Frankie D and Me
Frank Dangello and I go back a long way, over 40 years. I arrived back as a Junior Math Major at Villanova after a year of partying at Florida State and three years in the Army. As a crusty veteran, I joined a small group of fresh-faced kids who were far more prepared than I was for upper level math courses. I became friends with just one of the kids: a former seminarian who always wore black slacks, white shirts, and black shoes. Then as now, Frank was an amazingly quick study. I think we had about eight math majors in our class. I remember we lost two of them as they learned at the graduation site that they wouldn't be participating because they failed a course.
Near the end of our last year at Villanova, I was given a grant to attend graduate school at Penn State . Frank was considering where he would go, but decided to try Penn State and talked himself into a teaching assistantship. I got married the summer before classes started, but Frank went as a bachelor. Frank and I lived on an opposite schedule. I was at my desk in McAllister Hall by 8:00 AM each weekday while Frank slept. We saw each other in late morning and afternoon classes and at the State College bars in the early evening. As I headed home, Frank and his cohort (Jim Earl, Rich Resch , and others) studied late into the night and early morning. On weekends, we all hit the bars at night. Things changed when Frank got married while in grad school, but his schedule stayed opposite from mine. I had (and have) a very strong-minded wife who wanted to get out of State College and start a family, so I hurriedly picked up my degree and left for a teaching job at Shippensburg leaving Frank and the State College bars behind.
During my first year of teaching at Ship, the annual math meetings were in San Antonio . I helped drive a state car with Jim Sieber and a Korean Colonel and mathematician named Kim down to Texas . My main order of business was to make sure that we hired Frank into the Math Department. The only problem was to convince Frank to come, but we were successful. I think someone mentioned that he could kill a lot of nearby deer if he came to Shippensburg.
We tried to attend the annual math meetings as often as our wives would allow. One of the memorable ones was in Cincinnati . We interviewed and subsequently hired Rick Ruth at that event, but my main memory is walking a couple of miles to a restaurant on a windy evening with Frank and Dick Weller. The problem was that the temperature was 20 below. Literally, our faces were starting to freeze solid as we scurried along.
Frank has always been a helpful guy. One day we helped Bill Hynes move his household into town from the country outside Shippensburg. After moving barn siding, a barber chair, and a player piano along with more normal household goods, we were rewarded with an open wine bar of homemade wine produced by Frank, Bill, and Dick. My memories are fuzzy, but I remember many choruses of “Am I Blue” as we huddled around the player piano. Later on, I was supposed to eat “Lutheran Subs” for dinner (hoagies prepared and sold by a Lutheran Sunday School class), but didn't make the bell. Meanwhile, rumor has it that Frank was vomiting in a garbage can near his house and was told that he was, “Just like a dog.” Unfortunately, I can't think of Frank without hearing that phrase in my head.
Frank, Howie Bell, and I went to “ Biminton ” (Frank's way of pronouncing Binghamton , NY ) one fall to attend a very esoteric, week-long math Conference. One night, we went to an on-campus bar called “The Other Place” and watched a fraternity pledge being forced to drink an obscenely potent concoction with an obscene name, something like “Mind Foul.” This was high culture on that campus. One night we hit the highway to do some bar hopping and got so lost on the highway 17s (17E, 17W, 17Q) that we stopped and peed in the same driveway twice during the evening. That night, or some other night, we almost got ourselves killed in a biker bar in downtown. I think I remember Frank defeating a tattooed biker babe in an arm wrestling contest. When we got back to Shippensburg, the late president Gilmore Seavers wrote a memo questioning the need for three of us to represent Shippensburg. I think that I've already outlined above the need for all three of to attend, but the presidential memo gave rise to a “Free the Shippensburg 3” protest around the department.
One summer, I decided to put a concrete patio in the back of our house in Shippensburg. Frank and Bill Hynes helped out by providing their expertise and sweat before and during the construction and providing their presence for the all important debriefing session at the Toll Gate Tavern afterward. During a long afternoon at the tavern we learned, “Hot on the left, cold on the right, and [fecal matter] don't go uphill” from some local plumbers and drank a few beers as well. Frank thought that he was too drunk to drive home and I was drunk enough to think that I could drive him home, but when my wife slapped me across the face with a fly swatter, Frank was sober enough to drive as far as necessary and was gone in a flash.
As our children grew older, my wife and I felt that we needed to get our basement finished. Amazingly, Frank said that he would do the job if I would be his gofer and pay for all of the materials and beer. Frank refused any payment for the job. Although our beer budget was badly busted, we ended up with a beautiful paneled basement with a dropped ceiling. We were, and are, extremely grateful for Frank's effort. We christened the new area with a big “Thank you, Frank” dinner, but we're still saying, “Thank you, Frank.”
Someone decided that it would be a good idea to load a bus with male and female students and a few faculty members and attend a computer science convention in Detroit for a week. For some reason, I don't remember much about the week except: 1) Frank decided which student room would sacrifice their bathtub for a beer cooler for the duration; 2) the hotel had glass elevators and a revolving bar at the top; and 3) thank God Howie wasn't there.
When the math meetings cycled back to New Orleans one year, Frank, Dick, Winston Crawley, and I decided to take the train. We got two adjoining drawing rooms on the train and Frank went to work and removed the separating wall. We had a box of good cigars, some bottles of cognac, and playing cards. It was quite a trip down, and then we had to spend several days in New Orleans doing the French Quarter, and then take the train back. It's a lot of work being a professor, but we bit the bullet and did the job.
We tried to keep active in the profession (teaching, not partying), and felt that seminars and colloquia were a great way to do it. Frank was always the most enthusiastic and faithful attendee and organizer of these activities. My biggest memory is of Frank's loyal attendance and contributions in our multi-year APL seminar, where we wrote exotic one-line programs to do all kinds of complicated tasks.
I remember attending many Super Bowl parties at Frank's and with Frank at other homes. He is just like a dog, a best friend. I'm just happy that I never got him mad enough to make a call to Wilmington about me. I don't know why Frank is retiring, for he still looks as young as he did at Villanova, but since he is, I wish him well.