Frank Hays returned to Manzanar in April 2012 and was honored for his leadership by Manzanar Committee co-chairs Kerry Kunitomi Cababa and Bruce Embrey. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

Frank Hays, associate regional director for natural and cultural resource stewardship and science in the National Park Service’s Northeast Region, died suddenly on March 3 from a heart attack. He was 58.

Hays served as superintendent of Manzanar from April 2001 to July 2005, overseeing its transition from having virtually no staff and no on-site facilities to a much larger staff and a full-blown Visitor’s Center. Coincidentally, he passed away on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Manzanar National Historic Site.

Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey noted that Hays arrived at Manzanar NHS at a critical time and did yeoman’s work to transition Manzanar NHS into a fully operational unit of the NPS.

“We are saddened to hear of the passing of Frank Hays this past Friday,” he said. “As superintendent of the Manzanar National Historic Site in 2001-2005, Frank helped bring the plans developed in prior years to life.

“It was a pivotal period for Manzanar. The Manzanar Committee, the Manzanar National Historic Site Advisory Commission and stakeholders in the Owens Valley were working diligently on the plans for Manzanar, and Frank came to Manzanar at this crucial time. He hired staff and worked diligently to move everything forward and have everything ready for the grand opening of the Manzanar Visitor’s Center in 2004.

Former Manzanar National Historic Site Superintendent Frank Hays. Photo by Tom Clayton/National Park Service)

“On behalf of the Manzanar Committee, I want to extend our deepest condolences and best wishes to his wife, Norma, his daughter, Sarah, and his sons, Brian and Matthew, along with his National Park Service family. We will be forever grateful to Frank for his dedication and hard work at Manzanar. He will be missed.”

“Friends and colleagues from across the service know Frank was dedicated, kind and truly cared for the people who worked alongside him,” stated Acting Regional Director Joshua Laird in an email to NPS staff. “As a manager, he modeled a transparent and collaborative work ethic and encouraged his team to work together towards an integrated resource stewardship vision… Frank exemplified that passion we all feel. ”

Hays’ career brought him from Hawaii to the Arctic to the Northeast Regional Office in Philadelphia, his hometown. After serving several months as acting ARD, he was chosen for the position in August 2015.

Prior to moving to Philadelphia, Hays served as superintendent for Western Arctic National Parklands (WEAR) in Alaska. There, he responded to increasing threats from oil and other environmental spills and helped to mediate potential conflicts between native subsistence users and sports hunters. He also helped to facilitate local tribal consultation, to resolve Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act issues and to coordinate wildlife management efforts with state and local agencies.

He also served as the Pacific Area director for the Pacific West Region and as acting superintendent at World War II Valor in the Pacific National Memorial, which includes the USS Arizona Memorial. His work in that capacity earned him a Meritorious Service Award. Before that, as the superintendent of Manzanar National Historic Site, Hays hired the new park’s first employees and developed the park’s plans and early facilities.

Hays’ other NPS positions include: restoration program leader at Grand Canyon National Park; coordinator for Fundamentals National Resource Managers Course; resource management specialist at Saguaro National Park; natural resource specialist at Chaco Culture National Historical Park; and numerous seasonal posts dating back to his first season at Zion in 1978.

Hays earned a bachelor of science degree in renewable natural resources from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree in public administration from Northern Arizona University.

Funeral services will be held Monday, March 13, at East Lawn Palms Mortuary, located at 5801 E. Grant Rd. in Tucson, Ariz. Public viewing will begin at 10 a.m. and services at 11 a.m. Information on where to send condolences will be coming soon.

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