Ron Frisbie, 95, inventor, WWII vet, D&E Communications exec, radio museum curator

By on January 31, 2018

Ronald (Ron) Edgar Frisbie, 95, of Akron, joined the Lord on Jan. 28, 2018.

He was born Aug. 19, 1922, in Scranton, and grew up in Clarks Summit. He was the son of Helen Resseguie and Homer Ross Frisbie. Ron was married to Janice G. Frisbie on Aug. 7, 1948, with whom he shared 63 years of marriage.

Surviving are three sons: Dorman, husband of Sandra (Dougherty) Frisbie; Ronald Jr., husband of Terrie (Wenger) Frisbie; James, husband of Marcia (Bear) Frisbie; eight grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Ron was preceded in death by his wife: Jan; a son: Alan; and a brother: N. Robert Frisbie.

Ron graduated from Clarks Summit/Clarks Green Joint High School in 1940. He also attended Keystone College, LaPlume; Queens College, Flushing, N.Y.; and King’s College, New Castle, England.

Ron enjoyed his family and was dedicated not only to them, but to his employer, his community, the preservation and collecting of antique radios; antique automobiles, and music. He was a lifelong Methodist.

Ron’s 95 years of life were filled with fond childhood memories. There are many life experiences and accomplishments, along with an honorable telephony career, and a world-class radio museum.

Ron had a lifelong fascination with radio and electronics, and from a young age, displayed an aptitude for having mechanical abilities, a great memory, and being filled with energy.

Ron built a one-tube radio at age nine, installed an earphone into his Lionel train at 10 years old so he could play radio music from the train, and used a battery-operated erector set motor to unspool toilet paper at the push of a button at age 12. At 14 years old, he came up with an idea of an automatic garage door opener. In 1936, these were non-existent. He found an old washing machine by the curb and installed the motor in his father’s garage. He drilled a large hole through the garage door so that when the approaching headlights of his car shown through, the light from the headlights triggered a photo cell to activate the hands-free garage door opener.

His ingenuity amazed his parents, but they were more upset to find he had drilled a hole in the garage door. Another application for photo cell use of interest was made reality when Ron got his toy car and drilled four holes into the grill. He installed low-beam and high-beam lights that would knock down automatically when lights from another toy car would hit the photo cell. Full-size real cars did not have this until GM installed them in their 1952 Cadillac 16 years later.

In January of 1941, Ron played the trumpet in the National Youth Administration Band for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s inauguration.

Ron entered military service on Feb 19, 1943 as a mechanic, learning to work on half-tracks and other smaller vehicles for the Fighting 69th Infantry Division. Of the Fighting 69Th, as of May 27, 2017, Ron was one of six remaining men living. Ron was discharged March 24, 1946, with a rank TEC 5th grade.

Ron’s 62-year telephone career began in 1947 as a Western Electric equipment installer with Commonwealth Telephone Company, Dallas, Pa. Bertha Brossman Blair, of Denver and Ephrata Telephone and Telegraph Company (D&E), recruited Ron to join her company as general equipment engineer in 1953. Ron was quickly promoted to chief engineer and was promoted to vice president of operations in 1971. He was named to the board of directors of D&E in 1983, and was named vice president, secretary and treasurer, in 1990. Ron added assistant to the president to his title in 1991 and retired in 1992.

On April 23, 2009, Ron retired from D&E Communications board of directors, ending a career spanning 55 years with the company, and more than 62 years of service in the telecommunications industry.

Dedication to D&E included serving as trustee and treasurer of the William F. Brossman Family Charitable Trust for Scholarships, The Brossman Charitable Foundation, and advisor to the Junior Achievement program sponsored by D&E.

Ron was an active member of the Telephone Pioneers of America since 1968, where he served as a director, treasurer and president of the Keystone State Chapter. In 1998, Ron was inducted into the PA Telephone Hall of Fame and was also named Pioneer of the Year.

Ron also served his community throughout his career. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Ephrata Area School District for 16 years, being able to hand their high school diplomas to each of his four sons.

Ron served as a member of the board of directors of the Ephrata Area Chamber of Commerce, serving as its president in 1986.

Local community service included being a member of the Akron Lions Club, Akron Cub Scout Pack 57, and a member of the Ephrata Historical Society.

Ron was a member of The Sound of Roses, a local 1940s-style big band, where he played tenor sax for 30 years. The group had the honor of playing at Governor Dick Thornburg’s inauguration in 1983.

Ron has been a long-time supporter of science education and the recently-renamed Brossman/Frisbie Science Lecture Series. He served as a member of the MU Science Lectureship Committee, and a member of the School of Science and Math Campaign Advisory Committee. In November, 2012, Millersville University honored Ron with the President’s Medallion from Millersville University President Francine G. McNairy. The medallion recognizes individuals, businesses, or organizations that have demonstrated a commitment to the universal values of higher education.

In 1979, encouraged by his wife Jan, Ron began collecting antique radios. This became his new hobby before and during his retirement, where he amassed a collection of over 2,000 radios.

In 1993, he created a world-class radio museum adjacent to his home in Akron. The museum has been enjoyed and shared by hundreds of visitors from around the world. Ron enjoyed giving radio lectures, small tours to church groups, school groups, historical societies, and sharing his collections and stories with fellow radio enthusiasts. The centerpiece of Ron’s collection was a replica of the Titanic radio room complete with a life-like Marconi operator mannequin sitting at the control desk. Ron was a member of the Antique Wireless Association along with being a member of the board of directors.

Ron was honored by other organizations for his contributions, most notably, the Radio Club of America; Ron was bestowed the distinction of Grade of Fellow in 1995, and then received their Ralph Batcher Memorial Award in 2006 for the collection and preservation of early radio equipment and the construction and operation of a museum that offers students the opportunity to view and learn about historical radios, along with The Antique Wireless Association’s Houck Award in 2003 for the preservation and restoration of historically-significant radio equipment.

Ron has been highlighted and recognized in many local and national articles such as Antiques and Auction News, Pennsylvania Magazine, Millersville Advertiser, and the Keystonian.

Recently, on Ron’s 88th birthday, he saw his neighbor boy unsuccessfully trying to ride his bicycle backwards down the street. Ron, unbeknownst to the neighbor boy, performed this trick in his childhood; Ron jumped on the handlebars of the bike and rode it backwards up and down the street – with no hands!

Our sincere thanks go to the staff and caregivers at Luther Acres, Lititz, for the compassion and kindness shown to Ron and his family.

A viewing will be held on Friday, Feb. 2, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Hope United Methodist Church, 3474 Rothsville Road, Ephrata. An additional viewing will be held on Saturday, Feb. 3, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the church, followed by funeral services at 3 p.m., with Pastor Jim Bongard and Pastor Paul Brubaker officiating. Interment will take place in the Cedar Hill Cemetery with Red Rose Veterans and 21 Vet Salute Honor Guards.

Memorial contributions in Ron Frisbie Sr.’. memory may be made to Hope United Methodist Church, 3474 Rothsville Road, Ephrata, PA 17522.

Arrangements by Stradling Funeral Homes, Inc., Akron/Ephrata. Online condolences can be given at stradlingfuneralhome.com.

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