Frank Cava, age 97, of Beaver, PA, died August 13, 2021, following an extended period of declining health. Born in Washington, PA, to Angeline and Sam Cava, Frank graduated from Washington High School, then joined the Navy in 1943. He served aboard a destroyer in the Pacific theater, earning two battle stars and participating in the occupation of Japan. Before serving at sea, he attended Naval radio school, followed by teaching Naval radio procedure at the University of Chicago. After the war he earned a B.S. in Education from California University of PA and an M.B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh. Frank was the Vice-President of Labor Relations for PBI Industries, a multi-plant steel fabricating , erection, and warehousing specialty company, headquartered in Rochester, PA, from 1952 until he retired in 1985. He was a founding member and past board president of the Beaver County Rehabilitation Center and served on the board of the YMCA of New Brighton. He was also a member of the Manufacturers’ Association of Beaver County, a member and past president of the Ironworkers’ Employers’ Association, and served as a trustee of the Ironworkers Local 3 Health, Welfare, and Pension Plan of Western PA. He also was a member of Community Advisers to Blue Cross of Western PA for many years.
He truly was part of the “Greatest Generation”. When he went to enlist in the Navy during WWII, he was initially classified as 4-F. He didn’t believe it and requested a retest. Once reassured that he was serious, they agreed to the retest and he passed. But because he chose the Navy, there was a more strenuous test to pass, which he did. He chose radio school, but tested at the bottom of the scale and was put in a class with those most likely to flunk out. During a class where another student was having a difficult time tapping out Morse Code, Frank got frustrated with the instructor and tapped out “Nuts to you,” just as the instructor was listening in. Boy, did he get in trouble! But he also made an impression and was one of two students (the other from the top class) selected to become an instructor. While teaching radio school near the University of Chicago, he noticed interference with the radio signal every day during one of his classes. He told his CO who directed him to time the interference. It was the same time every day. Eventually, the interference was traced to a building on campus. His CO went to the building to tell whomever it was that they were interfering with the war effort and needed to stop. The CO was blocked at the door and told “We think what we’re doing here is a little bit more important than what you’re doing there.” Turns out the interference was from testing the cyclotron used in the Manhatten Project, perhaps a more important undertaking than teaching sailors the Morse Code.
Assigned to the destroyer USS Putnam, DD757, during the war, Frank served as a radioman. He started a newspaper for the crew and that experience eventually led to his career at PBI. But while still in the Navy, he had one more view of history being made. During the battle of Iwo Jima, he was standing on deck and said to a crewmate, “Hey, they’re raising the flag! His crewmate said, “yeah, for the second time.” It wasn’t until years later that he understood the meaning of those words. It was also years later, when in his 60’s, that he discovered he had a slight heart murmur. It was that murmur that had first made him 4-F so many years before.
In his later years, he often said “Being a vet was the best thig that ever happened to me. I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t joined the service.”
In his spare time, besides reminiscing about his time in the Navy, Frank enjoyed golfing and was an avid reader, enjoying library books downloaded to his Kindle. Frank is survived by his wife of 70 years, Shirley; three children, Frank of Charlestown, MA (Colleen), Kathy Boyd of Raleigh N.C., and Kim Ruslander of Beaver; is sister Rose Rock of Washington, PA; grandchildren, Max (Mindy) and Christa Boyd, and one great-grandson, Jackson. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by three brothers, two sisters, and his son-in-law Steve Ruslander.
Per his wishes, no services are planned. A memorial will be held at a later date.
The family wishes to give special thanks to the VA, Homemakers Home Health Aid Services of Beaver County, and the Good Samaritan Hospice. We are indebted to Jen, Debbie, Carol, Carissa, Jessica, Renee, and all the other caregivers who took loving care of Frank during his last months.
He was an amazing husband and father and will be deeply missed.