Frank Szarka

NORWICH: Frank Szarka, born 04/30/50, died suddenly on February 25 2004 at the age of 53 while vacationing in West Palm Beach, Florida. Frank had survived a series of heart-related aliments until being struck with Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

Frank graduated from Norwich Regional Technical School in 1968 and attended Ward Technical College at the University of Hartford.

A skilled electrician, plumber, mechanic, carpenter, gardener and general problem-solver, as well as adventuresome cook who loved to feed people, Frank will be greatly missed by family and friends in Connecticut, as well as the new friends made in Florida during his last few months.

Frank relaxing in his favorite chair

Frank, a licensed electrician, owned Szarka & Son Inc., an electrical contracting business he ran after his retirement from Dow Chemical in 2001. Frank served as Instrumentation/Electrical Coordinator at Dow for over 30 years. He most enjoyed helping with new plant start-ups and solving maintenance or design problems. Frank loved to make soup for his co-workers and would often bring large pots of soup to work for special events, or just because it was cold out and he wanted everyone to have a warm cup of soup.

Frank is survived by his son, Robert Szarka. Rob resides in Norwich and owns Bizgrok Inc. with his mother, Joyce Thomas. Frank was an enthusiastic supporter their business ventures and their office and data center was always well-wired as a result. One of Frank's greatest joys was having the chance to help his son and to be such a part of his life.

Frank and Joyce, who married in 1969, divorced ten years later but reunited in 1991. They enjoyed working together, renovating their home and entertaining family at holiday gatherings. Aware of Frank's uncertain future, they were happy to have shared many years of friendship and love.

Also surviving are Frank's sister Judy Greenwood, her husband, Earnest "Sam" Greenwood and their daughter Kerrie Greenwood of Canterbury and their son, Earnest Greenwood, his son Sammy and his dear friend Jayne. Frank and Judy were close friends as well as siblings. They loved to talk about bargain-hunting and gardening and often spent hours on the phone chatting and enjoying one other's company. The eldest of the four Szarka siblings, Frank and Judy shared a bond that strengthened over the years and through the events of their lives, from childhood onward.

Frank is also survived by his mother, Caroline Szarka of Norwich and brother, Stanley Szarka of Norwich. Frank's father, Charles Szarka passed away in 1983 due to heart-related problems. Frank was a great help to his mother, often completing home maintenance chores. He also enjoyed escorting her on outings to see Broadway musicals. Members of the Divine Polish National Church of Norwich, Judy, Sam, Caroline and Frank could often be found working together in the church kitchen cooking for holiday bazaars and dinners.

There will be a wake at the Labenski Funeral Home at 107 Boswell Avenue, Norwich CT (860-887-1769 ) on Monday, March 1, 2004 from 7:OO PM to 9:00 PM. Following what is believed to be Frank's wishes, an eclectic service will be held at Labenski's the following day, Tuesday, March 2, 2004 beginning at 11 AM. Friends and family members are invited to contact Joyce Thomas or Rob Szarka at 800-954-4638 or Judy Greenwood at 546-6267 if they wish to speak in eulogy at the service. Following the service on Tuesday, please join the family for a gathering at the meeting hall of the Divine Providence National Church on 11 Silver Street, Norwich for food and fellowship.

In lieu of flowers, Frank's family asks that you remember him by planting a tree, adopting a pet, or feeding someone who is hungry. [MORE INFO HERE]

Also surviving are Frank's brother, Peter Szarka, his wife Patricia and their daughter Annie of Meriden. Peter and Frank shared a love of golf and gardening. One of Frank's wishes was to have had more time to pursue organic gardening with Peter and to have beaten him, once more, on the golf course.

Frank was an avid bowler, captaining his church bowling team and participating in league bowling at Norwich Ten Pin. Golf was Frank's other sport, playing his last round of golf just a few days before his death. He was introduced to the sport by his good friend, Ann Miller, and enjoyed their friendly rivalry on the course. Ann was significant in helping Frank's successful work in sobriety. Her encouragement and support was instrumental to Frank's active membership in a local AA group. He also deeply appreciated the friendship that grew between he and Patricia Rowland and vacationing with Pat and Ann at their home in Florida over the years.

During his separation from Joyce, Frank married Virginia Slater Parent and became step-father to her two sons. Over the years, he has maintained his support of and friendship for his step-son, Scott Parent. Frank cared deeply for his step-children and was pleased that he and Scott remained close after his divorce from Virginia.

Frank and his uncle, Butsy Weisgraber.
Frank learning about firefighting from Butsy Weisgraber

Frank was a hard-working person who expected no less from those around him, but who also enjoyed a well-earned nap. He loved the outdoors, and was more impressed by kindness to animals and respect for the environment than by wealth and power. Frank's kindness to others extended to many, not least to his mother-in-law, Helen Weisgraber, with whom he shared a friendship beyond their respective roles. They shared recipes and cooking techniques. Helen often cooked Frank's favorite dishes and he was always ready to help with a household job. Most recently, he helped Helen move to Florida and, anticipating a permanent move to Florida within the year, he was looking forward to living near Helen again.

Frank was loved by many and will be greatly missed. He was a good friend and a good man.

Some suggestions, in lieu of flowers:

  • END HUNGER NOW!: Joyce & Rob's "North East Digital Village" section that's dedicated to ENDING HUNGER EVERYWHERE NOW! Go there for information, ideas and resources for you to help to end hunger in Connecticut, in our nation and around the world.
  • Food Bank: United Way of SE Connecticut 823-5598
  • TVCCA Elderly Nutrition Program
  • Heifer Project International, P.O. Box 8058, Little Rock, AR 72203, (800) 422-0474
  • Katie Blair House, Executive Director: Carol Croteau, Bethsaida Community, Inc., 71 Main Street, P.O. Box 913 Norwich, CT 06360, 860/886-7511
  • Hospice of Southeastern Connecticut, PO Box 902, 179 Gallivan Lane, Uncasville, Connecticut 06382-0902, 860-848-5699, Toll-Free at 800-654-4035,
  • Childreach/Plan USA, 155 Plan Way, Warwick, RI 02886, 800-556-7918, e-mail:
  • Women's International Loan Fund
~ JT/RS February 27 2004