Laurel Mayor Frank P. Casula, described by colleagues as an old-fashioned politician dedicated to the job he loved, died of cancer Sunday evening at his home on Stratfield Circle. He was 81.
Mr. Casula announced his illness about a month ago, telling the public he was being treated for cancer. The mayor's son, Patrick Casula, said last night that his father had been hospitalized last week for several days but had been sent home Friday.
His death occurred as the city he had governed for the past seven years was recovering from the damage caused by a tornado Sept. 24.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening issued a statement yesterday praising Mr. Casula's dedication to his political career, which began in the early 1970s when he was elected to the Prince George's County Council.
"Always a colorful character," the governor said, "Frank had a unique ability to reach out and unite people to achieve a common goal." The governor added that Mr. Casula's "leadership during the recent tornado disaster reconfirmed that when it came to working with and caring for his neighbors and constituents, Frank was second to none."
Walter H. Maloney, a Prince George's councilman, said the mayor was gregarious, thriving on meeting people and engaging in simple conversation. "He had a flair with people," Mr. Maloney said. "He took people's problems and made them his problems."
Mr. Maloney noted that Laurel in recent years has been the center of development and that Mr. Casula has been at the helm, working with state and local officials. Among his accomplishments were helping found the Greater Laurel Beltsville Chapter of the American Heart Association and assisting in development of Fairland Regional Recreation Center.
Mr. Casula, fluent in Italian, liked to travel and saw Europe for the first time in March when he visited relatives in Sardinia, Italy, his son said. "He was on such a high it was unbelievable," Patrick Casula said. "He talked about the people he met - and the pleasure it gave him to see family."
Born in Shenandoah, Pa., Mr. Casula attended Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and then the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.
He was a career soldier, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel, and remained a civilian employee of the Army until retiring in the early 1970s. He was elected mayor in 1994 and reelected in 1998.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Laurel.