Saturday, May 25, 2013

Eulogy for my Big Brother, Carl Fritch; A Life Well lived

The heavy rain from the thunder storm quickly fills the wash in the desert hills behind the Belleview neighborhood of Rock Springs, Wyoming. The water flows quickly over the sandstone rock creating a rushing river from an otherwise dry creek bed. 

Further down the fast rising stream, a gang of boys, ages 6 to 14 stand just above a newly made earthen dam waiting to see if their latest engineering improvement, a spillway, will relieve the pressure on the berm and retain some of the water for a muddy swim-hole. 

One foot, two, soon three feet of water fill the narrow valley of the wash forming a massive lake, 100 ft. long and 30 feet wide.  At four feet the water begins to flow through the u-shaped trench carved out of the soft sand stone rock with picks, shovels and strong young backs.

As the spillway flows, cheers erupt, Shovels and picks are dropped to the ground and the gang jumps into the mud stained water thinking only of the fun to be had, not the mess that mothers would have to clean later. Waves from all the splashing slowly cap the top of the dam, suddenly; a small crack appears in the massive structure.

 The muddy boys rush madly for the picks and shovels trying vainly to stem the growing tide of water flowing out of the dam. The engineering marvel fails and a 4 foot wall of water and mud rushes down Bunning road toward the unsuspecting homes below.

Such was a typical day for the five Fritch boys in the Rock Springs Wyoming in the 1960's

Thanks to understanding neighbors with flooded basements, the matter of our punishment was handled "in house" instead of courts.

One of the masterminds of the “The Great Belleview Dam project of 1963" and leader of the "Belleview" Gang was my oldest brother Carl Fritch.  Carl always had new ideas on how to make such a desolate place a childhood fantasy…If you have passed thru Rock Springs you know exactly what I am talking about.

Carl finally freed himself last Saturday from the chains of cancer after a 10 year battle with that vicious disease. His life has been a constant source of inspiration to not only me, but, everyone here today.

Our family first vacationed in Yellowstone in the early 1960's and 10 year old Carl fell in love with the place.  It was a love that would last a lifetime. He went there almost every year of his life to marvel at nature’s wonder and beauty.

Upon returning home from that magical place, young Carl created his own version of a national park in our neighborhood. He designed and created Rock gardens in our yard and forged Nature trails in the hills behind our house, complete with stoned lined paths (like Yellowstone) and signs posted at various stops, explaining the rock,  desert algae and Cactus formations to help educate the Neighborhood masses.

Our playground went miles up the mountain from the backyard of our home and Carl's inventive mind always greeted each new day with exciting ideas, changing the barren sand, cactus and stone of the Wyoming desert into a childhood paradise.

 When Carl was 12 he got a Kodak 8mm movie camera for Christmas.  He immediately assembled the Gang to produce and direct several full feature action movies.  The most famous film, titled "Ambush", was an 8 minute war epic shot in full color that included laser gun blasts and Bomb exploding special effects...

 All created post production by Carl carefully scratching each frame of film with a magnifying glass and a tiny needle. Now think about that…8 mm film is the size of my little finger nail…and at 35 FPS Carl had to scratch 100 frames for each 3 second effect.

These movies live on today and are owned by each member of the Fritch family.  Treasured memories that will live on forever.

Just think Carl was YouTube before YouTube….He made YouTube cool

Here is the movie, Ambush:

When our family moved to Anchorage, Alaska in 1967, Carl had to change high schools for his senior year.  Dad helped him get a car to be able to get around.  

The 1960 Corvair was not much to look, but, you could always tell where it had gone by following the trail of leaking oil on the street or follow the blue smoke cloud that poured out of the exhaust.

 I loved that car because I could entertain myself by watching the road pass by underfoot through the rusted out floor.  It was constantly being repaired and all the oil it burned into the atmosphere was probably a big contributor to the current melting of the polar ice cap.  Carl however, embraced the freedom that it gave him and proudly drove it around town.

One day, after a recent repair, the car stopped running abruptly, and then we went over a big bump. Grumbling, Carl said "Great, now the engine probably fell out".  Imagine the look on his face when Mike (the mechanic of the family) got out and saw the engine 20 feet behind us on the road!

Carl's love of music began relatively late in life for a age seventeen. Dad bought him and me two $20 guitars.  My Big brother and I learned how to play together listening to a "Learn to Play guitar" record by the "Ventures". 

The first song we learned together was a 60's hit called "Wipeout".  My interest in the guitar soon waned, but, Carl had found his life’s talent.  Though he never learned to read a single note of music, Carl developed a skill on that instrument to rival Hendrix, Blackmore and Clapton, three of his idols. 

He learned to play by ear…as many of the great masters did.  Constantly replaying old vinyl records time after time till he could at first copy their style then created his own…

 I still can hear his remarkable, wailing riffs of “Along the Watch Tower", "Smoke on the Water" and "Cross Roads" played with a tiny amplifier in his bedroom on that dime store guitar.

Dad passed away in 1973 and the family moved to Utah to be closer to family taking with them, many wonderful memories of the land of the midnight sun

In Orem, Utah, Carl joined a band called "Survival" where he met fellow musician and percussionist Walt Jones.  The two soon became lifelong friends.  After the breakup of "Survival", they formed the nucleus of the group "Peace and Quiet:" with Doug Salter on Bass.  

