Frank Skala, retired teacher and longtime community activist, died Aug. 17 at St. Francis Hospital in Port Washington from complications from a stroke. He was 78.
Skala was born on July 14, 1937 to the former Julia Sefranka, a nurse, and Franz Skala, owner of an upholstery business. He was a lifelong resident of Queens, living for more than seven decades at the Bayside house his parents bought in 1940. He attended PS 41, Bayside High School, and then Queens College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in History and a master’s degree in Education.
He went on to teach junior high school American history and geography for a total of 33 years at the now-shuttered Campbell Junior High School 218 and later at Adrien Block Intermediate School 25, before retiring in 1992. Over the course of his career, Skala taught thousands of students, conducted scores of field trips to historic landmarks in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and other places, and coached the track team. Skala was a United Federation of Teachers member for over 50 years and a chapter leader for more than 20 years, for which his colleagues honored him with the UFT’s Ely Trachtenberg Award for outstanding service.
In addition to his professional career, Skala was a tireless advocate for preserving and improving the quality of life for residents of Bayside. He founded the East Bayside Homeowners Association in 1974 to protect the residential nature of the neighborhood, and later the New Bayside High Alumni Association in 1991 which raised money and awarded scholarships for academically deserving local students.
Skala was an active participant on Community Board No. 11 for three decades before being appointed a member in 2003, a position he held until stepping down earlier this year. In June, Sen. Tony Avella awarded Skala with the New York State Senate Liberty Medal, the highest honor the state Senate can bestow upon an individual. A devout pacifist and charitable friend to the no-kill animal shelter cause, Skala served as a licensed lay reader in his boyhood church, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, on 40th Avenue.
At Christmastime, he also enjoyed using his trademark long white beard to volunteer as Santa Claus for neighborhood children and schools.
Skala was laid to rest in a private ceremony on Aug. 22 in Otisville, New York.
A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 4, at All Saints’ Episcopal Church. Condolences may be sent to 39-23 219th St. Bayside, NY 11361.
Skala is survived by his former wife, Beatrice DiPaolo Skala, whom he married 50 years ago this coming January; a daughter, Bonnie Skala Kiladitis; her husband, Wayne; and their two children, Brayden Edward and Alexa Julia; and a son, Edward Gustave Skala.