Gary Roland Fries passed away peacefully in Scottsdale, Arizona on September 22, 2017. Gary was born in Omaha, Nebraska on August 8, 1941, to Charles and Elsa Fries. Their family was completed by the addition of his younger brother, Dale Fries, currently of Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife Kim.
Gary first grew up in Omaha while his father served in the Pacific theatre of World War II and then served in Omaha afterwards. Gary also had the privilege of travelling the world in his youth while his father continued his service as an officer in the United States Air Force. He lived for a while in Morocco, and attended high school in Germany with other American service children, and ultimately returned to the states and lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, attending Lincoln Southeast High School, where he met the love of his life, Linda Jean Bastian.
He attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, majoring in business, enjoying membership in Sigma Phi Epsilon, and graduating in 1963. While in college, he and Linda married. They went on to have three boys. The boys and their families were the focus of Gary and Linda’s lives. In the boys’ youths, Gary was an active supporter of their athletic adventures, always serving as number one fan, often serving as coach or official, and even leaving the broadcast industry briefly to build and operate an ice rink so they could continue their pursuits in hockey. Their oldest son is Brian Christopher, married to Elizabeth Stapleton Fries, and currently residing in Mission Hills, Kansas. They have three grandchildren to Linda and Gary, Marston Elizabeth (Boston, Massachusetts), Rilye Alexandra, attending the University of Kansas, and Griffin Stapleton, residing at home. Their middle son is Gary Stephen Fries, married to Rebecca Joann Fries, residing in Scottsdale Arizona, with two grandchildren to Linda and Gary, Jordan Rebecca, attending the University of Arizona, and Ashley Elizabeth, residing at home. Their youngest son is Todd Andrew Fries, currently working for The Carter Broadcast Group, and married to Kourtnee Lynn Fries, with three grandchildren to Linda and Gary, Gabriella Kristine, Meghan Colleen and Keenan Andrew, all currently residing in Overland Park, Kansas. Gary delighted in being known as “Big F” to his daughters-in-law, which captured the essence of his personality, and “Grampy” to his beloved grandchildren. He loved them all, and loved spending time with all of them. The grandchildren in particular all adored him, delighted in his sense of humor, and cherished their play time with him.
While in college, Gary also found his second family, when he joined the broadcast industry. He began his career in Lincoln while in college as a part-time salesman for KFOR, working for Stuart Broadcasting Group. Upon graduation from college, Gary became, what was believed at the time, the youngest radio station general manager in the country when he took over KRGI in Grand Island, Nebraska at age 24. He learned first-hand the importance of radio in the community when he led the station’s coverage of devastating floods. His path was then set, and he continued working as a General Manager for several years, next moving to WMAY in Springfield, Illinois, and then on to General Manager positions in Omaha, Little Rock, Phoenix, and Albuquerque. In addition to serving in many General Manager positions, he was President and COO of the Sunbelt Communications Radio division, and Vice President of both ITC Communications and Multimedia Broadcasting, Inc. Along the path, he saw the radio industry evolve and change, and his career did as well, moving to the forefront of satellite radio, working as President and COO of Transtar Radio Network and Unistar Radio Networks in Colorado Springs. As the radio industry continued to evolve, he was tapped as a leader of the industry and was proud to serve for many years as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Radio Advertising Bureau, beginning in 1991, until 2006. He later served as President Emeritus of the RAB, and was on the Board of Directors of the Broadcast Foundation. In his role with the RAB, he travelled the country and abroad and spoke regularly about transformation in the industry, and how radio could adapt and thrive. He was an active member of the Arbitron Radio Advisory Committee, the NAB Radio Convention Planning Committee, the Advertising Council, on the Board of Directors of the Electronic Media Ratings Council (EMRC), served as Chairman of The John Bayliss Broadcast Foundation, and was a co-founder of the Radio Mercury Awards. He was recognized for his efforts with several awards and profiles. These include being named Radio Executive of the Year by Radio Ink Magazine in 1993, being recognized annually for many years by Radio Ink Magazine as one of its Top 40 Most Powerful People in Radio, and being inducted into the Nebraska Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1994, the Illinois Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1999, and receiving the Arkansas Broadcasters Pinnacle Award in 2000. The University of Nebraska Journalism College also recognized him in 2007 with the Nebraska Broadcast Pioneer Award. He was ultimately recognized in 2006 by the Broadcasters Foundation with its prestigious Broadcast Pioneer Award, and also received the Lifetime Leadership Award from Radio Ink. Gary loved the radio industry with all of his heart, loved supporting it, loved talking about it, loved being around people in the broadcast industry no matter what level or where they were from, and loved his many dear friendships in the industry.
Unfortunately, not long after his retirement, Gary was diagnosed with a debilitating cancer. Being always the good-spirited but tenacious fighter, he fought hard and won the battle. But the cancer took much of his mobility and slurred his speech, taking away two of his favorite hobbies--travel and playing golf with family and good friends. He spent his retirement until death in Scottsdale, Arizona, living with his wife Linda.
Memorial services were held at 12:00 Noon, Saturday, December 2, 2017 at Metz Mortuary in York with the Reverend Dr. Michael Eickhoff officiating. Inurnment followee at Greenwood Cemetery, York.
The family respectfully suggests that any memorial donations be made to The Broadcasters Foundation of America, with the mission to improve the quality of life and maintain the personal dignity of men and women in the radio and television broadcast profession who find themselves in acute financial need due to a critical illness, accident, advanced age or other serious misfortune (www.broadcastersfoundation.org). Please send donations to The Broadcasters Foundation of America, c/o James B. Thompson, President, 125 W. 55th Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10019-5366, or a charity of your choice.
Condolences may be emailed to Metz Mortuary Messages will be given to the family.