By Tom Momberg
Retired teacher, community activist and civic leader Frank Skala, who died of a stroke at Long Island’s St. Francis Hospital in the early hours of Monday morning, left a lasting imprint on the Bayside Community. He was 78.
Skala had been suffering from failing health in the last few months but still managed to make his presence known and his voice heard.
Skala was the first to admit he was still fighting a good fight. Athough he stepped down from Community Board 11 earlier this year, Skala could still be spotted at Community Board 11 meetings before it took summer recess. He also made an appearance with Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) in July, when he was awarded the state Senate’s Liberty Medal, one of New York’s highest civilian honors.
“I used to do a lot more work than I can do now. It’s hard to type, it’s hard to use a pen, but I can still say no,” Skala said when he received the award from Avella, referring to his own outspoken nature when it came to community issues.
A 70-year resident of Bayside who still found time to travel the country and the world, Skala taught American history and geography for 33 years at the now-shuttered Campbell Junior High School, JHS 218 in Flushing, and later at Adrien Block Junior High School, IS 25, on Francis Lewis Boulevard.
After retiring from teaching in 1992, Skala continued to submerge himself in community affairs. Whether dressed as Santa Claus during the holiday season or speaking out at CB 11 meetings, it became clear how much of an impact Skala had on the local community by the words others have had to say about him.
Fellow community activist Mandingo Tshaka was awarded the Senate’s Liberty Medal alongside Skala and said he was saddened to hear of his death.
“He was a good civic leader and did a lot of great work,” Tshaka said. “It was sad to see him in poor health, but I was amazed he still had the energy to participate in everything he could. Any gathering or community event there was in Bayside, Frank Skala was there.”
Skala founded the East Bayside Homeowners Association and created the first series of alumni books and an alumni association for Bayside High School. He also helped found the Friends of Bayside High School with Gregg Sullivan and Dave Solano.
“This is a guy who dedicated himself to this community — never stopped, never tired — he just kept going,” Sullivan said. “To some, he was a professional irritant, but to others he was a dedicated guy who just kept everyone on their toes about what was going on here in Bayside.”
Skala was in the care of his children, friends and neighbors in the months before his death. He is survived by his son Edward Skala, his daughter Bonnie Skala Kiladitis and his grandchildren Brayden and Alexa Kiladitis.
Bonnie Skala Kiladitis said she was grateful for the outpouring of community support for her family following Skala’s death, both from the people who loved him and those who staunchly opposed him.
“We are now just going through all of his old contacts, reaching out to some people who knew my father more than 10 years ago, and so many people have only had kind things to say,” Skala Kiladitis said.
Skala’s wake was slated for Thursday, Aug. 20, and Friday, Aug. 21, from 2 to 5 p.m. and 7p.m. to 9 p.m. both days at the Lloyd Funeral Home, 214-43 39th Ave., in Bayside. His family said all would be welcome. The funeral and burial will take place outside the city over the weekend and is closed to only close family.
Skala Kiladitis said that for those who would not be able to make it to her father’s wake this week, there would be a memorial service scheduled for September — the date, time and place have yet to be determined.
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb