SCAPPOOSE — Longtime Archdiocese of Portland pastor Father Frank Joseph Knusel died early Christmas morning. There will be Parastas with Rt. Rev. Josef Stanichar at 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17, at St. Irene Byzantine Catholic Church in North Portland; visitation from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18 followed by Divine Liturgy at 4 p.m. with Rt. Rev. Josef Stanichar at St. Irene. Archbishop Alexander Sample will celebrate the funeral Mass at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19, at St. Patrick Church in Northwest Portland, followed by a grave blessing and burial with Father Vasyl Mutka at 12:30 p.m. at St. Wenceslaus Cemetery in Scappoose.

Xaver and Florence Knusel welcomed their first child and only son, Frank Joseph Knusel, into their lives June 29, 1941. They raised him on the family’s dairy farm in Scappoose. He was known as “Lieutenant Knusel,” and later “Father Frank,” but as “Frankie” to his parents, family and close friends. He lived again at the family homestead in the last decades of his life. After attending St. Frederic grade school in St. Helens, and graduating from Scappoose High School, he joined the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the University of Portland, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in physics, magna cum laude, June 1963. He was commissioned into the Air Force as a second lieutenant. Two years later, Lt. Knusel graduated from pilot school, Webb AFB Class 65-D. Between September 1965 and December 1968, he was stationed in the 44th MAC Squadron, completing 2,000 hours in C141 aircraft, often flying a route from Travis AFB (California), Hickam AFB (Hawaii), Clark AFB (Philippines), Cam Ranh Bay AFB (Vietnam), Yokota AFB,( Japan ), and back to Travis AFB.

Lt. Knusel’s years of service in the military set him on a path to the priesthood. “After four years of hauling military equipment to Vietnam, and bringing back the wounded and dead to the U.S., I had thought I would find more meaning in life and help more people in the ministry or priesthood,” he said. He spent the next four years in theological studies at Mount Angel Seminary. He befriended and learned Spanish from Mexican seminarians, and came to love both the Spanish language and Hispanic culture, a love that would prove important to his later ministry. He spent much of his time during seminary helping Hispanic families in the small towns around Mount Angel, visiting parishes with large Hispanic communities teaching catechism and music to sing in the liturgies, and conversing with the faithful about his trips to Mexico and elsewhere. He drove to and from Mexico many times.

On May 12, 1973, “Father Frank” was ordained a Catholic priest at St. Wenceslaus Church in Scappoose by Archbishop Robert Dwyer. Witness to his unwavering dedication to the Hispanic families over the years, the archbishop named Father Frank to serve the Vicariate San Salvador as assistant vicar 1973–74, acting vicar 1978–79, and vicar 1979–87. He also served as pastor at St. Alexander Parish in Cornelius from 1974 until August 1982. During that time, Father Frank worked closely with longtime immigration advocate, Margaret Godfrey, to support the work of the Immigration Counseling Service, Oregon’s oldest and only independent nonprofit immigration law firm. He also served on the boards of the not-for-profit agencies Centro Cultural of Washington County and the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, both founded by migrant families in the early 1970s. Beginning in August 1980 and continuing for nearly two decades, Father Frank served as pastor at St. Patrick Parish in Northwest Portland.

In addition to a love of God and service toward others, Father Frank had a deep and abiding love of language. He was fluent in English, Swiss-German, Spanish, French, and Russian, and had a working knowledge of many others, including Arabic, Hebrew, Czech, Ukranian, Portugese, Bulgarian, and Italian. He loved reading the Bible in Hebrew; having memorized the 51st Psalm in Hebrew he would recite it whenever asked. He loved to conjugate words, particularly names, and would talk at length about the origin and meanings of words.

In 1996, Father Frank’s love of God, and all of God’s languages and cultures prompted him to study and receive bi-ritual faculties from the Vatican, allowing him to serve the Byzantine Ruthenian Church. In August 2004, Father Frank accepted a “temporary” position as pastor of St. Irene Byzantine Catholic Church in Portland. He served in that capacity for the next 15 years, finally retiring Aug. 1, 2019, when his health failed. During those years, Father Frank studied Ukranian and presided over services in Old Church Slavonic. He continued to officiate with Father Vasyl Mutka through July 19.

The Knusel family shared a love of music and played together for years in a Swiss family orchestra. Father Frank was a gifted musician and had a keen musical ear from an early age. Early on, he played the piano, clarinet, and saxophone. Later, he took up other instruments including the accordion, organ, banjo, and mandolin. He composed a classical piece for his piano recital when in high school, and friends describe his ability to listen to music then immediately play it back with no written music, to adjust his piano playing to fit the voices in singing groups, and to join in playing with bands with no prior practice and without missing a note. Father Frank especially loved playing the Swiss Landler music with fellow musicians in the Swiss community. In 1983, the Cantores in Ecclesia took up residence at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. Father Frank welcomed their presence, presiding over many Latin Masses sung by the choir, and traveling with them to Mexico City and Rome. For several years, he played in Swiss bands along with his lifelong friend, Robert Ulrich, eventually acting as the music director of the 2008 Saengerfest (26th Pacific Coast Swiss Yodeling and Singing Festival) in Portland.

Father Frank was preceded in death by his parents, Florence and Xaver Knusel, and by his niece, Christine Choi. He is survived by his sister, JoAn Choi, of Seattle, as well as nieces and nephews living in the Seattle area (Theresa Choi, Elizabeth Choi Rudd, Theodore (“Teddy”) Choi, Christopher Choi, and Matthew Choi), grand-nieces and nephews, and a multitude of friends and relatives in Oregon, Switzerland, and Argentina whom he loved dearly and with whom he kept in close contact.

Family and friends are deeply indebted to the ministry of Father Vasyl Mutka to Father Frank, especially during the last weeks of his life. Father Frank asked that donations in his honor be made to St. Irene Byzantine Catholic Church where he spent “many happy years.”