Frank Paul Bielskis

Because I haven’t updated this site in some time, I thought I would start posting individually about some of the men who served aboard the USS Zircon (PY-16).

When I began my search for the Zircon sailors (and/or their families), I created an Excel spreadsheet of all the names that appeared on muster rolls I’d obtained via Fold3.com. One of the first things I did was to determine which of the sailors were on board the day of the YF-415 disaster (11 May 1944), as looking for witnesses to that event was a priority of mine at the time. So, taking the March (quarterly) 1944 Muster Roll and then adding and subtracting the sailors whose names appeared on the subsequent Reports of Changes, I was able to determine that there were a hundred and twenty enlisted men aboard the ship on 11 May 1944. Once I acquired the ship’s deck logs for 1944, I found that there were eight officers.

Once the spreadsheet was completed, I began searching for information about each sailor in alphabetical order, and amongst the first handful on the list was Frank Paul Bielskis. Unlike many (probably most) of the people I’ve searched for, I found a fair number of newspaper articles which mentioned Bielskis’ name. Sadly, they all were news articles about the boarding house fire in Brockton, Massachusetts in which he died.

Page 1 of the 30 April 1966 edition of the Boston Traveler

Bielskis had been married, with two children, but he appears to have been either separated or divorced from his wife at the time the fire occurred. For a time, he and his wife, Frances (“Fannie”) had lived with his parents, Casimir (Charles) and Eva, in Brockton. He worked as an automobile mechanic.

His wife apparently did not marry again, or so her obituary suggests. Bielskis was not mentioned.

His children have not responded to my postcards, letters, and phone calls, so either they were too young to know much about him when he died, or their relationships with him were such that they have no interest in speaking about him.

The below photo of him (at top right) is the only one I have of him in which he has been identified. I received it from Thomas Shubert, whose father is at the very top of the photo.

Top: Thomas Charles Shubert, Jr; Middle: Elster Johannessen Tufte, William Albert Greffin, Ned Landis Lamprecht, Frank Paul Bielskis; Bottom: William Richard Salomons, Jr., Paul Magera, Buford Aubry Griggs (Photo courtesy of Thomas Shubert)

I am generally pretty outgoing, but calling strangers out of the blue remains somewhat uncomfortable for me, especially since we live in the age of scam. TA few months ago, however, I gathered up enough moxy to call Theresa Loef, sister of Frank Paul Bielskis. I sent her a postcard in November of 2020 but hadn’t heard from her, so I thought a call was in order.

I’m glad that I called. We had a perfectly lovely conversation, and she wasn’t the least bit concerned that I was trying to defraud her in any way (she didn’t seem to be anyway).

Theresa is almost twenty years younger than her brother, so she barely knew him. She was unaware of the YF-415 disaster, but she did recall the fire in which he was killed, and told me that Bielskis originally roomed on the ground floor of the hotel, but another boarder had physical issues which made it difficult to get to the third floor, so Bielskis traded rooms with him, thus saving his life and sealing Bielskis’ fate. Of course, this could be a myth. This could be the story that her parents told her, as I don’t know how such a thing could be known unless there were interviews of the survivors that made it to print. Myth or not, it is what she holds onto as a proud memory of her brother.

Not long after speaking with Theresa, I sent her a copy of the photo.

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