leader in the Virginia Senate.  He represented the Hampton Roads area for 32 years.   His first meeting in the late Senator’s office was to take place in the early morning and upon Heywood’s arrival to the office he was told by the Senator to please leave him alone.   The Senator’s secretary, a wonderful lady, reported that “land mines are everywhere – I would have to come back tomorrow”.  After multiple attempts by Heywood to meet with this most important figure to discuss issues he finally succeeded and developed a lasting friendship and mutual admiration.   The political posturing that exists to uphold quality of life issues transcended to the next generation of the Fralin family and Heywood’s son, William Fralin, served 3 terms as State delegate for the 17th district before retiring to become President of MFA.  Ironically, Heywood could not vote for his son because he did not live in his district. 

Heywood and Cynthia treasure a tradition of taking their children and spouses annually to a different location in the world for a 7–10-day venture.  This helps Heywood complete his bucket list and build a deeper admiration for his adult children.  They have had twelve expeditions.  The first was a trip to a dude ranch in Wyoming, while the children’s favorite trip was a picture safari in Kenya, Africa.  The other trips include a tour of the countryside in England and Ireland, a cruise in Alaska, a cruise up the Baltic Sea from England to Russia, and a trip to India to see the Bengal tiger in its natural habitat.  It was noted by Heywood they have shared with friends how wonderful these excursions have been with their children and now other families are emulating their vacation ideas.  

Notable Accomplishments:

  • The recent rehiring of University of Virginia President Theresa Sullivan just prior to the end of his term on the board of visitors having formerly served as Rector for UVA.
  • Serving on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors and having the opportunity to participate in the choosing of Paul Torgerson and Charles Steger as Presidents.
  • Appointed by the Speaker of the House to the Council of Virginia’s Future, a body assembled to provide the road map for measuring the performance of state agencies.
  • Serving as a member and former Chairman of the Alliance for Quality Nursing – the health care trade association for the largest long term skilled nursing care providers in the country.
  • Appointed by the Governor to his Commission on Higher Education and his Higher Education Advisory Council to make higher education a priority of his Administration.
  • Recipient of the 2012 Dunton Award by the Virginia Health Care Association – the state trade organization for the long-term health care industry, for outstanding leadership in long term health care.
  • A member and former Chairman of the Virginia Business Council – comprised of the state’s largest major businesses.
  • A member of the Carter Immunology Center (created by the Beirne Carter Foundation) on the UVA campus providing immunology and medical research at UVA.
  • Recently serving on the Virginia Historical Society Board of Directors.

He is a former member of Board of Directors for Explore Park, a former member of The Jefferson Center Board of Directors – Heywood served with the honorable Beverly T. Fitzpatrick on the board and participated in overseeing the renovation of the Shaftman Performance Hall. In addition, the Horace Fralin Charitable Trust was the largest benefactor of the center. He is also a benefactor of Taubman Art Museum – The Horace Fralin Charitable Trust made major donations of American Art, and Heywood and the Trust contributed significantly to the construction of the building and Heywood served previously on the Board of Directors and as Chairman.

In all the years he has advocated for health and education there are some observations that Heywood would like to make to those young people in middle and high school.  “Obtain as much education in the STEM subjects as possible to prepare for our knowledge-based economy. Those subjects and other rigorous studies will lead to significant jobs.”  It is important to be the “best at what you do –then there will always be a need for your services.  You only get one opportunity to get an education – take advantage of it.  Once you pass the age of thirty it becomes tough.  Prepare for a job you enjoy because it’s terrible to dread your employment.”

 “Success” is a word that is used often by Heywood in sharing the key to being fulfilled.  The definition of success to him “depends on the topic – but generally lead productive lives; stay healthy by working to preserve one’s health through exercise and good eating habits.  Give back time and resources to make your city, state, and nation better for everyone. “

Fralin was asked for a motto he lives by, he shared “Give back to the community, state and nation to make it a better place than you found it.”  He values work ethic and instilling values, to replace the current attitude of entitlement. A true gentleman and renaissance man who looks for ways to sustain a quality of life for others he has made a major gift along with his wife Cynthia of beautiful turn- of- the century American artist paintings.   The collection of 41 paintings will be housed at Heywood’s alma mater, the University of Virginia.  Upon their demise the collection they have amassed will be placed in the newly named Fralin Museum of Art a division of the College of Arts and Science for students and Virginians to study the great works.

W. Heywood Fralin was inducted into the Southwest Virginia Business Hall of Fame in 2012.

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