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Frank Michael Smunt

June 17, 1939 May 12, 2020
Frank Michael Smunt
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Obituary for Frank Michael Smunt

Frank Michael Smunt, 80, of Peru, passed away, Tuesday, May 12, 2020 at Edwards Hospital in Naperville, due to complications not related to his 14-year battle with colon cancer.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, memorial services and a celebration of life will be scheduled at a later date. Arrangements are entrusted to the Mueller Funeral Home, Peru.

Frank was born on June 17, 1939 in Oak Park to Frank and Helen (Socol) Smunt. He married Helen “Jean” Baca on May 31, 1969 at St. Joseph Church in Lockport.

Frank was a graduate of Morton High School in Cicero. He attended Southern Illinois University, receiving his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Geology and he also received a Graduate Assistantship. He went on to attend the University of Minnesota, where he completed another Master’s degree in Geology. He was a professor of Geology, Geography, Environmental Science and Oceanography at Joliet West Township High School from 1964 to 1966. In addition, he taught regular, remedial and advanced classes in Earth Science and was also the sophomore and varsity tennis coach. He also was the chief tennis instructor for the Joliet Park District Tennis Program. From 1974 to 1975, he attended Northern Illinois University where he also served as assistant faculty. From 1976 to 1978, he attended Indiana State University under a teaching fellowship. Frank also attended workshops in Water Pollution, Air Pollution, Nuclear Power and the Environment at Argonne National Laboratories in Lemont and became a certified gemologist.

The majority of his career, from 1968 to 1997, was spent as one of the most loved college professors, teaching geology courses at Illinois Valley Community College. He was athletic in nature by coaching the men’s college tennis team and was the first woman’s volleyball coach.

Frank was a member of many organizations, including the Executive Council of the Illinois Geographical Society and the National Association of Geological Science Teachers. He was involved in many charitable groups, including Cops 4 Cancer and the National Kidney Foundation. He loved helping others in need and volunteering his time. He especially enjoyed working for many years at Lily Pads in Peru and being the treasurer for the Illinois Valley YMCA swim team.

After retiring from academics, Frank worked at Senica’s Oak Ridge Golf Course in ground maintenance, giving up the tennis game for the game of golf.

Frank was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather (“Papa”), uncle, teacher and friend. He was a lover of people, lover of books and lover of life.

Frank was a storyteller and the consummate teacher. There was always something to learn from him. If he lived 80 more years, there would be a thousand more stories he had yet to share. Right until the end, Frank was telling stories of his youth his family had never heard.

From his students and caretakers to random strangers, everyone who met Frank fell in love with him. He left people better than he found them. They always walked away wishing they could learn one more lesson or hear one more story. One story he loved to share was how he met his wife, Helen. He once told his geology class about meeting a beautiful nurse while she visited friends in his apartment building. He won her heart with his keen intelligence and smooth dance moves. They were a perfect pair, still acting like teenagers in love after 45 years of marriage.

As a person, Frank was always showing love and never expecting anything in return. As a father, he was a role model to his children, raising them to be respectable adults while supporting their dreams. He was always their hero. With his love of outdoor activities, he would pack up his young family and head west in a pop-up trailer to give them history lessons and explore the wonders of the canyons. If he was ever deep in thought or half asleep, all you had to do was mention the word “rock”, “earthquake” or “volcano” and you had his full attention!

Throughout his long battle with cancer, Frank demonstrated the strength and grace his daughters so often admired in him as children. He taught them true courage and determination throughout his struggle; their hero once again. The love for and from his family helped him in his fight. No matter how bad he might have been feeling, he would smile that great smile and chair dance to whatever song was being sung to him. He really was a “jolly good fellooow!” He was an inspiration to many, earning the nickname, Frank the Tank!

Above all, he was a gentleman through and through, his daughters’ first love and the best dad they could ask for.

Frank is survived by three children, Dawn (Eric) Bubelis of Denver, CO, Michelle Smunt of Oak Brook, and Tammy Smunt of Denver, CO; four grandchildren; one sister, Helen “Babe” Stransky of Lombard and many nieces and nephews.

He is preceded in death by his wife on June 14, 2016 and his parents.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to the family.

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