Frank J. Janicek, 79, a master with nautical, optical equipment

March 15, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

In his cluttered Charles Village workshop filled with nautical and optical instruments, Frank Joseph Janicek carefully repaired ships' chronometers, compasses and sextants, and also precision surveying instruments, earning a national reputation.

Mr. Janicek was president of Maryland Precision Instrument and Optical Co. on East 24th Street. He purchased the company in 1964. He died Sunday of cancer at his Howard Park home. He was 79.

The master instrument technician was servicing and calibrating sensitive scientific and nautical instruments until his death.

He also was renowned for his work with alidades, a surveying instrument composed of a telescope mounted on a rule and used in measuring topography.

"A lot of people relied upon him in this country. He had customers in New York, New Orleans and on the West Coast, who sent their instruments to him for repair. He was a real master at it," said longtime friend Joseph Kettinger of Oxford, in Talbot County.

"They are highly technical instruments and, if not functioning properly, can cause great harm. They are absolutely critical to the operation of a vessel. He also got lots of work from the Coast Guard and the government."

Mr. Janicek had honed his skills at the Baltimore firm Wilfred O. White and Son from 1951 to 1961, when he left to become part owner and vice president of Maryland Nautical Sales.

Born in Frastack, Czechoslovakia, he moved to New York City with his family and settled in the Bronx in 1924. A 1939 graduate of Stuyvesant High School, he was a graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point in the early 1940s.

During World War II, he served in the Navy aboard merchant vessels in the Atlantic and Pacific. He participated in the Murmansk convoys that delivered war materiel to Russia and survived two torpedo attacks at sea.

He was discharged with the rank of lieutenant commander.

From 1948 to 1951, he was a coastwise pilot for the Farrell Lines Steamship Co. and did graduate work in medicine at the Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. Janicek collected chronometers and was a member of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors and the American Watch Institute.

He enjoyed flower gardening.

"He was a very quiet and private man. He had many eclectic interests and maintained a lifelong interest in the sea," said Mr. Kettinger.

Services for Mr. Janicek were held yesterday.

He is survived by his wife of 46 years, the former Lee Quinton; two daughters, Susan Redmond of Atlanta and Deborah Stubblefield of Baton Rouge, La.; a brother, William Janicek of Farmingdale, N.Y.; three grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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