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William Don Fries

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William Don Fries, Retired Navy Captain, Aviator Age 87, of Glastonbury, CT, died on Friday, August 21, 2009, at Hartford Hospital due to complications of vasculitis. A native of Albion, Idaho, CAPT Fries was born on May 31, 1922, the youngest of eight children, to the late Carrie D. and Charles H. Fries. He is survived by one sister, Velma F. Windward, of Preston Idaho. He was predeceased by his first wife, the former Elizabeth Ann Beddow of Logan, WV, in 1992, and is survived by his second wife, Helen Lindquist Coelho-Fries of Glastonbury. He is survived by his son, Eric vanBuskirk Fries, daughter-in-law Jennifer Knight Fries, and his grandson Matthew Thornton Fries, all of Old Lyme. He is also survived by his stepsons and stepdaughter, Joseph R. Coelho of Annapolis, MD, David F. Coelho of Park City, UT, Christine C. Harrigan of Pomona, CA, and Carl A. Coelho of Storrs, CT. CAPT Fries had an illustrious 32-year career in the United States Navy. In 1942, following graduation from the Albion State Normal School and a brief period of high school teaching and coaching in Dietrich, ID, he entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program and two years later, was commissioned an Ensign and awarded his Naval Aviator wings. His first assignment was with Patrol Bombing Squadron 71 (VPB-71), flying PBY Catalina "Blackcat" seaplanes on attack, reconnaissance and air-sea rescue missions in the South China Sea. Following World War II, VPB-71 was relocated to Norfolk, VA where he met and married Elizabeth Beddow. He then attended the University of Southern California under the Navy's "five-term" program and later served as an aerobatics flight instructor at the Naval Air Station, Corry Field, Pensacola, FL. During the Korean Conflict, CAPT Fries was attached to Air Transport Squadron 21 (VR-21), airlifting troops and combat supplies to the Korean Theater of Operations. Following Korea, he graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey CA, and was subsequently assigned to Naval Air Station Anacostia, near Washington, D.C., where he served as the personal pilot for Under Secretary of the Navy, Mr. William B. Franke. From 1956-58, he was stationed at the Naval Air Facility in Naples, Italy in an Air Transport Squadron. CAPT Fries' next assignment was at the U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI. Upon graduation, he transitioned from propeller to jet aircraft and was assigned to Heavy Attack Squadron Five (VAH-5), flying the A-3 "Skywarrior" nuclear bomber off of the USS Forrestal (CVA-59) from 1960-61. During the next two years, he was Executive Officer and then Commanding Officer of Heavy Attack Squadron Two (VAH-2) "Royal Rampants", deployed aboard the USS Coral Sea (CVA-43). In 1963, he returned to Washington, D.C., assigned to the Officer Distribution Branch of the Bureau of Naval Personnel. In 1965, CAPT Fries assumed the duties of Navigator aboard the Attack Aircraft Carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42) and later served as Executive Officer. In 1966, he served a one-year tour of duty as Operations Officer for Commander, Fleet Air Whidbey at Oak Harbor, Washington, where he was responsible for training air crews and introducing the A-6 "Intruder" jet bomber to the Pacific Fleet for use in Viet Nam. He then attended Rollins College, Winter Park, FL, graduating with a degree in Business Administration and Economics. In 1968, CAPT Fries served as Commanding Officer of the USS Aludra (AF-55) on "Yankee Station" completing two successful tours of duty in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Viet Nam. CAPT Fries returned to Washington, D.C., as the head of the Compensation Branch of the Bureau of Naval Personnel. Prior to his retirement in April, 1974, he served as Executive of the Joint Uniformed Services Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee. During his flying career, he flew 22 different types of aircraft, had over 7000 hours of flight time, and made over 250 aircraft carrier landings. His decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (WW-II), the Navy Occupation Service Medal, the United Nations Korean Service Medal, the Viet Nam Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, and the Republic of Viet Nam Meritorious Unit Citation (Gallantry Cross) with Palm. After retirement, he raised beef cattle on his farm in Rappahannock County, VA and later owned a real estate brokerage in Charlottesville, VA. Following the death of his wife Elizabeth in 1992, he moved to East Lansing, MI and married Helen Lindquist Coelho. He became an avid Michigan State University Spartans fan, attending MSU football games and following their basketball team. In 2007, he and his wife moved to Glastonbury, CT. CAPT Fries served as a Vice President and Board Member of the Navy Federal Credit Union and as President of the Navy League Chapter in Charlottesville, VA. He was an Honorary Member of the Fleet Reserve Association, a member of the American Legion, the Military Officers Association of America, the Military Order of the Carabao and the Association of Naval Aviation. The family of CAPT Fries would like to express its gratitude and appreciation to the doctors, nurses and medical staff of Hartford Hospital for their compassionate care during his illness. In lieu of flowers, the family would like to suggest making a contribution in his memory to a veteran's organization, especially those that provide assistance to the families of troops wounded or killed in action. Inurnment will be at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date. A memorial service is also planned in his hometown of Albion, ID.

Published in Lansing State Journal on Aug. 30, 2009
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