Tom Fry, a Flintridge Preparatory School teacher and football coach, died last week at the age of 52 following a battle with cancer.
A devastating loss,it is hard to find the words.
Andrew Zwerner (Prep Class of ’98) explains: “Coach Fry was one of the most influential figures in my whole life. Those who knew him could tell stories about him for days. This always sounds so generic, but he was truly one-of-a-kind.”
Thomas Wirt Fry grew up in west La Cañada. He played football at Crescenta Valley High School where he graduated with the Class of 1975. He continued to play football at Occidental College where he graduated with the Class of 1979. He attended Loyola Law School, received his juris doctorate in 1983 and was admitted to the California bar later that year.
The practice of law did not feed his soul, so in 1990 he joined the faculty at Flintridge Preparatory School, where he taught history and coached his favorite sport.
Coach Fry had that rare combination of intellect and idealism. He was the teacher who attended every event, encouraged every student and took an interest in their lives. He was the football coach who worked overtime, attended all the games and supported every sport, not just football.
Because of this, he got to know the kids. He knew their siblings. He knew the parents and the grandparents. He took the time to talk with everyone.
He loved us. We loved him. He really cared.
“He was the absolute best,” says Zwerner.
Coach Fry encouraged our son, Andrew, who in ninth grade was a dreamer, a compulsive reader who disliked homework and the smallest guy on the squad. Some teachers were dismissive, but not Coach Fry. He recognized our son’s potential, both on and off the field. He challenged and encouraged Andrew. He advocated for Andrew at the school and supported Andrew’s goal of learning enough math to get accepted to the Naval Academy.
More importantly, he taught Andrew the swift skills of the offensive running back. He also imparted values, ethics and ideals in the context of the great game of football.
Matt Linder (Prep Class of ’98), a full-time engineer and a part-time football coach at Prep, explains that Coach Fry was always “looking out for the best for the students, going the extra mile for them and always standing up for them. I can’t even begin to count the number of students that he mentored and helped keep on the right track. Many of us owe our success in life to Coach Fry’s faith and support.”
Tom Fry was close to his brothers, sisters-in-laws and their children. He also maintained close friendships with alumni and their families, for which our family will always be grateful.
“He gave so much of himself to his students, players and friends, that he often didn’t leave much for himself,” says Linder.
Steve Stauff (Prep Class of ’98) sums it up: “RIP, Tom Fry. You were the best mentor a young man could ask for and an endless source of inspiration. You will be greatly missed.”
ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at email@example.com.
October 29, 2009
La Cañada Valley Sun: La Cañada Flintridge, California