My cousin was a large husky fellow until he became ill during the war in the South Pacific. When he came back to the military hospital in Balboa Park in San Diego he was very thin. The illness was one that could return off and on throughout his life.
His daughter Christina who died at 9 months was killed when a drunk truck driver parked in the road in a deep fog and their car ran into it. She was killed. His wife, Betty, was seriously injured and in a hospital for a long time. His first marriage eventually ended in divorce.
The young men, who John tried to help from First Presbyterian Church, were the Black Panthers. This was big news at the time because John got them to lock up their guns in a safe at the church. The police and federal government were involved with the planning of this. You can read about this by going to a search engine.
The last time I saw John was at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA in Des Moines, Iowa. We had a nice visit and he signed one of his books I had bought.
Growing up, John’s family visited us at our home by the ocean in Pacific Beach, every year which must have felt good to them coming out of Arizona’s summer heat.
From the Columbian, a Washington Newspaper 12/7/23~12/9/2010
He was born John Richard Fry, Jr. on 7 December 1923 in Van Buren, Arkansas, in a little house which later became a chicken coop. The family moved out just before the hens moved in. When he was six months old his parents moved to Superior, Arizona, where his father, JRF, Sr. worked for the Magma Copper Company, soon becoming foreman of the copper mill.
His parents were Baptists and drug him kicking and screaming to church. His mother, Beulah Scott, whose forebears were Campbellites, foretold his future watching him preaching to his cat when he was 6 years old.
He learned to play the violin, the Sousaphone, and football, and read every book in town. He graduated high school at age sixteen and took off for Pasadena to work and earn money to go to college, getting a job as a roofer.
Pearl Harbor was attacked on his 18th birthday. The next day he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and as a part of the 2nd Division shipped out to the South Pacific, to Wallis Island. Thirty percent of the unit was infected with filariasis, a mosquito-borne disease, and after two years he was sent to a hospital, which was set up in the Hall of Races of Man, a former World’s Fair building in San Diego.
He attended Colgate University, graduating with high honors and a degree in philosophy, a wife, and a son, JRFIII. He went to Union Theological Seminary in NYC, working with Paul Tillich and James Muilenberg, acquiring advanced degrees in Theology, and a second son, Mark.
He preached his first sermon on St. Patrick’s Day 1947, using as his text the entire New Testament! He was pastor of a Presbyterian church in Blue Ash, OH for four years. His daughter, Christine, was born, and died 9 months later.
Later he went to work for the Presbyterian Board of Christian Education in Philadelphia, published several books and articles, and acquired two more sons, Paul and Andrew.
In 1960 He became a roving reporter for Presbyterian Life magazine reporting on cases of violence over voting rights in the South, being literally chased out of towns in Mississippi and Alabama by the police.
In 1965 he was called as minister of First Presbyterian Church, Chicago, where he worked with Black street gangs to reduce violence, for which he was frequently hassled by corrupt police and later brought up before Sen. McClellan’s investigating committee. No charges ensued.
In 1971 he went to San Anselmo, CA, and taught at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and was divorced.
In 1975 he met Carol Alice (Maxwell). In 1976 he moved to Eugene and they promptly fell in love. They published a monthly magazine, frying pan, focusing on social justice issues from a theological perspective, and authored three books together. They also established a typesetting business.
In 1984 they retired to their vacation house on the Oregon beach and were active in various volunteer work. For five years they were coworkers in ministry at a Presbyterian church.
For nine years they lived for six months of the year in Oaxaca de Oaxaca, Mexico, doing fund raising for local charitable groups. While there they attended a weekly Unitarian Universalist study group.
In 2004 they moved to Vancouver to be closer to family, and became members of the local Unitarian Universalist Church, realizing they had been UUs most of their lives without knowing it. They continued to be involved in many kinds of volunteer work in the community, including tutoring at Martin Luther King Jr. School, Share House, the Humane Society of Southwest Washington, and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
There they lived happily ever after with two marvelous cats, Fiona and Phoebe, whom they left home when they went camping once a month.
He loved Black gospel music, fudge, modern jazz, hot sunshine, Stravinski, Mexican food, Messian, good jokes, Bach, Monet, strong coffee and Jack Daniels before he fell in with Bill Wilson and his happy, joyous, and free group nearly 24 years ago.
John is survived by his sweetheart, Carol Alice (Maxwell) of Vancouver, WA; sons, John III (Laura Stuart and two sons), Chicago, IL; Mark (Deborah Evind and two sons), Portland, OR; Paul, Sacramento, CA; Andy (Liz Coleman, a daughter and son) Eugene, OR; Carol’s children, Anton Wade (Deb and three sons) Canby, OR; and Alison Hellesvig (Dawn Lozer), Vancouver, WA; sister, Betty Ousey (Joe), New York, NY; sister-in-law, G. Frances Fry; nieces, Frances Lea Fry, Marianne (and Gary Buchik and two sons); Trish (and Steve) Traaen, all of Phoenix, AZ; and a tremendous number of former students and friends all over the U.S.
He was preceded in death by his infant daughter, Christine; his brother, Scotty; and both parents.
John and Carol have willed their remains to the Oregon Health Sciences University Body Donation Program for medical research. They urge you to do likewise.
A memorial service will be held at noon on Saturday 15 January 2011, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Vancouver, 4505 E. 18th Street, Vancouver, WA, 98661, Rev. Mark Gallagher officiating.
John was always concerned about the needs of the poor and abused. Donations in his memory may be made to UUCV, c/o Needy Persons Fund, at the above address.