Robert Eugene Fritz, Harvard, Ill., passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his family on December 17, 2018. He was 89.
Born January 29, 1929, in Alton, Ill., he was one of three children born to Eugene and Violet (Brzezinski) Fritz.
A first-generation farmer, Bob grew up in Wood River, Ill., and Harvard. As a boy, he attended St. Joseph Catholic School and Harvard Community High School. He worked at Fritz Chevrolet, his parents’ auto dealership in Harvard. Bob enjoyed sharing memories of driving to Chicago with his father during World War II where they would purchase used cars and tow them back to Harvard and recondition them for sale, after new car production was curtailed to manufacture Allied war material.
The seeds for his love of farming were planted during frequent visits to his aunt Katherine Sauers’ dairy farm near Paddock Lake, Wis.
Following high school, he attended DeKalb State Normal College and transferred to University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1948, earning a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree in 1950. Bob served in the U.S. Naval Reserve at Naval Air Station Glenview and was discharged in 1948.
Bob began dairy farming in 1953 with his father on Fritz Road, south of Harvard. He married Therese Ann Murphy on June 25, 1955, in Delavan, Wis.
In 1957, eager to pursue a dream to become a veterinarian, Bob and his father wound down the Fritz Road dairy and Bob, Ann and their one-year-old daughter Kathleen returned to Champaign to complete coursework to enter University of Illinois’ newly established College of Veterinary Medicine. The strain of a new family and studies seemed too much, and the young family returned to Delavan briefly and purchased a dairy farm on State Line Road in 1958, where they have made their home for 60 years. With a singular focus, Bob steadily expanded and developed the farm from a traditional dairy to a grain and beef-cattle feedlot business that spanned three counties along the Illinois-Wisconsin state line. Bob transitioned management of the farm to his son Patrick in the early 1990s.
Bob especially enjoyed spending winters with Ann in Arizona, and truly cherished his coffee shop friends and annual fishing trips to Lake of the Woods. He remained an avid gardener to the end.
In addition to his business interests, Bob was actively involved in the community. He coached little league baseball, served as a 4-H leader and was a founding trustee of the McHenry County Conservation District, a public agency for preserving, protecting and managing open space, from 1971-1977. In addition, he served as a director of Dunham & Chemung Mutual Insurance, Harvard, for 29 years (1984-2013) and as a director of First State Bank of Harvard and its successor Castlebank Harvard.
Bob was preceded in death by his parents and a sister, Geraldine. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Ann, and their six children. This includes three daughters – Kathleen (Thomas Duhigg), Walworth, Wis.; Mary (William Peterson), Harvard; Joann, Darien, Wis.; and three sons Patrick (Dawn), Harvard; Michael (Cynthia Bender), Monona, Wis.; and Jon, Sharon, Wis. In addition, they have 12 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. Other survivors include a sister, Shirley Book of Rockford.
Visitation begins at 10 a.m., Saturday, December 22, at St. Benedict Catholic Church, 137 Dewey Ave, Fontana-On-Geneva Lake, Wis. Mass of Christian Burial will follow at noon, with long-time friend Father James V. McKitrick presiding. Interment will be at St. Joseph Cemetery, Harvard, followed by a luncheon reception at Harvard Moose Lodge, 22500 IL-173.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to McHenry County Farm Bureau Foundation. Online condolences may be made at www.saundersmcfarlin.net.
Call Saunders & McFarlin Funeral Home for more info at 815-943-5400.