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Celebrating the life of

Frank W. "Sonny" Seiler

Passed away on August 28, 2023

Frank W.

Frank Wilkins “Sonny” Seiler died Monday, August 28, 2023, after an amazing 90-year life.

He was born February 20, 1933, to Frank Herman and Helen Wilkins Seiler of Savannah and spent his idyllic summers crabbing, fishing, and lifeguarding on Tybee Island.  In 1955, he and fellow lifeguard, Jack Schaaf, challenged themselves to swim from Savannah to Tybee beginning the nearly 11-mile journey at the east end of River Street. Braving the tides, jellyfish, and an incoming nor’easter, the pair successfully made the 6-hour swim and arrived to a cheering crowd on the Fort Pulaski bridge.

Sonny, nicknamed Houdini by his friends; was a well-known magician and entertainer earning his pocket money performing at parties and local clubs. 

He graduated from Porter Military Academy (now Porter-Gaud School) in Charleston in 1950.

Seiler attended Newberry College for one year before transferring to the University of Georgia – a decision that would alter the course of his life.  He holds two degrees from the University of Georgia, a BBA in Finance, and a Juris Doctor degree which he received in 1957.

Prior to attending law school, Seiler married the former Cecelia Gunn from Columbus. One football Saturday, the couple took their English bulldog, UGA, to the game where he caught the attention of Coach Wally Butts and Athletic Director Dan Magill.  That event would ultimately lead to the tradition and dynasty of the Georgia mascots which is continued today by the Seiler family. 

Sonny was proud to witness the Dawgs win three national championships.

While a student, Seiler was President of Sigma Chi Fraternity, the Interfraternity Council and Gridiron.  He was a member of Sphinx, the Blue Key Honor Society, and a founding member of the Greek Horsemen.  He lettered on the varsity men’s swim team.

In 1956, he graduated from the Advanced Officer Infantry Training School at Fort Benning having been commissioned as a second lieutenant and proudly served as an officer in the Georgia National Guard, 230th Field Artillery.

Seiler practiced law in Savannah at Bouhan, Williams and Levy, now Bouhan Falligant, specializing in civic defense and plaintiff work.  He served as President of the State Bar of Georgia from 1972 – 1973.

Seiler served as a member of the University of Georgia Athletic Association Board of Directors, President of the University of Georgia National Alumni Association, member of the Board of Directors for the Georgia Student Educational Fund, Chairman of the University of Georgia School of Law Board of Visitors, member of the President’s Club, and member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Georgia Foundation.

For eight years Seiler dedicated much of his legal expertise to defense in the trials of local antiques dealer Jim Williams, ultimately gaining his acquittal. This trial would be immortalized in John Berendt’s novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The best-seller was later made into a movie directed by Clint Eastwood. Seiler was cast as the judge and located to Los Angeles for the filming.  He is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and appeared in two other movies.

Seiler and his family are multigenerational members of the Lutheran Church of the Ascension. He is a member of the Salzburgers and past president of the German Heritage Society.

A lover of history, Seiler is a former curator of the Georgia Historical Society and a board member of Bonaventure Historical Society.

Sonny enjoyed collecting poetry and inspirational thoughts. Among his possessions is a worn, dog-eared copy of the Best Loved Poems of the American People, filled with clippings of life’s lessons he found and saved throughout the years.

In 2002, Seiler co-authored the book Damn Good Dogs with Kent Hannon, a history of the University of Georgia’s mascots.

He was a member of the Savannah Golf Club, The Chatham Club, The Oglethorpe Club, and the Savannah Yacht Club.

He was immensely proud of his family and leaves behind four children – Cecelia Swann Seiler, Charles (Wendy) Seiler, Bess (Shannon) Thompson, Sara (Todd) Story, seven grandchildren: Margaret Story Bardwell (Greg), Sara Thompson McKinnon (Bryce), Anna Gibbons Story, David Tennyson Thompson, Seiler Burnette Thompson, William Gunn Story, and Cecil Wilson Seiler. He also leaves one great grandchild: Whit Bishop Bardwell.

Visitation Tuesday, September 5th, 5:00 – 7:00pm, the Savannah Golf Club.  Visitation 10:00am on Wednesday, September 6th, Crumley Hall, the Lutheran Church of the Ascension, followed by the funeral service at 11:00am.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Lutheran Church of the Ascension, 120 Bull Street, Savannah, GA. 31401; Hospice Savannah, 1352 Eisenhower Dr, Savannah, GA. 31406; University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, 501 D.W. Brooks Dr, Athens, GA 30602.





Sonny was a dear friend for over 40 years. We served on the UGA alumni board together. Always a joy to be around and had a wonderful sense of humor . A true southern gentleman and a personality bigger than life itself. You will be dearly missed by many dear friend .

