Alan E. Fricke was a self-made man born during the dawn of the Great Depression who built a tombstone business from sketches on his kitchen table, his family said.
“He is a true example of how with hard work and determination, you can come from anywhere and be successful,” said Fricke’s son, Thomas, 60, of Blue Point. “I remember him working at the kitchen table, doing the layout work, the drawings, all the prep work for the stones. ... In 1975, he sold his first retail stone, and as they say, ‘The rest is history.'”
Alan Fricke, 88, of Bayport, died Sept. 3 from medical complications including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, his family said.
Fricke, a devout Catholic, made sure his seven children always had food on the table, Thomas Fricke said. The elder Fricke began drawing tombstones at his home, and in 1986, he bought his first store in Ronkonkoma.
The tombstone business kept growing, expanding to a second location in Medford in 1994. In 2016, a third location was added, in Center Moriches. Fricke aptly named his businesses the Alan E. Fricke Memorials.
In addition to crafting tombstones, the business has made monuments throughout Long Island, including at a park in Nesconset honoring 9/11 first responders, another in Smith Point to honor those killed on Flight 800, and a memorial for Suffolk County police in Yaphank.
Thomas Fricke, who works in the business, said it has employed three generations of Frickes. He also said his father enlisted in the Air National Guard after World War II.
Joanne Curley, 54, of Bayport, said she fondly recalls eating at restaurants with her father on a weekly basis. “He and my mother started this tradition when all of us were out of the house. When she passed, he continued it with his children and grandchildren. We were everything to him,” Curley said.
Fricke’s wife, Betty, died of cancer in 1995. She was 60, Fricke’s kin said. He also lost an adult son, Edward Fricke of Bayport. He was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1983, relatives said.
“He was able to have great sympathy for people, having lost his son and then his wife,” said another of his daughters, Theresa Ross-McCarthy, 58, of Bayport.
Curley said her father was known for being charitable. When she was young, Curley used to collect spare change left in the washer and dryer. When her father found out, he would purposefully leave coins in his pants pockets, so she would find them. Curley also recalled how her mother one Christmas was going to donate sheets to those less fortunate at her church.
“My father came into the kitchen and saw what she was wrapping. He quietly wrapped a $100 bill between the sheets,” Curley said. “That is who my dad was. He did his charity in quiet ways.”
In addition to Thomas Fricke, Curley and Ross-McCarthy, Fricke is survived by three other children, Elizabeth Pinter of Moriches; Mary Bianculli of Ocala, Florida; and Kathleen Belz of Marco Island, Florida.
He is also survived by 19 grandchildren and 32 great grandchildren.