For 61-year-old Frank Germinaro, principal of St. Mark Catholic School in Kenosha, life isn’t about having the perfect body, the most exotic vacations, or the most toys in the garage; it is about giving back and making things better for others.
As a teenager, the Kenosha native was into school, music and girls like everyone else. Unlike everyone else, he suffered with a lifetime of kidney problems that required him to begin dialysis in 1968, at age 19.
With his life in jeopardy, Germinaro spent hours every other day connected to a dialysis machine, filtering his blood through a tube. His parents, close friends and relatives worked with St. Catherine Hospital and the Kenosha Medical Society to create Kenosha’s first dialysis center.
Germinaro received the gift of a kidney from a 13-year-old girl who died of a brain tumor in March 1970.
“It has been 39 years and to date, I am the longest surviving patient from a cadaver kidney on record,” he said. “I feel that since I received this gift, I feel it is a stewardship or a responsibility for doing the best that I can in my life and to honor the sacrifice that her family made.”
Germinaro has sought to give back to honor his Italian roots, the National Kidney Foundation and a host of other organizations. This year, the Italian American Society of Kenosha recognized him for his success, and for bringing honor and
Frank John Germinaro
respect to his Italian heritage.
Germinaro has gone out of his way to make an impact in the Kenosha community, according to Italian American Society president, Steven Torcaso.
“We certainly felt he met all the criteria for what he has done for kids, music and as a principal and in all the lives he has touched,” said Torcaso. “Frank had a rocky start in life, he almost died from kidney disease, but he took that gift and didn’t squander it.”
Even a later diagnosis of prostate cancer, resulting in radiation, chemotherapy and hormone treatments refused to sideline him, Torcaso noted.
“He still speaks with patients and their families who deal with both kidney disease and prostate cancer,” he said.
While he attended orthopedic school, he is most recognized for his musical contributions. In 1972, he graduated from UW-Parkside in music education and earned his Master of Science in education supervision and administration from UW-Milwaukee in 1985.
From 1973 to 2003, Germinaro was employed with the Racine Unified School District as a music teacher, and in his last 15 years did stints of five years each as principal of Windpoint Elementary, Fine Arts Elementary and Gifford Elementary.
“Just 30 days after he retired, he was hired as principal of St. Mark School,” said Torcaso.
For 35 years, Germinaro was involved with the Kenosha Pops Band and served as musician, assistant conductor, conductor and musical director.
“He is now the conductor emeritus and helps in the concession stand,” Torcaso said. “When he was just 15, he started the first of many small bands that played for over 750 weddings and parties.”
In addition to his work as principal, he and his wife, Janet, serve in the music ministry at St. Mark Parish.
“Janet plays piano and I sing in the contemporary choir,” Germinaro said. “We also do weddings and funerals and sometimes I still get out and play my accordion at area nursing homes.”
After serving as chairman of the National Kidney Foundation’s Patient and Family Service Committee, he relinquished that position in 1996 when he became the chairman of Society’s Assets, a five-county home health care foundation. His efforts in the non-profit organization, which provides services for the Wisconsin Telecommunications and Relay System, hits close to home as deafness runs in Germinaro’s tightly knit family.
“I have four children – two are hearing impaired and one is deaf,” he said, and joked, “and then I have one more who can hear, but doesn’t listen. I do know some sign language, but it is a big debate among the family whether I do it well enough.”
Germinaro serves as a board member of Celebrazione Italiana, the Italian Business and Professional Association and the steering committee for St. Joseph Academy, and is active in the Italian American Society.
Locally and nationally, Germinaro has received awards chronicling his years of service and teaching. Most notable is the Outstanding Alumnus Award from UW-Parkside music department and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Kenosha Bradford School Alumni Association.
Germinaro considers it a privilege to help others.
“Helping others is probably one of the greatest things we can do as human beings,” he said. “It is a challenge to help others – even those we don’t like. After all, we are all here together. It is important for me to make things a little better for others and that’s how I try to live my Christian faith.”