Frank R. Kasky … Retired Chicago Bomb Investigator and Lake City resident, 86, recalled as ‘Perfectionist’.
“Perfectionist” was a word frequently used to describe the life of former Chicago bomb squad technician and past Lake City resident Frank Kasky during his memorial service in Denver on October 28. Kasky, who died in Denver, age 86, on October 16, 2016, lived in Lake City from 1985 until 1994 with his wife, Shirley Ryan Kasky. During his years here he is recalled for increased professionalism and training which he implemented in his office as Hinsdale County Coroner. He also served as Municipal Judge for the Town of Lake City for eight years and was a talented member of both Lake City Community Choir and Magic Cabaret. In a eulogy for his uncle, Illinois resident Harvey Kasky, Jr., glowingly described the eclectic and precise talents of his uncle, noting his “Uncle Bud” was a “perfectionist in everything he did and I am sure that is how he survived those years on the bomb squad.” Born in Chicago, October 3, 1930, Frank Robert Kasky was the eldest son of Frank and Ellen (Miller) Kasky. He attended Chicago Vocational High School and as a 17-year old sophomore enlisted as a Reservist with the U.S. Marine Corps 9th Infantry Battalion. As a Reservist enlistee, he received training in the use of basic infantry weapons. It was while attending classes at the vocational high school that Frank met Shirley Ryan. The couple dated for 3-1/2-years prior to their marriage at St. Joachim’s on the South Side of Chicago on June 24, 1950. Mrs. Kasky’s family had a strong law enforcement background, including her father, James, Sr., who had a 38-year career on the Chicago Police Force, and her brother — and later Lake City resident — James Ryan, Jr., who was a Chicago motorcycle policeman for 16 years. Frank’s Marine Corps’ training came in handy as military action escalated in Korea. The Korean Conflict began on June 25, 1950 — the day after Frank and Shirley’s wedding — and just five weeks later Frank and other members of Chicago’s 9th Infantry Battalion were shipped off to Camp Pendleton for training as the reconstituted 7th Regiment of the 1st Marine Division. The new 7th Regiment consisted of a majority of Reservists such as Frank and included many World War II Veterans. Reflecting years later on his teenage years with the Marine Corps, Frank recalled “One thing you learn in the Marine Corps is how to fire a rifle… everyone is a rifleman first, no matter what your later assignment might be.” Machine gun, flame throwers and rockets sections of the 7th Regiment were already filled, the only opening for Frank being on the Milometer Mortar Platoon. Frank served active duty in Korea from September, 1950 until October, 1951, when he was decommissioned and returned to Chicago, he remained a Reservist with the U.S. Marine Corps until his official discharge in 1963. On his return to Chicago, he started a 30-year career with the Chicago Police Dept. beginning in June, 1954, and continuing through retirement in August, 1984. He served briefly as a patrolman and for one year was assigned as an undercover detective with the Chicago Police Dept.’s Scotland Yard Special Detail. Shirley recalls that during undercover vice investigations, Frank was occasionally required to sit in taverns silently monitoring criminal suspects, but was so young-looking that he was frequently asked for age identification. For four years Frank served with the police dept. homicide division but for the bulk of his career — 24 years in total — he served on the three-person bomb and arson squad with responsibility for defusing bombs and incendiary devices in an area roughly half the size of metropolitan Chicago. As an indication of the perfectionism which infused his career, Frank and fellow bomb squad members placed their emphasis on precise evidence collection, often placing themselves in potentially dangerous and life-threatening situations. The techniques used in bomb investigation were in their infancy, Frank’s nephew Harvey Kasky in his eulogy characterizing the bomb detail unit as “just men in coveralls, transporting a potential bomb to a safe location on the passenger seat next to him.” There were no remote-control robots at the time, he recalled, and “tools of the trade were items you brought from home.” It wasn’t until 2006, long after