LLSWD loses an icon
10/3/2012 9:49:00 AM
By Josh Johnson
Frank L. Boyle, the black hat-wearing, motorcycle-riding maverick who was the longest-serving commissioner in the history of the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District, died late last week in his Liberty Lake home. He was 72.
Friends and LLSWD colleagues remembered Boyle for his dedication to the community and its namesake lake, as well as for an unconventional style that had him tackling work and play alike with tenacity - and often at open throttle.
"I don't think you ever had to doubt where he stood on an issue, you know what I'm saying?" LLSWD General Manager F. Lee Mellish said. "He was pretty vocal about how he felt about different issues, so you never had to guess. He always was willing to fight to protect the integrity of the district. He really believed in this district and the things that it did."
At the same time, Mellish said, Boyle was a big-hearted friend always willing to pitch in, including one night when the district was replacing the pumps at the Inlet lift station. Though it wasn't part of a commissioner's job description, Mellish said Boyle stuck with the crews replacing the pumps overnight as one thing after another went awry. After an all-nighter, the sewage began to rise with the morning rush of toilet and shower usage, and the crew was on "pins and needles" with the pump still not operational.
"Frank Boyle went down to McDonald's and got breakfast for everyone," Mellish recalled, adding that disaster was barely averted.
Motorcycles and mailboxes
Boyle was born in Seattle on Feb. 16, 1940. Over the years, his pastimes evolved from racing dirt bikes, to racing outboard hydroplanes to riding motorcycles. Accidents were a common occurrence in all these pursuits. In a 2005 interview, he told The Splash that among his biker friends, he earned the nickname "Plank" after a wreck on a wooden bridge resulted in scrapes, bruises and plenty of splinters.
Boyle attended the Sturgis, S.D., motorcycle rally multiple times. While on his bike, an easygoing nature came out, said friend Pat Ragan, a veteran of several motorcycle trips with Boyle.
"He was not a confrontational type gentleman at all," Ragan said. "He kind of enjoyed things and took them as they came."
Ragan, who lives in Otis Orchards, said he met Boyle later in life, after the commissioner began attending Valley Real Life church in Greenacres and joined a Christian bikers group. Boyle is listed as a member of Independent Christian Bikers on that organization's website.
Boyle moved to Liberty Lake in the late 1980s. He spent 38 years working for the U.S. Postal Service, many of them as a manager. He retired in 1998.
Boyle first took office as a LLSWD commissioner in January 1992 and never looked back. His 20-plus years in that role easily surpasses that of the second longest-tenured member, original commissioner Art "Skip" Toreson, who served from 1973 to 1989.
"Frank and Skip strategized a lot for the benefit of the lake," said Karen Toreson, Skip's wife. "And Frank would kid Skip, ‘I'm catching ya. I'm going to surpass you.' … He was a very smart man, a very smart man. He could be criticized for how he presented himself, but he had the biggest heart going."
Boyle was nearly half-way through a fourth six-year commissioner term when he died. According to Washington state law, the district will go through an application process, with the remaining two commissioners selecting a replacement until the next election cycle the district participates in, which is in 2013. The replacement would then have the option to run to fill the remainder of Boyle's term through 2015, and other candidates could file to do the same.
During Boyle's tenure, he helped expand the sewer plant, passed resolutions banning various phosphorus-containing products, challenged the city of Liberty Lake's exploration of assuming control of the district and fought for lake preservation. He also served as chairman of the board several years and as president of the Washington Association of Sewer and Water Districts.
His length of service and sharp mind earned him a reputation of being the LLSWD historian.
"I'll tell you what, if you mentioned anything to him about the history of the district, he knew it down to the day and the year," Mellish said. "Bringing that to the commission was probably pretty good. We didn't find ourselves getting trapped or involved in issues more than once."
Harley Halverson, who served with Boyle for more than 14 years as a fellow commissioner before resigning in February 2007, agreed.
"He was such an asset that I said more than once that if Frank ever left, I was going to resign," Halverson said. "He remembered every decision that had been made, and he knew the history of what had been going on. He was really a pillar in terms of keeping us on track and making decisions that were consistent with decisions we had made in the past. He was invaluable."
Tom Agnew, who has served as an LLSWD commissioner since 2000, said the board will likely look at memorializing Boyle in the near future.
"He contributed so much to the district and was just a true blue Liberty Lake citizen of the highest caliber," Agnew said. "Frankly, I think it was his commitment to the community that kept him alive these past few years."
Along with a body that survived its share of hobby-related injuries, Boyle suffered from the effects of diabetes.
"I felt so bad for him, and the diabetes was really taking a toll on him," said Evie Reeves, a longtime neighbor who spent the past few weeks walking the homebound Boyle's beloved dog, Buddy. "He was a very smart man, and I think he did a wonderful job for the sewer district."
Boyle also spoke publicly about an alcohol addiction that included a stint in an Oregon rehabilitation facility in 2006, using the topic in recent years to reach out to others facing a familiar struggle.
He shared his testimony several times, attended AA meeting regularly and began serving faithfully as an usher at Valley Real Life church in Greenacres. It was there that he graduated from the Celebrate Recovery program and became one the ministry's leaders.
"Step 12 is to go do it for somebody else, and he was certainly committed to doing that," said VRL Executive Pastor Stuart Vogelman, who leads the Celebrate Recovery program at the church. "… Because of his background as a biker, he had the ability to communicate and relate to some individuals that others might not be able to. That kind of made him unique."
Mellish marveled at how Boyle had "a wide range of friends and acquaintances he dealt with over a broad socio-economic spectrum. He made friends with anyone."
Boyle is survived by his 98-year-old mother, Frances H. Boyle of Seattle; two brothers, Stanley Boyle of Seattle and Ozzie Edward Boyle of Edmonds; and three stepchildren, Colleen Stocking of Everett, Stacy Irwin of Bellevue and Stephanie Cook of Tacoma.
A memorial service is being planned for late October at Valley Real Life, and a formal obituary will be released when details are finalized. Boyle often attended City Council meetings, and when his passing was announced at Tuesday's meeting, Council members asked to be kept apprised of funeral arrangements.
"For all of his rough exterior, he was so balanced in his approach to what needed to be done for the whole community," longtime friend Beth Cocchiarella said. "He had such an incredible memory of the decisions that had been made in the sewer district, and they were made for the whole community, and they were to benefit everyone. When some of us would get too polarized, he was the one that brought everybody back to what the purpose of the sewer district was."