Frank J. Messina passed away unexpectedly at his home in Logan, UT on Friday, February 25, 2022. A steady and selfless father of three, loyal friend, and respected colleague to many, he will be sorely missed.
Frank was born in 1955 to Carmelo and Carmelina Messina in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the second of three children. He attended Central Catholic High School and graduated with a BA in biology from Clark University in Worcester, MA. He completed a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in 1982 from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Studying insect-goldenrod associations for his doctorate research forged a lifelong interest in insect behavior and population genetics. In 1982, he began a post-doc at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research in Ithaca, NY. There he met both his future wife and Callosobruchus maculatus, the model organism central to his research for 40 years.
Frank has been a member of the biology faculty at Utah State University since 1986. He was supremely dedicated to his teaching responsibilities and was a passionate educator. He found greatest fulfillment teaching Evolutionary Biology, which he taught at USU since 1987. Frank received the USU College of Science Teacher of the Year distinction in 2013.
Frank was inordinately knowledgeable, had a remarkable memory, and could discourse in detail on many subjects. He was a constant source of laughter and will be remembered for his witty commentary. His interests included the Beatles and the blues, the Twilight Zone series, baseball (Yankees fan), and reading evolution treatises and history. In his late 50s, he began learning Italian and became a devotee of Italian language films. He practiced speaking Italian with a small Skype group of fellow language learners, now friends despite never meeting in person. Three trips to Italy allowed him to further practice his language skills and deepened his affection for his Italian heritage.
Most importantly, his children gave joy and meaning to his life. We were privileged to welcome a beautiful daughter followed by the wonder of twin sons. Now thoughtful, intelligent, mature adults, they are his legacy and have expanded our family to include their partners and young children. A new grandfather, Frank held his grandchild just once prior to his passing.
Frank is survived by his wife, Linnea Johnson and his daughter, Alyssa, sons, Daniel and Peter (Carmen), and granddaughter, Isabelle, of Salt Lake City.
He is also survived by his brother Anthony Messina (Frances), of Belmont, MA; nephew, Michael Messina (Katrina), of Boston, MA; and cousin Mary (James) Noonan, of Woburn, MA.
Further, he is survived by sister-in-law, Elizabeth Flanagan (John), of Holbrook, MA, brother-in-law, William Johnson (Sarah), of Charlottesville, VA, two nieces, and two nephews.
The memorial service will be held at 4pm on March 19th, 2022 with visitation beginning at 3pm at White Pine funeral home. The service will be available for livestream or download at https://us06web.zoom.us/j/88337246652
A USU scholarship fund is being established in Frank’s honor. In lieu of sending flowers, please visit https://www.usu.edu/advancement/give/memorial/messina to make a donation.