Francis (Frank) Gatschet, 85, of Manhattan, KS, passed away Friday, January 8, 2021
Frank was born in Hays, Kansas on October 4, 1935, to the late Agnes (Brull) and George Gatschet. He grew up in the farming community with hordes of neighborhood kids, serving his church and trying to stay ahead of getting caught from whatever the almost daily bout of mischief he would create.
Frank graduated from St. Joseph's Military Academy, Hays, KS, in 1953. He enlisted in the Air Force and served as a staff sergeant and air-force jet mechanic instructor during the Korean War. Stationed at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado, he laid eyes on the most petite, prettiest creature he had ever seen, a nursing student, Amy Hudson. They married in Denver on December 29, 1959. Shortly thereafter, they moved to Hays where Frank obtained a business degree from Fort Hays State University.
He started working for Duckwall Stores and moved his young family of four to Pratt, Kansas in 1964, then to Hutchinson, in 1966, where they grew their family to seven children. Frank managed the Hutchinson Duckwall store for six years, then was promoted to manager of Duckwall’s larger discount store format, Alco, in Newton. There for less than a year, Alco asked Frank to move to Roswell, New Mexico, to take on an even bigger project there. Frank flew to Roswell on several occasions to check out the town and the store there. While considering yet another move, he and Amy were disappointed that there were no Catholic schools in Roswell. In anticipation of their move, they purchased religion texts and Baltimore Catechism books so that Amy could continue their children’s formation of the faith that she and Frank treasured. At the last minute, Frank found work at another retail company, TG&Y, and moved the family to Wichita instead. Enter child number eight. He soon was recruited by a maverick entrepreneur from Arkansas, Sam Walton, who was building a fledgling retail chain called Walmart. With seven children, it was a scary proposition to jump ship of an established company into the unknown waters of this new startup. He took a 40% pay cut as a TG&Y store manager to manager trainee as he entered the Walmart manager training program. He and his family trekked to Rolla, Missouri. About 18 months later, Walmart charged Frank with opening a new store in Pittsburg, Kansas. Success there brought more opportunity and more responsibility, tasked in turning around a struggling Walmart store in Junction City, bringing on yet another relocation. This time, instead of moving to Junction City, he planted his family in Manhattan, with his eye on the prize of managing Walmart Store #35 in Manhattan, Kansas. There, the last two of his 10 children were born. Frank and Amy called Manhattan home. Frank mentored hundreds of Walmart associates. He took pride in hiring K-State students. They proved to be a loyal, productive, smart workforce. After about 10 years, Frank was promoted to district manager of Northeast Kansas. He was offered many executive-level promotions above district manager. Accepting any one of them over the years would have required yet another relocation. Frank planted his feet firmly in Manhattan. It was where he wanted his family to grow.
Frank fell in love with Kansas State University, especially the Pride of Wildcat Land, the K-State Marching Band, where his oldest daughter, Teri, was a flag girl. He and then-Band Director Phil Hewitt became good friends. In the late 1970s, Frank single-handedly raised over $100,000 for new band uniforms. He did so by selling to local businesses upscale, custom purple and gold clocks. The clocks featured a caricature of Willie the Wildcat in a marching band uniform, designed by his daughter, Amy. Frank loved playing the K-State marching band’s albums, waving his hands at the stereo as if directing imaginary musicians and keeping time to Wabash Cannonball.
Frank couldn’t wait for a good, old-fashioned snowstorm! He would dawn his snowsuit and break out the snowblower to clear the sidewalks on both sides of his entire block, and sometimes as far as the sidewalks on the next block over, which led straight to Seven Dolors Catholic Church providing a safe passageway for his wife to trek to daily Mass. He was proud of his house, which he fondly called Pierre Manor, open to any friend, neighbor kid, relative, and sometimes people just down on their luck. He seemed happiest at Christmas when the house burst at the seams with kids and grandkids, countless gifts, and boundless joy.
Frank retired from Walmart in 1995. He held a few part-time jobs to keep him busy and out of Amy’s way. He delivered cars for Briggs Auto Group. Mostly, in retirement, Frank liked to spend time at home. He tended his lawn, in perpetual pursuit of the moles that menaced his front yard. He was a member of the American Legion, Knights of Columbus, and a faithful member of Seven Dolors Catholic Church.
Frank is preceded in death by his wife, Amy (Hudson) Gatschet, granddaughter Isabella Gatschet, and sister, Jeanne Winter.
Francis is survived by six daughters; Teri (Kelvin) Belin of Manhattan, KS; Amy Jo (Randy) Carlson of Lawrence, KS; Mary Lynn (Enrique Leon) Gatschet of Coronado, CA; Renee (Jarod) Allerheilegen of Medina, MN; Christy (Matthew) Russell of Otego, NY; Diana (Jeremy Short) Gatschet of Brooklyn, NY; four sons; Fr. Fred Gatschet of Salina, KS; Tom (Katherine) Gatschet of Topeka, KS; Charlie (Kathy) Gatschet of Olathe, KS; and Joe Gatschet of Pascagoula, MS.
Francis is also survived by 23 grandchildren; and brothers, Tom, Paul, and George Gatschet of Hays, KS.
Visitation will be on Tuesday, January 9, 2021, at 9:00 a.m. at the Seven Dolors Catholic Church followed by Rosary at 9:30 a.m. and Mass at 10:00 a.m. Interment will follow at Sunrise Cemetery, Manhattan, Kansas. Due to limited space from COVID-19 protocols, services will be live-streamed. Live-streaming information is available on the Funeral Carlson’s Irvin-Parkview Funeral Home website, https://www.irvinparkview.com.
Friends are invited to send their memorial donations to the Seven Dolors Catholic Church 731 Pierre Manhattan, KS 66502.