Goodbye, Coach Frank

by Randy Murray on March 21, 2013

Yesterday we learned that Frank had died. It was not a surprise. Frank battled his cancer for many years. We knew that he didn’t have long. But still, it was too soon.

I met Frank many years ago when we both worked at Sterling Software. He and I immediately hit it off. He was that very special kind of person who always seemed on the edge of bursting out with laughter at a joke or story he was dying to tell. I liked him on the spot.

He left Sterling not too long after we met and I was surprised to learn that he moved to a job with the State of Ohio and ended up working with my wife, Diane. She immediately became friends with him as well. She soon learned that Frank was an ice skating coach and was offering figure skating lessons. We took Kathleen, who had been taking group lessons at the local rink, to meet him along with the then very tiny Jennifer. Kathleen enjoyed the personal attention and lessons and it was all that we could do to keep Jennifer off the ice. As soon as she could stand on skates she joined Kathleen in taking lessons with Coach Frank.

Frank was jovial, but very serious about ice skating. He was never gruff, but he had exacting standards. He was an excellent coach and teacher. He entered the girls in many competitions and although they never sought the heights of competition they carried home many medals. The girls both worked hard and enjoyed their time on the ice. I think not so much for themselves as for Coach Frank.

As the girls got older and found their own paths, jazz for Kathleen and painting for Jennifer, they had less time for skating, but they still had time for Frank. Frank had big plans when he retired a few years ago, but it was just a few days after leaving his job that he learned that he had a softball-sized tumor in his lung. Frank would have been the first to tell you that it was self-inflicted. He had been a life-long smoker, although he hid it as much as possible from the girls. He had planned on quitting smoking with his retirement. He did, too.

Frank fought cancer as valiantly and with as much good humor as I have ever seen. And he gained a few years. I talked with him on the phone before the holidays. He wanted to know if the girls were going to be home and he told me that he had finished another round of chemo. He hoped for another year. The girls had a great visit with him just after Christmas. Frank always had little gifts for them and they brought him tokens from their lives and love for him.

Frank was more than a friend or a coach. He was family. The girls didn’t see much of my father growing up and Diane’s father was old and infirm much of their lives. Frank wasn’t their grandfather. He was their coach and their mentor. And he has shaped their lives in so many positive ways. I thank him for that. He will always have an honored spot of remembrance in our family.

Frank Frederick Distelzweig III 1947-2013

Coach Frank with the Girls

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