Frank was full of love

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“On behalf of the City Council and myself, I would like to share a few thoughts about Frank Fry whom we knew and loved,” Mayor Margie Rice said of former mayor and long-time councilman Frank Fry, during his funeral services last week at Calvary Chapel Pacific Coast in Westminster.

“On behalf of the City Council and myself, I would like to share a few thoughts about Frank Fry whom we knew and loved,” Mayor Margie Rice said of former mayor and long-time councilman Frank Fry, during his funeral services last week at Calvary Chapel Pacific Coast in Westminster.

 “When I was first elected to the council in 1994, there was much I needed to know and it didn’t take me long to learn that Frank was the one most willing to help me. I could go to Frank with any questions and he was willing to give me as much time as needed. During his many years on the council, I was neither the first nor the last newly elected official he helped to learn the ropes, but we all understood his priorities: his family first and then the community that he lived in and loved for most of his life.”

Fry, who served on the Westminster City Council for 44 years (he was the longest-serving councilman in Orange County), died recently at the age of 87.

After the funeral, a military memorial was held at Sid Goldstein Freedom Park, 14180 All American Way; Fry was the driving force behind the development of the park, a memorial to veterans with an emphasis on those who served in the Vietnam War.

Rice said that it was clear to everyone how much Fry loved his wife of 60 years, Marilyn, his son Michael and daughter Diane, and their spouses.
”His love for and pride in his children as well as his three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren was expressed often. Frank was full of love and people loved him back,” Rice said.
Rice said Fry loved Westminster and its residents, but he enjoyed a special bond with the Vietnamese people who settled in the city after the fall of Saigon in 1975.
”For many years, Frank devoted much of his time and energy to his vision of creating a war memorial that would recognize contributions and sacrifices made by both the American and South Vietnamese people and I’m so pleased that Russell Paris and I could help him accomplish that goal,” Rice said.

Rice said Fry loved children and sometimes could seem almost like a “big kid” himself with his infectious laugh and enthusiasm for life.
”Frank was so happy to be able to get a water park built at Sigler Park for the children.  I remember how Frank loved to go to the Riviera for frog legs; how he loved to travel and was always ready to go; and I remember how proud he was to have a park renamed in his honor and am grateful it was done while he was still able to enjoy this well deserved recognition of all of his contributions.”

Fry was part of our country’s “greatest generation,” and while it was obvious Fry suffered pain from war-related injuries, he never complained.
”Even as we aged, I don’t remember him complaining about any health issues; he just kept on going – and giving – and loving.  He dedicated his life to his family and to public service and ‘they’ kept him going,” Rice said. “We have lost not only a council member but also a good, kind man and a wonderful friend.  We will miss you Frank, but we will never forget you and all you did for our community.”

Before the military memorial began, many Vietnamese-Americans spoke lovingly of Fry and how he helped them get the first-ever war memorial – a memorial to the veterans of the Vietnam War – in the United States (there are others now, but Westminster’s was the first).

“Frank stood his ground and got the memorial done,” U.S. Air Force-trained Fighter Pilot Chuyen Nguyen said. “The Vietnamese veterans and their families throughout the country and right here raised 95 percent of the money for the memorial; when people died, they dedicated their money in bank accounts and homes for this project. The Memorial cost more than $1.2 million; the city of Westminster donated the land. “

Nguyen said the Vietnamese people did not have a lot and so giving what they gave for the memorial was a great sacrifice. At funerals, they would say, “In lieu of flowers, please give to the war memorial project.”

Artist Tuan Nguyen created the war memorial sculptures. At the center of the park is a statue depicting an American soldier and South Vietnamese soldier standing side-by-side.

The Vietnamese Consulate in Los Angeles opposed the project – so seeing it through to fruition was a true dream of the local Vietnamese people.

Many of the local Vietnamese people who were in Vietnam during the war were brought to America in the 1970s to be trained here, where they could have access to the equipment they needed for combat and then sent back to South Vietnam to help America fight for their freedom.

The war memorial was dedicated in April of 2003.

Duc Ho, who came to America to be trained as a U.S. naval officer, went back to Vietnam and fought in the war for five years before returning to the U.S.

“I came back here and helped Frank, serving as one of the three vice presidents of the Vietnam War Memorial Committee – and without Frank, we wouldn’t have anything. He is a blessing from God,” Ho said.

The flags at the war memorial fly 24 hours a day.

Westminster Senior Police Chaplain Robert Benoun said: “Military honors have to be earned. Frank Fry earned this honor and touched our hearts and lives.”

Loreen Berlin can be reached at loreenberlin@verizon.net