Frank’s retirement as Commander with the Chicago Bomb Division, that the department received its first remote-control robot to assist in bomb diffusion. In his honor, that robot was christened “Frank”. Frank’s tenure on the Chicago bomb squad came at a stressful time in the 1960s and 70s with a marked increase in incidents of domestic terrorism. Adding to the stress was the fact that Frank and his cohorts found bomb suits and gloves cumbersome and instead preferred to defuse the bombs with their bare hands, in the process preserving valuable evidence which would be indispensable in later court proceedings. Frank’s Chicago bomb squad often worked in tandem with other law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, one of the better known cases including bombs which were set in Chicago and other American cities in the 1970s by a Puerto Rican terrorist gang known as FALN. His work also included incendiary devices connected to the Chicago Mob. He was involved in the investigation and eventual capture of the infamous bomber Frank Kulag who was responsible for the bombing deaths of two Chicago policemen, including a fellow member of the bomb squad. Frank was called in as a member of the squad to disarm a series of booby-trap bombs which Kulag left in his Chicago apartment. The stressful aspect of Frank’s Chicago bomb squad work was partially relieved through his personal life, key of which was his life-long partner, Shirley, who describes their marriage as “growing up together” and, in the intervening years, they were virtually inseparable. “We did everything together,” she adds. Frank had a life-long interest in classical music, his handyman tinkering abilities crafting a home entertainment system which included two hefty speakers crafted from heavy-gauge sewer pipe. The stereo system with speakers made the successive trek from Chicago to Lake City and to the couple’s final home in Denver. Singing and choral music was another life-long interest, starting as a youth when he sang with Chicago’s Apollo Musical Club. For years he was among the choir singing the “Messiah” with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. His singing talents were also well known in later years in Lake City as an early member of Lake City Community Choir directed by Claire Jessee, and musical numbers in locally-produced “Magic Cabaret”. Also aiding as stress relief in Frank’s career were annual month-long car trips to Colorado each summer to visit Shirley’s brother and sister-in-law, Jim and Therese Ryan, in Lake City. Jim and Therese had relocated from Chicago to Lake City in 1954 and in later years were well known for their successful efforts to revitalize the old Bank Block in downtown Lake City as the celebrated Elkhorn motel, restaurant, and bar. During their first two years in Lake City, 1954 and 1955, however, the Ryans operated a small scale restaurant and bar known as the Lone Star which was located on Silver Street in the buildings now occupied by Lynn McNitt’s Sage & Timber and the adjoining San Juan Coffee Co. During Frank and Shirley’s first visit to Lake City in summer, 1954, they were immediately drafted to assist in the Lone Star, Shirley assigned the duty of waitress while Frank did double duty as bartender and assisting Slim Bloxham as dishwasher at the popular venue. They returned to assist at the Lone Star in 1955, interspersing their vacation time with enjoyable sightseeing, fishing, and horseback rides on horses which they rented from Johnny McCloughan. Particularly memorable in summer, 1955, according to Shirley, was sitting horseback while watching as Silver Street received its first asphalt overlay. The Kaskys returned to Lake City on a near-annual basis for summer vacations in later years while headquartered in a unit at Craig’s Cabins in downtown Lake City. As retirement loomed in 1984, Frank and Shirley made plans to move to Lake City. Shirley’s parents, James and Ann Ryan, owned a snug log cabin — now the home of Denis Cox and Deb Ramundo — on Gunnison Avenue. The Kaskys arranged to build a garage and workshop on the alley behind the cabin and in 1985 moved into the cabin on a full-time basis. During their Lake City residence from 1985 until 1994, the Kaskys were active community members. They were named “Mr & Mrs. Hinsdale County” for the Hinsdale County Fair in September, 1990, and