In honor of him and all he has done over his 85+ years of life (for he had truly done so much), I share these memories with all of you. He may have professed being “private” at times, but he was functionally and wholly a public figure in service to his community, first as a first responder and later as a veterans’ advocate. He didn’t just “belong” to me and my family, but to the community of the North Country, the Empire State of New York, and, I would argue, the world at large.
The next image shows Dad playing around on my Grandfather’s violin, sometime in the late 40s or early 50s, I figure.
The next image shows my dad with some of his Navy buddies on a submarine he was on for some three years. He had been on several subs, but he was on this sub for—by far—the longest. Dad was a radio operator, as were all of these guys…
With everything else he was doing, Dad was also a singer and an actor! Between 1976 and 1982 he was in seven regional productions, in Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, and Malone, N.Y.
In this next image he was King Arthur, in “Camelot.” This was put on in the Saranac Lake Town Hall. I was teenager, and we’d been sitting up high in the balcony. While dad seemed smaller than G.I. Joe, he was out on stage belting out the first tune in the play, and I was stunned. His voice sounded just like he was standing right next to me…yelling—I mean belting out his tune—directly into my ear! I was thinking, wow, his voice is so loud…and he’s not yelling at me for something I did!
It was a weird feeling, but yes, that’s how powerful a voice he had. And it was effortlessly projected by whatever superpower he had within him.
BTW, we still have the sword that he made. When the lights hit that mirror glass on that “blade,” man, it shined!
This next image has Dad holding one of his Basswood boats he carved, the USS Sailfish. He carved many of these, even sold one or three. They are perfectly scaled down to their sizes, because he sent to the Naval Institute for their plans! Everything is true to scale. They are…incredible. The USS Threadfin and Irex, which he also carved, are in the background.
This next image has become the defining “view” of him. He’d dedicated the rest of his life to veterans’ advocacy.
A few years after 9/11, I had asked dad one day, as we sat in their back yard in upstate New York one [I think it was] Fall day, in their gazebo. Why and how had he gotten so into veteran affairs?
Dad told me that after 9/11 happened, he’d felt deeply for all those who had died and all those who had and were going overseas and coming home…harmed. He told me that he couldn’t go back into the Navy at his age, so he desperately looked for another way to help veterans who returned from giving their all. That’s when he became wholly immersed into veterans’ advocacy. He spent the rest of his life doing so. And he was relentless. Besides having belonged to the Elks and the Kiwanis (President, Malone Club) clubs, he was part of the following:
- U.S. Veterans Inc. Albany/Saratoga Base (Past Base Commander)
- The Holland Club
- Veterans of Foreign Wars
- American Legion Post 219 (Post Historian)
- American Veterans Post 8 (2008 Post Commander)
- Salute Military Golf Association-NY Chapter (Founder and Regional Manager)
- Clear Path for Veterans Golf Program (Coordinator)
- Homeward Bound Adirondacks (Chair of the Building Committee)
Okay, and I simply have to comment on this next image!
For Dad’s 80th birthday, he insisted on having every “damned one of” those 80 damned candles put on his damned cake and damned-well lit. Said he’d “…damned-well earned every one of them!“).
As Laura and my brother, Greg, and I covered his sheet cake in 80 candles…then lit every one of them…I looked to Greg and said, “This is not gonna end well….”
When we next returned to the Malone Gold Club a year or three later, we were told that they no longer allow so many birthdays candles to be lit in their private gathering rooms! They now limit it to only 8 – 10 candles, or the “numbered candles”!
Though, of course, we wrote and called each other, this next 2021 image is the last time Dad and I were physically beside each other. Saw each other. Hung out together. This was the last time I was with my dad.
Among the many, many things Dad had been, Dad had been a[n]:
- USN Submariner
- Navy veteran
- Consulting Forester
- Police officer
- Forest Ranger
- Many times small-business owner
- Sheep farmer
- Artist (incredible pencil and oen-and-ink sketches!)
- Master woodworker/carver
- Excellent cook/baker/griller/chef
- Adjunct college instructor
- Private Investigator
- Environmental consultant
- Veteran advocate
- And as he put it in his book, Periscopes in the Adirondacks, a “general pain-in-the-ass.”
Dad had received the following awards:
- Commendation from Vice Admiral V.I. Lowrence (Commander Submarines Atlantic)
- Silver Smokey Award (U.S. Forest Service and National Advertising Council)
- Outstanding President Kiwanis Club, Malone, NY
- Mister AMVETS Post 8, Malone, NY
- The Order of the Silver Rose (Excellence in service as a Veterans’ Advocate)
- Friends of Guy Conklin and All Wounded Warriors, 2013
- Legionnaire of the Year, 2018 (American Legion Post 219)
Today marks the first year since Dad left this world. Dad had walked and swam this Earth 85 Years, 6 Months, and 2 Days. He is now forever on his Eternal Patrol.
You will always be remembered, Dad.
“Dreams, they come early in one’s mind,
They lead, you follow, you chase,
They hide! Sometimes you cry for them,
Life is but a shadowy dream…”
—Frank P. Dorchak, Jr.
An image at top: is of my dad rappelling down a Department of Environmental Conservation helicopter. I remember him talking about doing it, saying he couldn’t believe that “at his age” he was gonna be roping down a chopper! This had to be in the 1990s, when he’d have been in his fifties or early sixties. F.P. Dorchak photo
What a fitting tribute for a man who was truly a pillar of our community. He was one of those ‘helpers’ that Mr. Rogers said to look for.
