The call came from my editor Brian Wilkinson last week that J.R. Froelich had lost his battle to cancer. The call wasn’t completely unexpected as JR and I had talked during his illness over the phone, and over a couple of meals at El Cid’s. We met a couple of times for coffee and shared quips and thoughts. I knew his battle wasn’t going well and he swore me to secrecy about his aches and pains.
Over the years, we had developed a friendship that started out while working at KAAT-AM and KTNS-FM. We read the Sierra Star over the radio for the visually impaired and we added our own comments from time to time during the show. We both enjoyed a good story and we trusted each other.
There were times that JR would write something in the Star that irritated some and pleased others. I did not always agree with his take on things and he disagreed with my thinking from time to time. He’d always smile that great grin and then laugh when I would remind him that the First Amendment allowed him to disagree with me. “After all,” I said, “it is your Constitutional right to be wrong now and then.”
Many in this area know JR from his columns. If you have lived here for some time, you might remember his great portrayals as “the villain” in many Golden Chain Theatre melodramas. His villainous portrayals were akin to Dr. “Buzz” Baxter’s great performances and it really got the house hissing and booing as JR curled his mustache and snarled.
JR worked in many business ventures. He knew what he was doing in the business world and worked in banking, marketing, and management. He was rather well-known in “these parts.” In conversations one only needed to say “JR” and everyone knew who you were chatting about. Well-known and yet he was also a rather private guy. He and his wonderful wife, Jan, lived their lives not seeking the limelight but quietly going about their lives to make others’ lives better.
JR and I talked about education and he was proud of his degree from the “School of Hard Knocks.” He stayed current on news events and loved to learn about things. When he and I saw each other at Vons a few weeks ago, he was talking about doing some things so that he could learn more about our area.
JR was a rare breed in these times; he knew who he was. No delusions of grandeur, no pretenses. He was what he was. He was a veteran of the Vietnam conflict in which he was affected by Agent Orange. Life growing up hadn’t been easy but he reminded those listening that others had a harder time and life.
His opinions were strongly-held beliefs and he did not waiver. I did wince a few times and told him he was more conservative than I on some issues but he came to a conclusion on his opinions from his view of the world through his philosophy. Those are the people I can understand. Peter Cavanaugh, Alan Cheah, JR, and I met a few times for lunch to just chat about things and our differences. People always seemed shocked and some took pictures of us at the same table. The four of us found some areas of agreement and each of us found ourselves being the only one at the table who thought the way we did. There were no “lock-steps” between the liberals or the conservatives. I will miss having those foursomes because JR’s take on things really got the conversations going.
So tomorrow, Feb. 5, many will gather at Oakhill Cemetery to attend the graveside tribute with military honors for a good man who served his country, loved his wife and family, knew God, and believed in the basic concepts of honesty, decency, hard work, loyalty, and charity. People will then gather at the EV Free Church to share JR stories and that party will be a hoot.
Sadly, Brian’s phone call informed me that an end of the JR era had finally come and with his melodrama career in mind, he had taken his final bow. He had a good relationship with God so now he rests without pain and discomfort in the loving arms of Almighty God for all eternity.
There was a time when there wasn’t a J.R. Froelich, then there was a time when there was a J.R. Froelich, and sadly once again we have a time without J.R. Froelich. I thank God that I got to experience some of the time when there was a JR.
Rest in peace, my friend.