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Former Grass Valley mayor dies

To say that Alexander Frisch Sr. was an accomplished man is pure understatement.

The former mayor of Grass Valley who went by “Al” was 83 when he died suddenly on March 9, while waiting to get his vehicle fixed in Roseville.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 31, at the Masonic Temple in downtown Grass Valley that he voluntarily cared for. Burial will follow in the Masonic Cemetery in Grass Valley that he also tended.



Frisch recently was among 11 people who applied for an open seat on the Grass Valley City Council, though he was not appointed.

When gathering information for his father’s obituary, his son, Ronald Frisch of Grass Valley, could not get over his father’s vast service to the community.




“It’s just amazing how many things he was involved with,” Ronald Frisch said Thursday. “When he wanted to run for City Council again (in January) I said, ‘You don’t have time to do that,’ and he said, ‘I’ll make time.’

“He did exactly what he always said: ‘Go out of this world with a bang,'” his son said. “He was a character and he liked to help people.”

The current mayor of Grass Valley, Mark Johnson, remembers Frisch fondly.

“He always had an opinion,” Johnson said. “Regardless of his age or health, he was always ready to serve.”

He served in Grass Valley government from 1976 to 1989. He was city councilman from 1976 to 1983, a planning commissioner from 1983 to 1985, assistant mayor twice and mayor from 1985 to 1987.

Frisch was a volunteer for FREED, a Little League coach, a reserve Grass Valley policeman, a Mason, the Exalted Ruler of the Nevada City Elks from 1966 to 1967, and volunteered many hours at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

Frisch also was a hunter and a fisherman, a trap shooter, a lover of country-western music. He learned to play guitar late in life with the help of the Rough and Ready Fruit Jar Pickers.

A full list of Frisch’s accomplishments appears with his obituary on page A5.

Growing up in Fresno, he learned German from his parents. Frisch used that knowledge during World War II as an interpreter at a German prisoner of war camp in Texas. He also served as a guard and interpreter at the internment camp at Tule Lake for Japanese-Americans.

“He ran around with all these Japanese kids (in Fresno) and picked it up enough to be able to talk to them,” Ronald Frisch said. “In German, he was fluent.”

Frisch was not sent overseas because the U.S. Army found out he had lied about his age when he enlisted in the National Guard at 16. During his service, he married Goldie Trout in Reno, Nev.

When he got out of the service he worked on the railroad, with Pacific Gas and Electric Co., with Pacific Bell for 27 years as an installer and lineman, and later as a security guard at Grass Valley Group.

Frisch had a number of nicknames.

“In Fresno they called him Sonny,” Ronald Frisch said. “Everybody here called him Big Al, his grandkids called him Papa and his great-grandkids called him Big Papa.”

But like all humans, he wasn’t perfect, either, his son said.

“He was a hard-headed kraut,” Ronald Frisch said. “We didn’t talk for 20 years” after a 1973 argument. “That’s the way Dad was. Once he got mad at you, that was it.”

The anger between father and son subsided when the senior Frisch walked into his son’s hospital room unannounced in 1993.

“Once we got back together, we had fun,” Ronald Frisch said. That included a large family reunion in Arizona last Thanksgiving and a trip right after to the Grand Canyon. Al Frisch was planning to see the California Redwoods on the coast when he died.

Ronald Frisch has been fielding phone calls from his dad’s friends for a week. “I didn’t realize the people that he touched,” Frisch said. One caller said they had two sons who referred to Al Frisch as their unofficial father because he helped them become good citizens.

“Every day there’s another story,” Ronald Frisch said. “He thought he’d live to be 100… He wasn’t planning on dying.”

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To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.


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