Landscapes 07

William Thomas Frankenberger

April 3, 1952 ~ August 14, 2021 (age 69)


STEVENSVILLE - Dr. William Thomas Frankenberger, Jr. (Bill) age 69 of Stevensville, MT passed away suddenly on August 14, 2021 at his home with his wife by his side. Bill was born in Topeka, KS on April 3, 1952, the oldest son of William Sr, and Norma Frankenberger. He grew up in Topeka where he shared many boyhood adventures with his younger siblings. As a teenager, Bill worked in his father's grocery store and excelled in high school track.

After graduating high school, he received a track scholarship in pole vaulting at Emporia State University, where he graduated in 1974 with a BA degree in Biology. He then attended Iowa State University in 1975 and received a master’s degree (1977) and Ph.D. (1980) in the Department of Agronomy. In 1982, he received the Emil Truog Award from the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) for the most outstanding dissertation nationwide in Soil Science. Upon graduation in 1981, he joined the faculty at University of California Riverside. His research interests included agronomic and environmental microbiology with an emphasis on microbial production of plant hormones, microbial transformations of oxyanions (selenium, arsenic, chromium, and perchlorate) and bioremediation of hazardous chemicals. He taught undergraduate soil science and worked with numerous graduate students and post-docs; training and mentoring them in environmental research. Most became recognized as leaders in their respective professions. Bill retired in 2011 at the highest rank attainable in the UC system as a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry.

Bill accomplished many professional milestones and was recognized nationally and internationally for his work. He was the recipient of the highest honor in Environmental Protection from the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (1995) for developing an innovative bioremediation technology, overcoming political and bureaucratic hurdles, for permanent, cost-effective, and safe cleanup of selenium in the environment. In 1988, he filed a patent to remove selenium via microbial detoxification from contaminated sediments at Kesterson Reservoir in Central California. This innovation persuaded the US government to change its plans to create a capped landfill over the Superfund site at the reservoir, instead using his intrinsic bioremediation method on the dewatered sediments at the 1200-acre site. The University of California cited Dr. Frankenberger's work as one of UC's greatest 50 research accomplishments during the period from 1983-1989. Since then, federal and state regulatory agencies have adopted intrinsic bioremediation as a viable option in remediation of hundreds of sites containing other hazardous chemicals including solvents, pesticides, and petroleum products.

Bill received numerous national awards including election as Fellow in five scientific societies (ASA, SSSA, ASM, AAAS and AIC). He received the American Society of Agronomy Environmental Quality Research Award (1996), the Soil Science Research Award (1997), the Agronomic Research Award (1999), and recognition for being one of the 100 most highly cited researchers worldwide in the area of ecology/environment. During his career he published 240 journal articles and authored or edited 8 books.

Bill was also an entrepreneur. He established two environmental companies during the 1990's: Center for Environmental Microbiology and Centrum Analytical. These laboratories conducted soil studies and analyses, utilizing his innovative mobile laboratory vans, to diagnosis type and extent of contamination on site for governmental agencies and private companies charged with cleaning up contaminated sites.

Bill so deeply cared about the environment and because of his desire to reach into the future and beyond his lifetime, he and his wife, Margaret, established an Endowed Faculty Professorship in Soil Science at Iowa State University (ISU) in the Department of Agronomy in November 2015. The endowed professorship is awarded for a period of time by ISU to one outstanding professor and researcher in agronomy and will continue to be awarded indefinitely into the future. The current recipient has already made outstanding contributions that improve methods for sustainable farming.

Bill lived his retirement years in Stevensville, Montana with his wife Margaret, where they built a home where he, too, could enjoy farming (primarily a huge garden). He enjoyed running, hiking, golfing, swimming, traveling the world, and trading stocks, currencies, and commodity futures. As in his profession, he took his trading hobby very seriously, studying and learning every day.

Bill was a caring, loving, generous and spiritual man. He always stopped to talk with neighbors and was a helping hand to both friends and strangers. He was simple in his mannerisms and lifestyle and wise with his words when warranted. He loved his family and friends and showed them with his way of laughing, his jokes, and his strength and guidance. He loved and cared for family pets, most recently, his beloved Scottish terriers Barney and Benji and cat Buddy. He thanked God for each day of life which he embraced to the fullest.

One of the last things he said was that if 3 trees were planted for every human on earth, there would be no environmental issues at all – clean air, soil, and water, therefore food for all. The family asks that trees be planted in his memory in lieu of flowers. This can be done through a link found on the Daly Leach Funeral Home, Hamilton obituary web page for William T. Frankenberger, or privately at a place of your choosing. Bill is preceded in death by his parents, William Thomas Sr. and Norma Jean, and his youngest son Ryan.

Bill is survived by his wife Margaret Beebe-Frankenberger, his brothers Tim (Lisa) Tucson AZ, Jeff (Debbie) Bend OR, and his sister Roxanne Hess (Kansas City MO), 2 sons, Grant (Riverside CA) and Spencer (Lake Havasu AZ), a step-daughter, Melanie Nagle (Mike), Stevensville, MT., granddaughter Kimberly Frankenberger (New Orleans LA), 3 grandsons, Howie (Crin) and Mason Long, (Rio Linda CA), and Andrew Long, (Jenner CA)., one great granddaughter, Ariel Frankenberger (New Orleans LA), and 3 nephews and 1 niece.

Private interment will take place at Riverview Cemetery in Hamilton.  A Celebration of Life will be held September 25th at St. Mary's Family Center in Stevensville.Condolences may be left for the family at

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of William Thomas Frankenberger, please visit our floral store.


Celebration of Life
September 25, 2021

Time: TBD
St. Mary's Family Center
315 Charlos St.
Stevensvile, MT 59870
Guaranteed delivery before the Celebration of Life begins

Private Interment

Riverview Cemetery, Hamilton, Montana

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