Obituary: David A. Frisby III, educator, heart of family
Originally published in the Philadelphia Inquirer | June 21, 2013
David Allen Frisby III, 77, of Westampton, a dedicated and much-loved family man who promoted education as a pathway to empowerment, died suddenly Wednesday, June 20.
Mr. Frisby was at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital when he went into cardiac arrest, family members said. He had been there since Monday, after suffering a heart attack. He and his wife, Joanne, had been married for 53 years.
Mr. Frisby accomplished much in his varied career and encouraged and helped others to accomplish things, too.
"I think he would want to be remembered as an educator, as a person who strived for his dreams," his wife, a retired teacher, said.
Mr. Frisby was the glue that held together a large extended family, hosting big annual barbecues and organizing reunions.
"He was just somebody who wanted to see everyone succeed. Always positive, always staying in touch with the family," said nephew Mark Frisby, senior vice president of operations for The Inquirer. "He was the one who made sure the family kept in touch with each other."
His South Jersey roots went deep. Raised in Paulsboro, one of eight siblings, Mr. Frisby was a champion wrestler for Paulsboro High School and was inducted into the South Jersey Wrestling Hall of Fame.
He earned his undergraduate degree in education from Cheyney State College, eventually getting a doctorate in psychology and human development from Union Institute.
A first-generation college graduate in his family, Mr. Frisby was an example and inspiration to his younger siblings.
"He created the arch all of us walked through," said his sister Sara Simms, a program director with Catholic Social Services.
As a young man, he was an activist for civil rights.
"He was always out there in the '60s, protesting, sitting, trying to get justice," said sister Jeannine Frisby-LaRue, who was deputy chief of staff for New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine and is now a lobbyist.
Early in his career, Mr. Frisby worked as a special-education teacher at the Green Tree School in Philadelphia and as special education director for the Rose Tree Media School District in Delaware County. He then entered the mental health field, working with emotionally disturbed children at a University of Pennsylvania-affiliated facility and helping start a community mental health center, according to published autobiographical notes.
For many years, he served as founding dean of Antioch University's Philadelphia campus, overseeing education and human service programs for working adults.
"I am interested in education as an empowerment process for adult learners, particularly in regard to urban education and minority issues," he once wrote.
He believed it was never too late to learn. "He was always preaching education to everyone," Mark Frisby said.
He had worked for Goddard College since 1990 and was a faculty member at the time of his death. He served on the boards of advocacy and direct-service organizations.
For all his achievements, Mr. Frisby's role in his family was deeply important to him.
Although he wasn't the oldest of his siblings, "he was the patriarch of the family," said Frisby-LaRue.
The father of two sons, Mr. Frisby was a supportive uncle to more than three dozen nieces and nephews. Recently, he had organized a barbecue at his home for the extended family to say farewell to Wayne Frisby, a nephew with liver cancer. The nephew was hospitalized the day before the event was to take place and died shortly afterward.
In addition to his wife, nephew, and sisters, he is survived by sons David and Daniel; two brothers; a sister; and two grandchildren.
A memorial service will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 2, at the Presbyterian Church of Willingboro, 494 Beverly-Rancocas Rd.
Donations may be made to the American Heart Association.