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Frank Casale

Frank Casale

April 12, 1942—Jan. 21, 2023

FOREST PARK, IL—Frank Casale was born on April 12, 1942, in Niagara Falls, NY, the youngest of Luigi Casale and Teresa Olivo’s two sons. While still a baby, he contracted a virus in his hip that left him with a permanent limp, something he learned to confront with a disarmingly grouchy sense of humour.

Raised in an Italian immigrant family, he was the first to study past high school and did so with gusto, earning a bachelor’s degree from Fordham University, then a master’s degree from Harvard, and finally a PhD in political science from the University of Michigan. Thereafter, Frank had a long and varied career both in and out of academia, including work as an academic consultant with the Italian parliament in Rome, as a professor at the University of Kentucky, and even a stint with the future television celebrity Jerry Springer, who was then city manager of Cincinnati.

Frank will be most remembered, however, for his more than two decades at Edgewood College in Madison, WI, where he taught American government and comparative politics. He was deeply committed to his Edgewood students, treating them like members of his family, and forming life-long friendships with many. On campus, he sometimes turned heads with his radical ideas, but just as frequently by singing Italian arias, telling stories, and cracking self-deprecating jokes as he wandered the halls between classes.

Alongside politics and teaching, Frank had a life-long passion for travel, for extravagant dinner parties, and above all for the city of Rome, a place he first visited as a student and where he returned regularly for the rest of his life. He considered his greatest professional accomplishment to be the Edgewood Semester in Rome, a program that he founded and, through which, he transmitted his love of the city to several generations of Edgewood undergraduates (a life-changing experience for many), as well as to his own children.

In addition to Italian, Frank spoke French and Russian fluently, and spent many years trying to learn Arabic. He was an excellent accordion player, but preferred singing to playing. He was happiest in the kitchen, surrounded by family and friends, but almost as happy when driving recklessly down a desert road with his children in the back seat. He was married and divorced twice (to Jean Feraca and Patricia Brown), and is survived by three children (Giancarlo, Gabriele, and Mia), and five grandchildren (Mina, Lilia, Cosimo, Evelina, and Gianluigi). Frank loved his children feverishly, always putting them before his career, and expressing his love through carefully planned family dinners that he prepared every night. Following his first divorce in the 1970s, he became an early pioneer of shared custodial rights.

Late in life, Frank faced a number of increasingly serious health and personal challenges, but without ever losing his characteristic tenacity and resilience. Over the recent holidays, he enjoyed a final dinner party with all eight of his children and grandchildren, an experience he called “One of the best days of my life.” He died in his sleep on January 21, 2023.

A memorial celebration will be held later in the year.

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