Francis "Frank" Kratochvil was an aerospace engineer who worked on big-time projects but always put family and community first, taking pride in using his engineering know-how for projects both great and small to make life better for his children and others.
In the mid-1960s, Kratochvil took a job with Grumman Aerospace Corp. and joined a team working on lunar modules. He moved his wife and five children into a three-bedroom apartment in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
The young family didn’t have the money for a color television, a luxury item at the time. So Kratochvil bought the parts and built one himself — and the TV set worked for 10 years, recalls his son Thomas Kratochvil.
"[If] he’s got a problem, he’s going to work on it and he’s going to solve it," Thomas Kratochvil said.
As for working on the machines that carried men to the moon, Thomas Kratochvil said he and his family were in awe over Frank Kratochvil’s interactions with the astronauts and watching space shots from nearby Cape Canaveral. But his father was modest about his work, he said.
"He was kind of fearless of jumping into situations," Thomas Kratochvil said. "He was kind of a man of action,"
Frank Kratochvil contracted the novel coronavirus while at Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook. He died on April 17 at Stony Brook University Hospital at the age of 89.
Kratochvil was born and raised in Queens, where he met his eventual wife, Marie.
From 1950 to 1956, Kratochvil served in the Coast Guard. Following his service, he went on to obtain a physics degree from Adelphi University and a math degree from Stony Brook University.
After college, Kratochvil took a job with the now-defunct Republic Aviation working as an electric engineer on helicopters.
Frank and Marie had three children while still living in Springfield Gardens, Queens, and two more after relocating to Hauppauge in early 1964.
In 1965, Kratochvil began working for Grumman and moved the family from Hauppauge to Cocoa Beach. He ended up spending more than three decades with the company, working on such projects as developing systems for military fighter jets.
After four years in Cocoa Beach, the Kratochvils moved back to Long Island — first to Commack, then to Setauket, where Frank Kratochvil spent the rest of his life.
A churchgoing man, Frank Kratochvil was heavily involved with the St. James Roman Catholic Church in Setauket, which he attended for 50 years.
And in addition to serving as Mr. Fix-It in his own home and for his children as they grew up and started families of their own, Frank Kratochvil lent his skills to various community projects, such as his years spent volunteering for Suffolk County Habitat for Humanity.
Frank Kratochvil was "focused on the bigger picture beyond himself," Thomas Kratochvil said.
In addition to Marie and Thomas, Frank Kratochvil is survived by his children, Sharon Kratochvil, Peter Kratochvil, Dolores White and Marianne Kasoff; his sister, Ann Malone; and 10 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his brother, Joseph.