In Memory of Frank L. Lashek
April 2, 2003
Recollections of Frank Lashek: True Friend and Modeler!
I first met Frank in the early sixties not long after he married Tillie Ayres, widow of his best friend. He must have loved kids because Tillie had a small bunch. Two of them that I taught in school, Ronnie and Barbara, introduced me to Frank. “He too, is a modeler,” they said. With both of us interested in radio controlled model aircraft it wasn’t long before I watched a hand-launched ‘Rudderbug’ climbing into the sky. The engine quit after a 10 second engine run using up the fuel in a pen bladder tank. The ‘Bug’ began gliding around controlled by an escapement rudder. What a thrill it was to first time see a radio-controlled plane fly! Then Frank showed me how to get my model plane into the air, turning frustration into success. He also helped Chuck Mele, who was confined to a wheelchair, to get his model flying. Frank brought along a longtime friend and builder Burt Nelson. We flew together at Chuck’s house and later formed the Jersey Coast Radio Control Club. Meetings were held at Chuck’s house with Howard Cowdrick as our first president.
Full scale aviation was another of Frank’s interests, having owned three airplanes one being a Taylorcraft. He told me about a forced landing on the Brielle golf course when the engine failed. They didn’t like that very much.
During World War II Frank served in England with the Eighth Air Force. He was an electrician servicing B-24 bombers. Many long nights, some cold and rainy, were spent getting the bombers ready for the early morning flight. While waiting for their return, Frank always a modeler at heart, fashioned a model B-24 from pieces of Plexiglas. The polished model was beautiful.
While on a pass into town, Frank witnessed a German buzz-bomb fly over his head. The engine quit and the bomb went into a glide. It flew the length of the street and into the doors of a church, exploding inside. Fortunately, no one was injured.
In 1968 we attended the Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-In at Rockford, Illinois. Hundreds of aircraft lined the field. The air show performers were breath-taking; people like Bob Hoover and Steve Whitman. We admired the war-birds, antique aircraft, and talked the builders of experimental aircraft. Frank was great to be with and we shared this time together.
Back to modeling, Frank won his share of trophies at various meets such as the Nationals and Mirror Meet. Accompanying him Burt Nelson also earned many trophies including Testor’s Best Finish award. Some of Frank’s winning models were planes of his own design. Two scale airplanes that come to mind were powered by pulse-jet engines.
He also worked with Cal Smith noted aircraft illustrator for covers of modeling and aircraft magazines. Cal also designed and built models for magazines. Because of heavy work schedules Cal would often have Frank build the model for construction and flying photos. One lazy spring day Frank brought Cal to our field to test Cal’s model of the British SE5-A. To watch it flying in the clear blue sky was a pure joy.
Another friend of Frank’s was Leon Schulman who did much to further model aviation. Lee had been a B-26 pilot during the war and later designed the Drone Diesel. Many of his model plane designs were kitted, the Zombie was a well known kit.
As modeling progressed and improved, Frank went along with it. When giant scale became popular he built the PT-19 as a favorite. Apparently quite a few PT’s were built and because they flew so well someone would want it. Frank would sell it for cost saying, “I can always build another.”
Always willing to share he gave me an Ohlson 60 from his engine collection which I still treasure.
Burt Nelson, Frank’s friend, remembers Frank working in the model airplane industry with a gentleman named Harold Edwards. This was probably back in the late fifties when they designed and produced single channel radio gear. The name of the company was Radio Control Headquarters based in West Belmar, New Jersey. Hal and Frank would test their radios in a model called the Custom Cavalier. The flying was done at the Jumping Brook Airport in Neptune.
Debbie, one of Frank’s kids remembers well the fun time she had with him. At age seven she worked with Frank to build a soap box derby racer. That would’ve been enough working with Dad but they enjoyed so many races together. Debbie became known as “the Winn ingest kid in Farmingdale.’
Frank loved the old free-flight days so it is no wonder he joined the Society of Antique Modelers. This group reproduced early free-flight models but with radio control installed. He had a great model of the Buzzard Bombshell and entered competitions with it. To Frank this was pure fun, especially the camaraderie with other modeler friends.
Along with the aircraft modeling Frank shared his time with other hobbies. In his basement he constructed a well detailed model railroad layout. But of greater interest was his love of building ship models and sailing with a group in Spring Lake.
One of his ship models was a replica of the Savannah, the first nuclear powered ships. Another, whimsical model, was that of a floating church with a steeple, colored glass windows and organ music coming from within. This model is now displayed in the Methodist Church in Farmingdale.
Because his knees were going bad, Frank left his partner and their carpentry business. Eventually he couldn’t negotiate the steps to his basement shop. As long as he could Frank would visit friends until he retired to a nursing home. During this time Debbie was always nearby taking care of Frank’s needs. Our visits with Frank stopped when he went to be with the Lord on April 2, 2003.
“A golden heart stopped beating, hard working hands at rest, God broke our hearts to prove to us, He only takes the best,”
Frank L. Lashek was born August 6, 1916
– Tom Henk