In Memory of Bob Fry
April, 1933 – October, 2015
Most of us who have older brothers understand that from the beginning we are blessed. Having not one but two older brothers, I was twice-blessed. I was also twice-blessed because Bob Fry was not only my brother, he was my hero. He became so when he appeared on the cover of a national magazine. It wasn’t GQ or Sports Illustrated, but it was the full cover of a magazine. Young Life, a Christian ministry for high schoolers, published a monthly magazine and there on the cover was my brother along with the caption, “Best-liked Guy in School.”. All- state athlete in football and basketball, as handsome as George Clooney, Bob Fry was who the Fonz hoped to be when the Fonz grew up.
Compared to Bob Fry, I was a punk kid, invisible on my good days, most times a nuisance, in a hero’s universe. But Bob treated me like I was special. Years later I concluded that he realized what we brothers had never gotten from our dad, he could offer to me. It was called warmth, the ability to laugh and enjoy life; it was called love.
He took me along on dates to the high. school dances, to the movies at the Tennessee theater. When his crowd went swimming at Alcoa pool, I went too, like that was the most natural thing for an eight year old to hang with the high school crowd. And Bob could get away with bringing me because he was the best-liked guy in school.
My brother Bob also taught me how to face one’s fears. Alcoa swimming pool had a series of diving boards, the highest of which penetrated the clouds and required use of a pressurized oxygen mask. Everyone who rode to the pool in Bob Fry’s car was required to leap from the high board or else walk home. But I was yet not yet eight years old!
“What! Are you insane!” Eventually, after much persuasion, I choose to face a certain plunging death rather than spend the remainder of my days as a homeless nomad on the side of Alcoa Hwy. So I jumped.
One of the high school buddies, nicknamed “Jaws,” refused to do so. Calling Bob’s bluff, Jaws piled into the car for a ride home. To my utter shock, Bob said nothing, just began the trip. Just this side of the airport, however, Bob stopped, looked at Jaws, smiled and said, “Good Buddy, this is where you get out.” “We’re thirty miles from home,” I pointed out. “Jaws should’ve remembered that, ” Bob shrugged.
A couple hundred yards away, Bob pulled the car off the side of the road. We all jumped out laughing and waved to Jaws to hurry up and get back into the car. My brother Bob also taught me about mercy.
Except as we were waving to Jaws, he was waving back to us from a passing car. He’d stuck out his thumb and hitched a ride and beat us all home. Still, how to face fear and the value of mercy are good lessons for a kid brother to learn in one day, even if every story doesn’t have an air-tight ending.
Here’s the moral: touch a person’s life with love at the right time and we’ll never forget.
Dr. Dave Fry is the senior and founding pastor of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church in Duluth, Georgia, which was started in 1985. He will retire from PHPC and full-time ministry on Sunday Nov. 12. Send comments to “Fry on Friday” at firstname.lastname@example.org.