While enjoying a steak dinner he prepared at home, and while watching football on the couch, Frank Adam Radella, 86, died unexpectedly in Billings on Dec. 7, 2019. Why now was the time to be reunited with his bride is unknown, but he always said “you never know when your time’s up.”
Raised in Midland, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Frank acquired the nickname “Frenchy” due to wearing a fancy cap. His father was a bricklayer in the steel mill, and his parents taught him that an education could keep him out of the mill. One year he was in bed for weeks with scarlet fever and was quite weak at the start of the season and he was deaf in one ear due to working in the steel mill with his father. His athletic drive earned him many football scholarships. He liked the Rocky Mountains, so he chose to become a University of Wyoming Cowboy. His leadership skills landed him team captain. Finishing up his geology degree in the fifth year of college, he coached for the UW Cowboys. Frank was drafted by the Washington Redskins, but never pursued. When he was inducted into the Midland, Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2013, his family and friends were there to celebrate this occasion. By playing sports, Frank learned that “you always have another gear to drop down into to sprint ahead.” When any situation in life got tough, Dad would say “you have to Puuush yourself.” He used this can-do attitude in life and had an interesting career as a geologist exploring for oil and gas in the Northern Rockies, Great Plains and Alaska until retirement in 2004.
On a blind date, he met Patricia Wicka and they married in 1959. Dad always called her his bride, and they were deeply in love until Pat died of ovarian cancer in 2010. Dad cared for and charted Mom’s medications for five years and had help from surgeon Dave Meyer, who also happened to be a big NFL Steelers fan. Dad, Dave and Keith Mohl watched the Steelers together every Sunday that Dad wasn’t actually at the game in Pittsburgh with his sister Kathy and eldest daughter Denise or in San Francisco with second daughter Karen and her husband Ta. Frank loved going camping, then fishing for brown trout in the slippery Boulder River so much that he almost bought a ranch there. Frank became a fly fisherman, especially with guidance from Jon Oakland and his third daughter Michele Oakland. While camping at East Rosebud Lake waiting for son Frank to complete his first backpacking trip over Beartooth Plateau from Mystic Lake, Dad discovered the Bronger dude ranch recreation hall was for sale. A few years later, with the help of architect Mr. Goldy, a wonderful interior cabin was designed for the Radellas. The cabin near East Rosebud created a place for Frank to enjoy the outdoors with his family.
Frank was a hunter and filled his cabin with trophies, like a 6 x 6 bull elk from a guided trip close to the cabin, a 5 x 4 mule deer from north of Billings and antelope from the plains of Western Montana. His youngest and only son Frank accompanied Dad hunting and occasionally Dennis Rehrig, a friend.
During all of our childhoods, dad took his family of six and sometimes his mom Helen on countless camping trips, where we slept in the same trailer that he towed around the plains for sitting on oil wells. In this era of his career, when he got a phone call that he was needed on the oil well site, he would come alive with excitement, preparing and stocking the trailer for weeks of sitting out in the middle of nowhere with the thrill of discovering oil, or catching a big fish. Later in his career, he would put together drilling well deals including land leases and mineral rights, plus having the correct geologic interpretations of wells in the area seismic logs, drill bit shavings, rock type or porosity. Tracking river sand bars a mile or more deep was filled with the excitement of discovery, especially on deep holes with drilling challenges. He lived with a wildcat being a “dry hole”; win some lose some, he would say. When Dad was well sitting, he would bring home gifts for his children.
Dad’s daily mantra was “I’m Living the Dream” and this year’s theme was “86 looking for some new tricks.” Others were “One for the Thumb in 81” (Steelers), ”84 in debt no more.” One of his favorite geology jokes was a geologist was applying for work at McDonalds and was boasting that he had a BS degree and the hiring manager says most of our geologists have master’s.
Our father was an incredible person who had a good sense of humor, was honest to a fault, and loved and cared deeply for others. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He had a good moral compass and a work ethic that he instilled in all of his children. He loved food, creating an incredible vegetable garden every year, football (Steelers were his #1 team and the Wyoming Cowboys), he loved to fish, hunt and tell stories.
Preceding Frank in death were his parents, Frank and Helen Radella. Frank leaves behind his loving sister, Kathy Logan and her child Lisa Champ and husband Thomas and their children Haley and Michael. Surviving children and spouses are Denise Christensen of Billings; Karen Radella of Campbell, California; Michele and Jon Oakland, of Bozeman; and Meredith and Frank Radella II, of Seattle. Frank had four grandchildren: Jacob Christensen, Halle Thomas, Taj and Nia Trimbo, and great-grandson Israel Trimbo.
Memorial Service will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17, at St. Pius X Church, 717 18th St. West, in Billings. Interment immediately to follow after the funeral mass. A reception at the church will follow.