Remembering Frank Kubena
Polka musician Frank Kuběna, 62, passed away in Ennis on June 21, 2018. Frank was born in Ganado, Texas on Sept. 5, 1955 to B. F. and Louise (Sklenarik) Kuběna. He graduated from Ganado High School in 1973 and pursued a degree in music from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos. Frank was employed at Coca Cola in Houston until 1983 when he transferred to Ennis and worked for the Ennis Postal Service as a clerk for 32 years.
Frank was a passionate musician who wrote and played music for various polka bands throughout Texas. He played several instruments – trombone, trumpet, clarinet, saxophone, tuba, electric bass – and was recognized by the Texas Polka Music Association as Writer/Arranger of the year in 1991.
“Frank was a very talented polka musician, music arranger, and a great guy,” said Roy Haag, leader of the Litt’l Fishermen. “He played trombone, clarinet, and sax with the Litt'l Fishermen, and even went on a multi-state tour with the band to the Gibbon Festival in Minnesota.”
Frank played with the Jodie Mikula Orchestra from 1984-1997. “He was a great all-around musician,” said Ken Mikula. “With our band he played tuba, electric bass, trumpet and sax, along with vocals. He is best remembered for his music arranging ability. Frank could take a song played by a large orchestra, condense it, and adapt it to our band with the different horns we use and retain that old-time sound.”
Roy said that “old-time sound” came Midwest orchestras. “He was fascinated by the Jerry Mazanec Band, from Cleveland, Ohio, who recorded 78s of Bohemian polkas and waltzes back in the 1940s. A lot of Frank's arrangements reflected that style,” Roy said.
Another fellow musician and good friend, Gene Hackemack, said very few Texans in the “polka dancing world” did not know Frank. “He and I had lots of pivo together at the Bill Mraz Ballroom in Houston,” Gene recalled.
“There was time in the 1970s, early 80s when Frank and I were practically inseparable. Not only was our taste in musik alike, as two single young studs, our taste in girls went down that same path. I remember one case where we were focused on one particular young lady, and Frank and I nearly came to blows – in the end she ditched us both! But he and I always shook hands in the end,” Gene recalled.
“When Frank fell for the love of his life, Cindy Vrana, of Ennis, I got to know the new Frank, as he sat in his Houston apartment gazing at her picture and singing to her,” Gene continued. “At that time, I knew I had lost my ‘running buddy,’ but was happy for him as he made his new life with Cindy in Ennis.”
Frank was a member of St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church of Ennis and KJT. He is survived by his wife of over 34 years, Cindy V. Kuběna; sons, Jonathan and Michael; brother, John Kuběna and wife, Diana; and three nephews.
“The polka world lost a very talented musician, but his arrangements will live on,” Ken said.