By Steven Goodstein
Those who knew Frank Skala knew that when it came to making important decisions, it was his way or the highway. Now it will always be his way.
About 80 people from the Bayside community honored the late former Bayside teacher and community activist Saturday with a street co-naming along Bell Boulevard.
Skala died from a stroke in August 2015. He was 78.
The northeast corner of 40th Avenue and Bell Boulevard will forever read “Frank Skala Way”.
The co-naming, presented to the City Council for approval by City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), drew several other Queens officials, including Borough President Melinda Katz, state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) and State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside). family, community members and friends of Skala to pay tribute to the late community icon.
“This man was a fighter and people in this community and in Queens respected him enormously,” Katz said. “One of the extraordinary qualities about Frank was that he knew when to fight and he knew how to get things done.”
Avella, who was a civic activist when he first met Skala, said Skala helped make the Bayside community what it is today.
“Bayside is what it is because of everything he fought for and everything he accomplished and I’ll never forget him,” the state lawmaker said.
Skala was presented with a New York State Senate Liberty Medal, a prestigious honor which recognizes bravery, courage and heroism, by Avella a month before he died. The medal is described as the highest honor that can be bestowed upon an individual by the state Senate.
“My father appreciated, respected and represented hard work,” said Skala’s son, Edward, who traveled from Virginia to participate in the ceremony. “It’s amazing to see the effect he had on the community and how so many appreciated his efforts. This is a fantastic event and a fantastic day.”
The July 14 co-naming took place on what would have been Skala’s 81st birthday, making the event even more significant.
“Frank had passion for his community — no issue was too small,” said Skala’s daughter, Bonnie Skala Kiladitis, who wore her father’s New York State Senate Liberty Medal. “This would have been his 81st birthday and what could be more fitting than to be celebrating an event like this in his honor?”
David Bressler, the former president of the Bay Club who is challenging Braunstein in Novemeber’s general election, was also on hand and spoke at the ceremony.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t have the great pleasure of knowing Skala, but I am thankful to have a good connection with his family,” Bressler said. “I have enormous respect for everything he attained for his community.”
Skala was a memorable community figure, both colorful and relentless in his pursuit to maintain Bayside and its quality of life. He grew up on 219th Street and 40th Avenue — just blocks away from the street co-naming — and also served as a member of the chorus and a lay reader at nearby All Saints Episcopal Church.
Frank graduated from PS 41 and then Bayside High School before attending Queens College. In both undergraduate and graduate programs, he earned degrees in history as well as education.
Skala went on to teach American History and Geography for 33 years at Campbell Junior High School 218 in Bayside, now closed, as well as the Adrien Block Intermediate School 25 in Flushing before retiring in 1992.
In 1974, Skala founded the East Bayside Homeowners Association in an effort to help preserve Bayside’s suburban nature and maintain its neighborhoods.
Skala also established the New Bayside High Alumni Association, an organization which has awarded scholarships and raised money for students, in 1991. He also served as a member of Community Board 11 for more than a decade.
Frank was a father of two, as well as a grandfather of two – 14-year old Brayden and 6-year-old Alexa.
Reach Steven Goodstein by e-mail at sgood