Various artists were a part of “peace and quiet” over the years but eventually our cousin Gary Horan, joined the group on guitar and the group became a very popular band in Utah in the 70's and 80's  

Together the four developed a hard rocking style that was the opposite bookend to the band’s name. They played countless gigs until late last year, entertaining tens of thousands

Last summer on one of his last Gigs, Carl was so ill from cancer that he finished the show playing on his back…literally….”The show must go on” he always said.  Talk about rocking till you drop.

When our Mom passed 1988, we five brothers became close in a way that only siblings who have lost both parents can.  An irrevocable bond of love and trust, that we still feel every day...even though Carl is gone.

Carl loved Camping and felt that camper vans, trailers and RV’s were the best way to vacation and enjoy the world. He purchased an old tan Dodge van and he and Dan converted it into an RV camper.  The dodge was a quirky vehicule, for example, after you started the engine and put it into drive there was a 20 second delay before the transmission engaged and you could drive. 

 One day, Carl could not get the ignition to turn over so he popped the hood and shorted the starter motor to troubleshoot and localize the problem. The van fired up. 

Suddenly he realized that on the previous night, he had left the transmission in drive...The van suddenly lurched forward and nearly ran him over.

The sight of Carl chasing that Dodge down the street shaking his fist in the air is a memory that we both laughed about to his dying day. 

Oh Carl.  Every Vacation with you was an adventure, what shall we do to carry on without you.

14 years ago Carl met the love of his life Kristie.  They married and Carl’s lifelong wish of a family to call his own was finally fulfilled. 

For Kristie’s two daughters, Brandi and Tia, Carl became the father they had never known.  For Carl, they were more than daughters, they were his friends.

 He constantly bragged to me of how proud he was of them and their accomplishments. As life moved on and his joy grew, grandchildren arrived and Carl’s life was complete. 

Sean Ivy, Carl loved you as his own son and he especially wanted you to know that.

Last January, friends put on a benefit rock concert for Carl to help raise money for mounting health bills.  Three top local bands, Shadow, Dirty Love Guns and M.E.A.T. were asked to perform.  When they were told it was for my brother, their response, without hesitation was "When and where...We will be there for Carl". 

 The three groups put on a great performance in front of a packed club raising thousands of dollars to help their friend.  A friend who was always there for them
As I watched in awe and amazement at the out pouring of love, I was approached by many of Carl's friends (some of you may see a resemblance), who expressed their great love for him and how happy they were to support him in his hour of need.  Partial repayment for the support he had given them as musicians over the years.

Toward the end of the show his friend Tommy Love coaxed him into singing a song with his band.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house

So Tommy Love, Darrell Zitting, the gang at Gino’s Bar and Grill, Brandy and Tiffani, Thank you for your love and kindness, Carl loved you and constantly talked of you.  I was glad I was able to meet you, but, you know, I already felt like I knew you from my brothers’ stories.   I hope you check in on my life from time to time. You are part of my family now.  Whether you like it or not.

There are many others I haven’t met, But, who touched, or were touched by Carl, Please take a moment and introduce yourselve to us.  We would love to meet more of Carl’s extended family. I have read your words of comfort on Facebook the past few days, and the love you have shown is overwhelming.

 We reap what we sow.  Carl spent his life sowing the seeds of love in everything he did and everyone he met.  Was anyone really surprised that so many people stepped up to help him in his last days? 

Last Saturday, as Mike, Dan and I sat by his bed, cradling him in our arms, Carl ended this earthly journey to begin his next adventure.

My mind drifted back to those carefree childhood days in Rock Springs...days of Horned toads, lizards, nature trails, failed Dam projects, war movies, and the enthusiasm for life Carl infused in each new day. I was comforted by the fact that a new day had just begun for my big brother.

I closed his weary, but peaceful eyes, and the memory of the last road trip he and I were able to take to Las Vegas to see the Broadway musical "Jersey Boys", something he had wanted to do for years.  I closed my eyes and the words of  those great hits played thru my mind and I shall never forget the look of pure joy on his face as he sang along with the troupe "Sheri", "Begging", Ragdoll", "Maryann" and others....

The drive home last Saturday night for me was long and hard.  I flipped the nob on the radio to calm my grieving mind.   I tuned to the 70’s channel on Sirius radio and the songs   "Oh What a Night" followed by "Who Loves You" began to play. His two all-time favorite hits by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. I cranked the volume up and wept tears of joy thinking “How fitting”.  Following is the link

In the end, they say the love you take with you is equal to the love you made.  Big brother, I know you took a lot of love with you from this life

Rest in peace and quiet Carl….  

Rest in the loving arms of Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa Winters, Grandma and Grandpa Fritch and the many others who have gone before you. 

We shall miss you, but, this I promise you my brother, we shall never forget you.  Your legacy of love will live on in each one us.

1 comment:

  1. Bob, very moving eulogy for your brother. I saw Carl's obituary in the Herald the resemblance to you was striking. I lost my oldest brother five years ago. I miss calling him and talking about old times and friends. I am sorry for your loss.

    Evan Porter