- Jeff Fitzpatrick, Gainesville, GA

A candle has been lit!

We love the Dawgs and hate the passing of Sonny. Thank you for your service in.providing us the best mascots in the nation! Prayers for you and your family at this difficult time.Your legacy will never be forgotten. I'm proud you were able to see and celebrate Georgia's back to back championships. Godspeed Mr. Seiler!

- Martin, Chatsworth , Georgia

Swan and Charles, I am so sorry to hear about your dad, both of you will be in my prayers. May God bless you all.

- William "Bill" A Thomas , Fernandina Beach, FL

Mr. Seiler and I crossed paths during a difficult time for the family. I think of him and his family often. I am sorry for your loss.

- Karen Odom, Peachtree Corners , Georgia

Thoughts and Prayers for the Seiler family. A true Savannah Icon. May he Rest in Peace.

- Brian O'Neal, Savannah, Georgia

Swan, My heart dropped when I heard about your Dad on the news this morning. I am so sorry for your loss. You and your family are in my prayers.

- Jim May, Acworth, GA

I’m so sorry to hear about your dad passing away! He was so sweet and wonderful! He was instrumental in all that was the Dawgs. He has always meant the world to all of us Savannah folks (Whether we still live there or not!). Sending love y’all’s way!

- Wen Gaudry, Star Valley, Wyoming

I knew no finer man and he was so kind and a joy to work with. It was wonderful to have him as long as we did. We had the best of times. Our condolences are as sincere and heartfelt. Brice and Tina Ladson

- Brice Ladson, Richmond Hill, GA

A fixture, a gentleman, & good attorney. Go Dawgs always will never perish nor will Sonny’s legacy. Thank you Sir.

- G. Garner IV, Chattanooga , TN

Sonny was a great friend ,neighbor and a rock to lean on during tough times. A real legend who I thought would go on forever. You'll be missed, but the memories will go on. Marcia, Athens Tn.

- Marcia Alexander , Athens , Tn. 37303

Sonny was a good friend, neighbor and a rock to lean on during hard times. A real legend who you think will go on forever. You'll be missed but the memories will never be forgotten. Marcia

- Marcia Alexander , Athens , Tn. 37303

A candle has been lit!

The very best!

- Corbell Family, Savannah, GA

He was such a fine southern gentleman who I had the honor and privilege to meet only once. He was so kind and gracious. A man of few words and with a heart of gold. My genuine and sincere condolences to his family and loved ones. You will all will be in my prayers. I and others of Dawg Nation will miss him dearly. God Bless and may he be in peace surrounded by all of his UGAS’

- Jennifer Sabine, Titusville, FL

A candle has been lit!

He was such a fine southern gentleman who I had the honor and privilege to meet only once. He was so kind and gracious. A man of few words with a heart of gold. My genuine and sincere condolences to his family and loved ones. You will all be in my prayers. I’m so very sorry for your loss, just know that I and others of Dawg Nation will miss him dearly. He will never be forgotten and may his legacy live on. May he be at peace surrounded by all of his UGAS’.

- Jennifer Sabine, Titusville, FL

Dear Swann and Family, We were so sorry to hear of the loss of your Dad. You are in our thoughts and prayers. Jackie and Larry Fall

- Jackie & Larry Fall, Savannah, GA

So sorry to hear of Sonny's death. He was a true gentleman and exceedingly helpful to others, especially to my wife Marilyn and I regarding her book about Jim Williams. He will be deeply missed.

- C Elliott Bardsley, Savannah, GA

Sonny was a true Southern gentleman, proud to have been his friend. Condolences to Charles and family!

- Bob White, Greensboro , Ga

A candle has been lit!

My sincere condolences to the Seiler family on the loss of Sonny. A wonderful 90 years and so many accomplishments. I have to think Roy, Suzie, Cecilia & Sonny are having a real good time together again. God bless!

- Cathy Gordon Pirtle , Marietta, Georgia

We loved Sonny and the bulldog and he will be sadly missed but not forgotten and I am sorry for the loss for the family RIP

- Marica and Bradley , Kingsland, GA

Mr.Seiler was a true southern gentleman. You'll be missed. Your spirit will live on.

- Sarah Ham, Florence, South Carolina

Swan, family, my heart breaks for your loss. Sonny was truly an icon in your family and in our community, He, his leadership, love and committment to family will be missed more than words can experss. He was one of a kind.

- Diana D Morrison, Savannah, GA

Sorry for your lost.

