The Obit For Jack Friel

Jack M. Friel

Published in The Hartford Courant from February 25 to February 26, 2012

Jack M. Friel, 89, of Simsbury, passed away peacefully on Thursday, (February 23, 2012), surrounded by his loving family. Jack was the devoted husband for 62 years of Grace "Gay" Lee Friel. He was born on December 5, 1922, in Prospect Park, PA, son of the late William and Mabel Shelby Friel.

After High School, where he excelled in all sports, he attended Pennington Prep School in Pennington, New Jersey, for one year and, while there, was named to the all-state New Jersey team in football, basketball and baseball. In later years, he was elected to the Pennington Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1941, Jack received and accepted a four-year athletic scholarship to Syracuse University, where he played both football and baseball.

In the summer of 1941, he was proud to have pitched against the Homestead Grays, perhaps the most storied franchise of the Negro League. In later years, three of those players, James "Cool Papa" Bell, Buck Leonard and Josh Gibson, often referred to as the black Babe Ruth during his career, were named to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Jack enlisted in the Marines and was selected to be in a pre-Officer Candidates School at Colgate University. From there, Jack was sent to Parris Island, Camp Lejeune, and then to Quantico for his officer's training. After his commission, he went to Camp Pendleton, California, and then onto the Pacific Theatre, where he served for two years before returning home.

Jack was signed by the Boston Braves and played a season at Pawtucket before deciding to return to Syracuse University for his senior year. Here he resumed his studies, and met the love of his life, Grace "Gay" Lee. They were married on April 23, 1949.

In 1951, after the birth of their first son, Jack was recalled to the Marine Corps and served as a Captain in Korea for thirteen months. In 1952, he was hired by Connecticut General and, in one year and nine months, was appointed the manager of the San Francisco Group office. At that time, this was the most rapid appointment to that position in the company's 89-year history. With the explosive growth of the office under his leadership, he was promoted to Director of National Accounts in Bloomfield, Connecticut.

After moving his family to Simsbury, he became known as "the man who brought insurance to Wall Street" by setting up national agreements with Thomson McKinnon, Paine Webber Jackson & Curtis, Legg Mason, Reynolds and E.F. Hutton. This created a synergy between financial institutions that has become a staple in the industry today. In 1998, Jack was inducted into the Connecticut General Hall of Fame, receiving the Frasier B. Wilde Award for his many contributions. He was so proud to share this moment with his wife, children and grandchildren.

After retirement, Jack was still an avid athlete and loved playing tennis with his wife and friends. He was often seen diving across the court to get to a ball in an attempt to beat men decades his junior. Not only did he love to play sports, he loved to follow them and had vast knowledge about athletes and their teams at the high school, college and professional levels. His knowledge spanned so many other fields as well, which was evidenced when conversing with his grandchildren about the latest musical group.

Jack was known for his humor, kindness and generosity, and was unforgettable to anyone who met him. He will be dearly missed!

Besides his loving wife of 62 years, Jack is survived by his son and daughter-in-law, Jack and Lia Friel of Weston, MA, his son and daughter-in-law, Larry and Lorna Friel of Las Vegas, NV, his daughter and son-in-law, Patty and Mark Sperandio of Simsbury, CT, and four grandchildren, Kristin Lee Sperandio, Mark Sperandio, Jr., Shelby Lee Friel and Christina Ray Friel. He always said he had a great "bench."

Calling hours will be held at the Vincent Funeral Home, 880 Hopmeadow Street in Simsbury on Monday, (February 27, 2012) from 6-8 p.m. with a Marine Prayer Service at 7 p.m.

Funeral Service will be Tuesday, (February 28, 2012) 11 a.m. at the First Church of Christ, 689 Hopmeadow Street in Simsbury. Burial with military honors will be in Simsbury Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to The First Church of Christ, 689 Hopmeadow Street, Simsbury, CT 06070, The McLean Home, 75 Great Pond Road, Simsbury CT 06070, MeadowBrook of Granby, 350 Salmon Brook Street, Granby CT 06035 or to a charity of your choice. The family wishes to thank the staff of Meadowbrook for their loving care of Jack during his final days.