James Henry Fritz, also known as Jim or "Big Grandpa," passed away on June 30, 2021, in Valparaiso, Indiana, at the age of 71. He was born on December 7, 1949 in LaPorte, Indiana to Harold and Mary Fritz.
Jim grew up in LaPorte and graduated from LaPorte High School in 1968. He attended Purdue North Central for a year before getting a job with American Home Foods. In 1974, he married Melissa Stranad, and together they had three children before going their separate ways in 1992. In the late 1980's, Jim began working with his in-laws at their business, New Buffalo Lumber Company and TrueValue Hardware, and remained there until the business closed in 2014.
Jim was a simple person, not needing or wanting much to get by: some good books, sudoku puzzles, a football or baseball game, and his family. He was a quiet, soft spoken, gentle giant of a man, but he had a dry and witty sense of humor. A self declared hermit, he was anything but. He was well known in the community and was immensely proud and supportive of his children and grandchildren. He attended all band and orchestra concerts his daughters Krista and Jocelyn performed in, as well as many of Jocelyn's softball games in high school. He and son Ian were avid New Buffalo Bison fans, and could regularly be found at football or basketball games. He was also a Chicago Bears and Chicago White Sox fan. Jim, Jocelyn, and Ian attended many White Sox games while the kids were still in school. He and Ian also attended many New Buffalo City Council meetings.
Jim spent many hours with his grandchildren, Maggie and Eddie, attending many of their events and becoming an Eau Claire Beaver Wrestling fan. He and Ian enjoyed playing mini golf and attending Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra and Southshore Concert Band concerts, where daughter Krista and granddaughter Maggie are members. He was not able to attend the most recent Southshore Concert Band event, but he listened to it on the radio and was able to hear granddaughter Maggie and daughter Krista play together for the first time. Jim also loved getting visits from his two favorite granddogs, Lucas Griffith and Loulabelle Killey.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents, brother Richard Fritz and sister Jeanne Turner. He is survived by his three children, Krista (Joseph) Killey of Sodus, MI; Jocelyn (Robert) Griffith of Burke, VA; and Ian Fritz of New Buffalo, MI, as well as his two grandchildren, Margaret and Edward of Sodus, MI. Also surviving are two brothers, Gordon (Shelley) Fritz of Divernon, IL and Wayne Fritz of Hesston, IN, and sister-in-law, Beverly Fritz, of Hesston, IN, and nieces Stephanie, MiKayla, and Lela, and nephews Abram, Michael, Peter, Mark, and Ethan.
A private graveside service will be held for the family later this summer at Glendora Cemetery in Buchanan, MI. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be made to either the National Down Syndrome Society at www.ndss.org or to the Southshore Concert Band at PO Box 939, Bridgman, MI 49106. Friends wishing to leave the family a message of condolence may do so at www.sommerfeldchapel.com.
Sommerfeld Chapel – 15 N. Barton St., New Buffalo, MI has been entrusted with arrangements.