- Josephine Briano, Staten Island , New york

Swann and family, We are both saddened to hear of your beloved father’s passing. Sonny will always be remembered for having a smile on his face and a story to delight us all. His legacy burns bright within you all. Sending love and light your way. Diane Ciucevich Parker and Keith Parker

- Diane Ciucevich Parker and Keith Parker , Savannah , Georgia

The sports world definitely lost a legend Monday. But more importantly Savannah, UGA, and the Seiler family lost their patriarch. I was so honored to have met him and set with him Behind the Hedges at my very first UGA game (after I gave up trying to find Savannah who was having too much fun in the student section to come sit with her old mom! lol) But I was even more honored that he recognized and remembered me months later. Most of the time I can’t remember what I had for breakfast, so I was very humbled and surprised by someone who’s met so many people and certainly many more important people than myself remembered me! Granted it was because of a silly reason- I kept intensely staring at his cane because I couldn’t figure out what was on the top of it. Then I suddenly realized it looked like I was staring at him like some creepy person! He had a good laugh about it and the extremely embarrassed look on my face when I realized and quickly explained myself- but still he remembered me and laughed about it again months later! So I was pretty proud of it! Lol He was definitely a genuine and kind person who cared about others, gave back to his community, and loved his Dawgs! R.I.P. Go Dawgs!!!

- Jennifer Pakebusch, Savannah , Georgia

As I stated in an earlier email, Sonny, for some reason, liked me, and I liked him. He was a couple of years older, and he was very beneficial in having me elected as president of the Interfraternity Council when we were students at UGA. Later on, he encouraged me to run for president of the Younger Lawyers Section of the State Bar of Georgia. He told me that I could count on him in getting me elected, which I did, and he followed through. I will always be ever more grateful to him for what he did for me. He befriended many others like me who leaned on him for his guidance. He was a true friend and I benefited from his friendship.

- Tom Dennard, St. Simons Island, Georgia

Please know that I am thinking of all of you with much sympathy. I have so many memories from my childhood of Mrs. Seiler, Sonny’s mother, who was a dear friend of my mother’s, especially summer times at Tybee, growing up in a die-hard University of GA family, and seeing Uga with Sonny in Athens at the Continuing Ed Center and “between the hedges” on football weekends! I know that your wonderful memories of Sonny and the exciting times you all have had will bring many smiles as you reflect on these times throughout your lifetime. Sonny was a true legend!!

- Ginger Price Masingill, Tybee Island , GA

We all admired Mr. Sonny! He was a legend and was always so generous to stop and talk at the games, even though he had so many people to take his time!

- Jeff and Gracia Denton , Birmingham , AL

A candle has been lit!

So very sorry for your loss. Thoughts and prayers to the Seiler family.

- Alison Mitchell, Loveland , Colorado

So sorry for the loss of a very special person

- Robin Gibson, Waynesboro, Geirgia

Our deepest condolences for the entire Seiler family. Sonny was truly one of a kind. We will be forever grateful that we were able to cross paths with Sonny in our lifetime. We will keep you all in our prayers. Gods Peace.

- Mike and Kathy Wordell, Savannah, Ga

Charles, Swann, Bess, Sara & the entire Seiler Family, I send my deepest sympathy & condolences with the loss of your dear father, Sonny. My heart is extremely heavy, remembering this incredible, one-of-a- kind Southern gentleman, that I was honored to call my friend. The friendship shared by Sonny & my beloved Dan (RIP) was special & treasured. I was fortunate to see it action & to share in their priceless memories & stories. May God shower all of you with peace & comfort now, and in the time ahead. My love to each & all.

- Carolyn S. Sheehan, Tybee Island, GA

Sonny and Cecelia Seiler were an amazing couple, and it is hard fo me to think of one without the other. From the start they were infected with the Bulldog virus. As a cousin on Sonny's father's side, and 16 years younger, I felt a bit intimidated until recent years, when Sonny and I developed a stronger friendship, for which I will be forever grateful. Sonny and Cecilia were always there for me, regardless of how busy they were, being supportive and available. Thank you Sonny for your guidance, wisdom and above all your friendship. You are already profoundly missed! In sympathy and love, Cole

- Cole Murphy, Washington , DC

A candle has been lit!

I didn't know Sonny but was a big fan of his. I always wanted to meet him & like so many others felt he was bigger than life. So sorry for the loss of such a great man & UGA institution. Though I haven't lived in Savannah since 1984 I know it will never be the same without Sonny in it. RIP

- Laurel Henning , Crawfordville , Florida

A candle has been lit!

I didn't know Sonny but was a big fan of his. I always wanted to meet him & like so many others felt he was bigger than life. So sorry for the loss of such a great man & UGA institution. Though I haven't lived in Savannah since 1984 I know it will never be the same without Sonny in it. RIP

- Laurel Henning , Crawfordville , Florida

Services under the direction of:

Fox & Weeks Funeral Directors, Hodgson Chapel

  • A private burial will be held