Frendak continues to serve through Keystone Wounded Warriors
Published: July 2, 2015
Independence Day weekend is a special time when even those who take our freedoms for granted feel a surge of patriotism.

For Coaldale native Tom Frendak, patriotism and love of country has been a day-to-day lifestyle since he graduated from Panther Valley High, where he achieved success in football and baseball as well as the classroom.

Frendak retired in 2005 with the rank of Lt. Colonel after serving 22 years in the U.S. Army. He than began a second career in service of our nation as a government consultant for the Army at the Anny Environmental Center Edgewood Arsenal, 25 miles east of Baltimore. Frendak’s new position allowed him to put into action a plan he shared with three other retired military personnel from Pennsylvania to help fellow veterans share their love of the outdoors by forming what they dubbed “Four Mile Outfitters.”

Frendak, Steve Sharpless of East Stroudsburg, Scott Spaeth of Philadelphia and Neil Spaeth of Northampton came together to support the Keystone Wounded Warrior project. Their first venture was to provide pheasant hunts with the cooperation of Wil and Michele Dise at Clover Hollow Preserve near Slatington, where they have a corporate membership. Their first hunt was for Sgt. Jonathan Tompkins, a Marine Corps Reservist with Battery I, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marines in Reading, who was wounded while on routine patrol with members of his unit near Camp Fallujah, Iraq.

Since then the four veterans have expanded their services by incorporating the Pennsylvania Game Commission “Hunt With A Veteran” campaign and provided pheasant hunts at Clover Hollow for local servicemen who had returned from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the help of volunteer dog handlers, they’ve provided hunts for Nate Wehr, who served one tour in Afghanistan with the Air Force; Jim Mulholland, who served one tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan with the Army; and Steve Bretzik, who served two tours in Iraq with the Army.

Looking for additional opportunities to give back to his home area, Frendak formed a working relationship with the Schuylkill County Sportsmen’s Association and Schuylkill Conservation Organization representative Craig Morgan about getting Keystone Wounded Warriors and veterans involved with the activities of the organizations. This partnership has grown and the latest benefit is the donation of a unique aid for handicapped anglers called the Fishing Retrieval System.

“Roger Poppin, a 72-year-old U.S. Navy veteran, who now lives in Florida and originally lived in Minnesota, created the Fishing Retrieval System many years ago when his young neighbor, who was wheel chair bound wanted to go fishing,” Frendak said. “Being a carpenter by trade, Roger combined a spinning cast rod and reel with a battery operated screwdriver fitted with a socket nut and connected them together, and after attaching a toggle rod to operate the screwdriver, the boy simply eased the rod forward seamlessly and reeled in a fish to everyone’s delight.

“A longtime friend of mine Vince Fiala, who is now a ‘snowbird’ in Sebring, Fla., lives near Roger and he mentioned my work with Keystone Wounded Warriors and Volunteer Guides for Veterans. Roger gave him two systems to give to me to donate to Keystone Wounded Warriors, and I contacted Cabela’s in Hamburg to demonstrate the systems, which they described as ‘awesome’ and the store shipped six rods and reels to Roger to make more systems.

“Earlier this year, I brought five systems back from Florida and donated two to Schuylkill County Chapter of Trout Unlimited, one to Whitewater Rafting Adventures in Nesquehoning, one to Tom’s Auto Body, Marine and Sporting Goods in Tamaqua and another to be used at events like the Family Fun Fishing Event at Sweet Arrow Lake. Roger obtains cordless Black and Decker screwdrivers from his local Home Depot, which also supplies the wood for the base, which is why he paints them ‘Home Depot’ orange, and supplies the systems free of charge and is all about helping others.”

For Frendak, it is also about helping others, as well as continuing to answer the call.

For information about becoming involved with Keystone Wounded Warriors access the website at


Lt. Colonel Tom Frendak

Lt. Colonel Tom Frendak ended his military career (2005) after 22 years and became a government consultant for the Army
Tulsa District Record July 1997

Riding Off into the Sunset . . . But First Riding with the Rangers

Lt. Col. Thomas M. Frendak Deputy District Engineer

As MANY OF YOU KNOW, I Wll.L BE LEAVING THE TULSA Districk ON THE 29m OF JULY. My next duty assignment will be to the Anny Environmental Center at Edgewood =Arsenal, about 25 miles east of Baltimore, Md. My wife, Lori, and children, T.J. and Brianna, departed Tulsa in early June, and they are currently living with Lori's parents in Pennsylvania. Our house in Tulsa is up for sale, and a realtor holds an open house every Sunday afternoon. So, with no family commitments and a realtor who literally kicks me out of the house each weekend, I decided to experience a ride with our rangers.

I had the idea, the opportunity and the privilege to "shadow" the Oologah Lake park ranger staff on an absolutely beautiful Sunday afternoon in June. My goal was to observe, flISt hand, the duties of our rangers, meet our park attendants, and interface with our customers, the citizens.

Our rangers are part of a caring, professional team which creates thousands and thousands of delighted customers at our lakes.

On the day of my ride, I arrived at the Oologah Project Office promptly at noon to meet the ranger staff, including Glenda Vincent who had just returned to work that day after being off following the birth of her child. After discussing the planned activities for the afternoon, Paul Shockley and I departed the office in his very distinguishable green ranger truck. We visited Hawthorne Bluff Park, and spoke with Mildred, our gate attendant. who, incredibly, remembered my parents and I visiting Oologah last summer. The weekend campers were slowly departing, and Mildred said she was already gearing up for the onslaught of customers for the 4th of July weekend. Orvan, the park host, said his greatest challenge is quieting down the campers after 10:00 p.m.

Our next stop was the beach area.

The Sunday after-church crowd was in line at the gate anxiously waiting to pay the day-use fee. Hawthorne Beach is an alcohol-free beach, and families dominated the sand and surf.

We then traveled to the main fishing area below the dam at Verdigris River Park. Fishermen lined the bank in search of the big catfish lurking in the swift release waters (2,000 cubic feet per second).

As we passed by, a friend of Paul's proudly raised up his stringer which held a modest 20-pound flat head.

Finally, Paul and I visited the Redbud Bay Marina. This leased property contains a small campground, and the marina has several docks with numerous slips.

This is where the Oklahoma Lake Patrol boat and Oologah project's "Whaler" are kept.

A day at Oologah would not be complete without a stop at the Catfish Kitchen.

Their Sunday buffet is out of this world, so get there early because they only serve until 3:00 p.m.

After lunch, I met Joe Custer, and we patrolled Ql! the emerald-green lake in the Whaler. Within minutes, Joe warned several boaters about standing in their boats and a personal water craft operator about a violation in the No Wake Zone.

We then met up with Lake Patrolman Randy Green. Up to that point, his day had been relatively calm but the crowd was beginning to pick up. We cruised up to the Spencer Creek Cove Park, and, on our way back, passed by the Will Rogers' birthplace located high on a hill overlooking the lake. Joe pointed to the water off the stem of the boat, and said, "That's where the home used to be before they moved it in 1960." At 4:00 p.m., we headed back to the project office for a shift-change briefing, and were met by Park Ranger David Stewart and Ron Williams, summer ranger. Soon, David and I were in. the water - each of us on our own wave runner.

Both wave runners were donated to the project office, and are great assets in the coves and shallow water found in the northern section of the lake. While on our patrol, David provided technical assistance to a person with a motor problem, and towed another boat with battery problems to shore.

As sunset approached, I said my farewells. I had enjoyed my rides on the land, on the water and in the water with the Oologah park rangers. Thanks, Tulsa District; this was one of the many experiences I will never forget.