Navajo Students and Nation President Remember Tohatchi Teacher and Counselor

Navajo students of Tohatchi High School, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, and the community are mourning the passing of Frank Kattnig, who taught at the school for 15 years.

He was born Franklin Roland Kattnig on December 11, 1942 to Pearl and Martin Kattnig in Florence, Colorado. To his students and friends, he had become so much more by the time of his passing on September 14, 2012.

“Frank Kattnig was my friend and inspiration for 15 years,” said Dr. Dean Chavers, director of Catching the Dream, on a memorial Facebook page set up in Kattnig’s honor.

One week after his passing, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed a proclamation honoring Kattnig for his contributions to the community.

“While at Tohatchi High School, Frank Kattnig implemented a variety of support programs that focused on college preparation and career planning for Native American students,” the proclamation reads. “Frank Kattnig increased Tohatchi High School’s college entrance rate from 20 percent to 55 percent hi first year of employment and increased it 90 percent in the years that followed.”

Kattnig began his career at Tohatchi High School in Tohatchi, New Mexico in 1984 when he took a job as an English teacher. He later became a career counselor and stayed at Tohatchi until his retirement in 1999.

He was educated at Southern Colorado State College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree, and at New Mexico Highlands University, where he earned his master’s.

A memorial service was held at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Tohatchi on September 22 with a reception at the high school. A family funeral service will be held at Union Highland Cemetery on October 6 in Florence, Colorado at 11 a.m.

“There is so much I could say about Frank. However, knowing that he believed in me and countless others still is encouraging today,” says RaVae Dennison on the Facebook memorial page. “I know he pushed us so hard when we thought he was a pain in ass, but all his hard work, effort, and concern is what push many of us to strive for our goals. I believe in his heart he is so proud of us. He truly made a difference and will [be] missed. What a wonderful, passionate, encouraging and crazy gentleman. I will never forget. RIP Frank Kattnig. You are truly missed.”

The Facebook page isn’t the only way Kattnig’s memory is being kept alive. A memorial scholarship fund has been set up in his honor to provide college assistance to Navajo students at Tohatchi High School. His family asks that instead of sending flowers, friends can donate to the scholarship fund by sending a check made out to “Fern Spencer, for Frank Kattnig Memorial Scholarship Fund” to:


c/o Fern Spencer

Tohatchi High School

P.O. Box 248

Tohatchi, NM 87325

Read Frank Kattnig's full obituary here.