S. Frank Kodra
VOORHEESVILLE —As a kid, S. Frank Kodra’s hero was the Lone Ranger. He grew up to work as a deputy and as an accident investigator for the Thruway Authority and to volunteer on an ambulance squad. Like his childhood hero, he liked to help people, often people in difficult straits.
“He’d be called out day and night. He loved it,” said his daughter Kathleen Kodra-Carlock.
Mr. Kodra died on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, at Kingsway Arms Nursing Center in Schenectady after a long and courageous battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 80.
Born in Decatur, N.Y. Mr. Kodra was the son of the late Johanna (née Panter) and Frank Kodra Jr.
He grew up on a farm that was “really rustic,” said his daughter. “They picked a lot of berries and fruit.” He liked to tell how he’d pick a few apples on his walk to school and then a few more on his way home.
His daughter described a picture of him as a kid, sitting on a horse with his father. Another vintage photo shows him as a boy in a cowboy outfit, complete with holsters.
Mr. Kodra graduated from Schoharie Central School in 1951. He took on all kinds of work, including as a gravedigger for a time. “Back then, you did what you could do,” said his daughter. He went on to serve in the Army from 1954 to 1957, working in the military police.
After his stateside hitch in the Army, Mr. Kodra worked as a deputy sheriff in Schoharie County for many years. And, he worked for 26 years for the New York State Thruway Authority as a radio dispatcher and accident investigator, retiring in 1995.
“He could tell you every mile marker on the Thruway,” said Ms. Kodra-Carlock. “Once, when my sister’s car broke down by Amsterdam, my dad asked her what the marker was.” After she told him, he responded with the help she needed: “That would be near such-and-such garage and the guy’s name is so-and-so.” Ms. Kodra-Carlock concluded, “He knew that Thruway up and down.”
Mr. Kodra also worked as a volunteer helping people in need. He was an active member of the Voorheesville Area Ambulance Service for over 25 years. “His first night in the nursing home,” his daughter said, “there was a fire drill.” When he heard the alarm go off, he was so used to getting up to help people in the night, always on call for the Thruway or ambulance service, that he fell trying to get out of bed. “It’s funny but not funny,” said his daughter.
She went on, “He was a very hard worker. He would give you the shirt off his back. He gave that to all us kids.”
Mr. Kodra met Anna Gruner, the woman who would become his wife, because she was in need. “Her car had broken down,” said Ms. Kodra-Carlock. She stopped at the tavern owned by Mr. Kodra’s father in Sloansville and S. Frank Kodra gave her a ride.
The couple were married for 57 years, their union ending only with his death.
As a father, said Ms. Kodra-Carlock, “He was always there. He was always worried about everybody.” Even in the nursing home, he would ask his visitors how each member of the family was doing.
Mr. Kodra took care of things as well as people. He would mow the lawn at St. Matthew’s Catholic Parish where he was an active member of the church for over 40 years. He’d also clean up the station house for the ambulance.
When his family was arranging to have a reception there after his funeral, his daughter reported, “They said, ‘We better clean it up. Frank would have it spotless for us.”
The reception will also feature Brooks barbecued chicken. Years ago, Mr. Kodra had coerced someone into giving him the Brooks’ recipe and that had become his specialty. “Anytime we went to someone’s house, Dad had to cook chicken,” his daughter said; it became known as “Frank’s chicken.”
The Kodras raised their family in Scotch Pine as one of the original residents in that Voorheesville development. “They wanted to take all the trees down,” said Ms. Kodra-Carlock of the builders, “and my mom wanted them saved.” So Mr. Kodra would regularly visit the building site “in his uniform with his gun on to check up on their work,” she said. The trees stayed.
For over 20 years, the couple worked side by side in their Scotch Pine basement as co-owners of Kodras’ Affordable Crafts. “My dad did woodworking. He would cut things out and my mom would stencil them,” said Ms. Kodra-Carlock. “She did silk and dried flowers and my dad would set up displays. He’d be the assembly line on the other side of the basement. Sawdust was always flying.”
Mr. Kodra also found time to play pinochle and games with his family and to go hunting and camping, square dancing and bowling.
Eventually, after their children had grown, Mrs. Kodra’s mother came to live with the couple, when she was 90, and Mrs. Kodra wanted to buy her a cat. “We were always dog people,” said Ms. Kodra-Carlock. Her grandmother picked out a tan and white long-haired kitten at the shelter and, on the way home, Mrs. Kodra needed help filling up her shopping cart with pet supplies.
The cat’s first bath was a disaster but, said Ms. Kodra-Carloc, “He turned out to be the most mellow cat, a total lap cat.”
Mr. Kodra came to adore the cat, named Oliver. The Kodras had Oliver for 16 years and, when Mr. Kodra would return to the nursing home from visiting his wife in an apartment across the street, he would be covered with white fur. Oliver died a couple of days before this past Christmas.
“Oliver,” the family wrote in a tribute, “has been waiting in heaven for the past two weeks to sit on his lap.”
The family also wrote of Mr. Kodra, “He was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather who will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him. His meticulous attention to detail, honesty, unrelenting work ethic, volunteerism, and sense of humor will not be forgotten.”
Ms. Kodra-Carlock summed up her father this way: “He was really easygoing, always very friendly. He always had a smile and he liked to joke and tell stories,” she said, concluding, “He liked to help people.”
S. Frank Kodra is survived by his wife, Anna (née Gruner) Kodra; his children, Karen Setia of Voorheesville, Keith Kodra of East Berne, Kathleen Kodra-Carlock and her husband, Francis, of Colonie, and Kyle Kodra and his wife, Daneen, of San Diego, Calif.
He is also survived by his grandchildren, Adam and his wife, Britney, Alison and her husband, Brian, Alyssa, David, Ashley and her husband, Eric, Antonet, and Jacob; his great-grandchildren, Renee, Leo, Abby, and Blake; his twin younger sisters, Mary Schultz, of Schoharie, and Betty Boreali, of Cobleskill; and several nieces and nephews.
The family offered “special heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Dr. Luvera for his unwavering compassion, superb care, and genuine concern for Frank’s well-being and healing.”
Calling hours will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, at New Comer Cannon Funeral Home, 343 New Karner Rd. in Colonie with a funeral service to immediately follow at 4 p.m. Mourners may leave online messages at www.NewcomerAlbany.com.
A graveside service will be held at 10 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, at Memory Gardens in Colonie.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Voorheesville Area Ambulance Service, Post Office Box 238, Voorheesville, NY 12186 or to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, 1359 Broadway - Suite 1509, New York, NY 10018.
— Melissa Hale-Spencer