Frank Schwengel, a dedicated 30-plus year volunteer with the , who was equally revered among friends, family and cohorts for his backyard barbecues, died Tuesday at 78.
The cause was pancreatic cancer following several years of treatment, his son, Kris, said.
In an email to friends, his family said, "we are grateful to modern medicine and Frank's strong will and zest for life for giving him what we consider bonus years. These years enabled him to welcome a second beautiful daughter-in-law and two more adorable grandchildren into the Schwengel family."
In addition to three decades of leadership at the boys and girls club, Schwengel was a longtime volunteer with Santa Monica Little League, three-term Santa Monica Recreation and Parks Commissioner, and a past president of the Lions Club. He left his mark as generous and optimistic, and steadfast in his commitment to local youth.
"Any organization would be lucky just to have half of a Frank," said Boys & Girls Club CEO Aaron Young, who met Schwengel as boy. "He was a very special man."
On Christmases, Schwengal and his family threw holiday parties to cook for all of the club members, and in the summer, they hosted annual barbecues at his home on the beach on Ocean Front Walk. He regularly flew to the East Coast to see the coveted national Youth of the Year awards presented live.
"When I was a kid I remember going to Frank’s house for beach parties... the front door was wide open to the community," said Young. "Everyone would run through the living room straight to the back and jump into the old wooden Jacuzzi. So you can imagine for a 7 or 8-year-old it was just a blast."
As a Recreation and Parks Commissioner, Schwengal worked tirelessly to have more ball fields built and worked on projects to expand and improve , said current chairman Phil Brock.
"He was someone who I never heard a City Council person disparage," said Brock. "He was, I think, a conservative—which is very anti-Santa Monica—but he was someone that people really liked."
There was a whimsical side to Schwengal, too. He kept parrots for pets.
Born in 1933 in Des Moines, IA, he played football the University of Iowa and served in Okinawa, Japan during a two-year stint with the Marine Corp. He later became a banker, but even after retirement in 1992, continued work in the profession as an executive at Interbusiness Bank.
After his cancer diagnosis, a group of friends organized regular Saturday lunches to give Schwengal some fresh air.
When he could no longer attend his grandsons' baseball games he got play-by-play reports via phone and video. This year he was bursting with pride when both boys were Little League All-Stars, his family said.
When asked what he would miss most about his dad, Kris, a former UCLA baseball player, said "the countless backyard barbecues for our baseball team... the Fourth of July parties. He was a patriach in the family."
Friends would continue to invite him to events, and even in his sicker days, he would say, "'oh yep, I'll be there if I can!' He wasn't bs'ing you, he really meant it," said Young. "Hi leadership, his dedication inspired other people—I think that's what we'll miss the most."
In lieu of flowers, family asked donations be made to:
The Boys & Girls Club of Santa Monica
Schwengel Scholarship Fund
1220 Lincoln Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401