in 1991 were honored as Parade Marshals for the July 4 parade. They were active members of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church. Based in large degree on his professionalism and years as a detective in Chicago, Frank was the successful candidate for Hinsdale County Coroner, taking the place of the prior county coroner, Robert W. Johnson, in 1987. He continued in the office until retirement in 1991 and was succeeded by the late Ron Zeller. One of Frank Kasky’s most celebrated cases as county coroner came in July, 1989, when the skeletons of Al Packer’s five companions were exhumed at the massacre site near the Dawn of Hope Bridge. As coroner, Kasky closely monitored the exhumation and transfer of the remains to a forensic lab in Tucson, Arizona, prior to returning the bones to Lake City for reburial. As the bodies of the five men were once again buried, Coroner Kasky made the decision to issue formalized death certificates for each of the men — the first certificates since Israel Swan, Frank Miller, James Humphreys, California Noon, and Wilson Bell had died 115 years before. In addition to enjoyable performances with Lake City Community Choir and in Lake City Arts’ summer “Magic Cabaret” series, Frank was an early advocate and promoter of the dramatic production “The Last Trial of Alferd Packer” in the upstairs courtroom at Hinsdale County Courthouse and in 1990 accepted an award from Colorado Tourism Board for the innivative production on behalf of Lake City Chamber of Commerce. His ever-thoughtful and precise handyman skills included electric wiring, painting, and furniture refinishing. He served as municipal judge for the Town of Lake City for eight years and during his years in Lake City worked as “Greenhorn Drover” at Vickers Ranch testing cattle for lung disease. Summing up his eclectic abilities at last month’s memorial service eulogy, Harvey Kasky referenced his career work as “Marine… Police Officer… Judge… Coroner… Cattle Driver… Board Member… Actor… Singer… Handy Man… Active Church Volunteer… Perfectionist… Friend to Many… always trying to help people. Whatever the Lord needs, he can now call on Uncle Bud to get the job done and it will be done perfectly.” In 1994, the Kaskys made the difficult decision to move to Denver to be closer to medical services and located to Windsor Garden, a large senior citizens complex in suburban Denver. Typically not one to sit on the sidelines, Frank became involved in theatrical entertainments and volunteered to serve on the complex’s board of directors, including two terms as president. At Frank’s memorial service which was held at Windsor Gardens on Friday, October 28, Monsignor Leo Horrigan of Windsor Garden’s St. James Catholic Church officiated. In addition to the eulogy provided by Frank’s nephew, Harvey Kasky, the large audience included Chicago resident Jeremiah Margolis, a federal ATF agent who formerly worked with Frank on the Chicago bomb squad, and long-time Lake City friends Bob and Becky Weeks. Harvey Kasky’s triplet daughters — Frank’s great nieces — took part in the service, Julie-Ann Kasky, was violin instrumentalist performing “Amazing Grace” on a 300-year old family violin which was given to her by her great uncle. She was accompanied on the piano by her sister, Kelsie Kasky, while a third sister, Hailey Kasky, gave one of the readings at the service. Frank’s ashes have been placed in a U.S. Marine Corps urn bearing the eagle and anchor insignia which has been placed in the columbarium at Fort Logan National Cemetery in suburban Denver. Frank Kasky is survived by his wife of 66 years, Shirley Ryan Kasky, who continues to make her home at Windsor Gardens. Other survivors are his brother, Harvey Kasky, Sr., who lives in Evansville, Indiana; a niece, Paula Westhoff, Evansville, and two nephews, Harvey Kasky, Jr., Shorewood, Illinois, and Wayne Kasky, Evansville. He is also survived by his sisters-in-law, Ruth Ryan Biglin, of Windsor Gardens, and Therese McGovern Ryan, Hemet, California, and five great nieces and nephews, Julie-Ann, Hailey, and Keslie Kasky, and Sean and Chris O’Drowski. Frank was predeceased by his parents, an older sister, Ellen Kasky Hunter-Doty, and brother-in-law, James H. Ryan, Jr. The family suggests memorials to Buckley Field Young Marines.
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