Thank you, Wayne. He really was rooted in the North Country community. In the 70s he’d always talked about wanting to check out Montana (usually because of something going on he wasn’t a fan of…), but I could never see him doing it, especially later in life, and especially after I’ve been there many times myself. I just could never see him leaving the North Country. He was ingrained there, and it ingrained in him.
Many in the north country can tell a story about Frank Dorchak. Mine began one evening in the late 80s with a knock at the back door. Turning on the porch light, I saw an uniformed ranger and asked him what’s up. He introduced himself and asked if he could use our phone, explaining, “I hit one my deer at the end of your driveway, and it punctured my radiator!” Word evidently spread fast, because by the time a tow truck had arrived, there were about a dozen vehicles with flashing lights out front, and great jollity prevailed as Frank took a good ribbing from his many friends in the law enforcement community. He was one of the best, and will long be remembered
Okay, this I had never heard of! How funny! Over the years I’ve hit many a deer from Colorado to Utah to California, but never in NYS. Never had my radiator punctured, either! How funny!
Not sure if I’d mentioned this one before, but also back in the 80s, when I was in college and my brother, Chris, in the USAF Academy, Dad had picked us up at the Albany airport. It was laaate. As we drove up along Cascade Brook in the early A.M., on NY 73, Dad had run out of gas–in uniform and in his Ranger truck! So he called dispatch and had them wake up his dad, who he then had bring us gas! Dad could just chuckle, shake his head, and said “Well, that’s embarrassing!” He’d had such a busy day, he’d forgotten to gas up as he left to get us!
Thanks for the new memory!
Thank you ! I loved learning about your father and his inspiring life. He must have been very proud of you!
Thank you, Ruth, for such kind words. There was so much to him. What you saw was what you got, and he tried to treat everyone fairly. But, geez, his talents and abilties ran deep.
What a wonderful tribute to your father. A remarkable individual! You have much to be thankful for in this day and age. Although I worked for the Department for 30 years and spent much time in the Adirondacks, I never did cross paths with your father. From what you have written, however, I can tell that he was an example of an individual who made the agency a better place for his time spent there…..
Thank you, Jim. Very kind of you to say.
Just a pleasure to read! My wife had an injury on a hiking trip & had to be taken off the trail by a Ranger, so we know how dedicated these men & women are. It looks like your dad went far above what some Rangers did. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for your sentiments, Richard. I’m just one guy who’s highlighting the life of a single ranger. I’m sure that all rangers have similar stories. These men and women, by their very nature, I feel are all going above-and-beyond, and that’s true of all First Responders. But I do greatly thank you for sharing your story about my dad, and I certainly hope that your wife has recovered 100% from her incident.
I have a copy of Periscopes in the Adirondacks and loved reading it. I passed it on to my brother who served on a nuke sub in the 70s.
I’m glad you enjoyed it! Dad had fun working on it! I’m so glad he’d done that (and my mom is working on her own, so that ought to be quite interesting…), because, as kids of our parents, we rarely get to have such first-hand insight into what our parents REALLY did. It so rounds out our views of the PEOPLE that they are/were, rather than just our VIEW of them as parents.
Unfortunately , there are few people like this in todays world . Thank you Frank for making our world better
Thank you, Robert. He truly wanted to make the world better in the special way that was uniquely his. We all have our own special ways of making life better, and I hope that stories like I have presented here allow each of us to behave similarly and continue to make Life better for the rest of us still walking this rock.
I miss Frank. One of a kind.
I do, too, Scott, and he surely was. Thank you for sharing.
What a lovely tribute to your Dad! He achieved much in life.
You obviously feel about your Dad as I do mine. I miss him daily.
Happy Trails to You
Bruce, thank you. I’m glad you feel this way toward your father, as well. And I offer you my heartfelt thoughts in his passing. Your father truly must have also been a great person for you to feel this way. Our parents should instill within all of us the proper guidance to grow and become wonderful and great in our own right…and in missing them I feel this speaks highly of the kind of person they were
Thanks for sharing this wonderful story of an amazing man! An inspiring read, and great photos!
Thank you, Sally. I’m so glad you and others have been so moved by who my father was and the life he’d tried to live. He tried to instill in me the proper qualities of one who lives a good life and I hope that I do justice to all that he’d imparted upon myself, as well as the world at large.
Thank you Frank Jr. for this fine tribute to your dad, including the wonderful photos that you provided.
The photo of the six young rangers (Black, Bissonette, Dorchak, Weitz, Hodgson and Coon) all in the early stages of their careers is especially poignant to me as a contemporary who has a gret many fond memories of them all.
The photo of Frank and Wanda, from the 2020 plaque presentation at Ray Brook was, sadly, the last time for many of us to see each other again before Covid changed everything. I thank ranger Capt. John Streiff (now retired) for hosting that wonderful event that brought us together once more to showcase Frank’s handiwork.
And thank you also to the Adirondack Almanack for creating this wonderful forum where people may share the memories, information and opinions that connect us in our love for this wonderful Adirondack/north country region.
Thank you, Louis! I greatly appreciate your comments. I’ve updated the original two images in my blog post (that was used to create this post) with those names and Capt (ret.) Streiff’s rank. Thank you so much for including their names! I knew of some of them, but not all and hadn’t wanted to leave anyone out, so left them all out, instead.
And also as you mentioned, thank you, Adirondack Explorer/Almanack! Creating this platform is priceless, as Mr. Curth says. Such a repository of regional historical knowledge.
Again, thank you to all who took the time to visit my memorial to my dad, here, and comment. Even of you didn’t comment, thank you for stopping by. It all means the world to me.
I look forward to your Mom’s book. I’m certain it will be just as entertaining and give all of us insight into the those spouses who support our rangers.