Robert Frey was decorated WWII naval officer

Robert Frey

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Robert D. Frey, a retired vice president of A.G. Edwards & Sons Investment Firm, a World War II hero and past president of Congregation Shaare Emeth as well the St. Louis Chapter of the American Society for Technion, died Tuesday, Aug. 3, just one month short of his 93rd birthday, at the John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, Calif.  His wife of 30 years, Dodie Frey (Dolores Plattner Wool Frey), was at his bedside when Mr. Frey died of natural causes.

Mr. Frey, a native of St. Louis who lived here most of his life, moved with his wife a few years ago to be near his stepchildren and their families in nearby Lafayette and Orinda, Calif., Mrs. Frey  told the St. Louis Jewish Light.

She added, “Bob was a most accomplished and remarkable gentleman who enjoyed a long and highly successful career, retiring at the age of 88 from A. G. Edwards & Sons as a Senior Vice President of Investment Management.  He was an avid sportsman, a world traveler and a community leader, and an authentic hero during his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II.”

Mr. Frey was born in St. Louis on Sept. 26, 1917, the son of the late Circuit Judge A. B. Frey and Riette Sale Frey.  He was the eldest of four now deceased brothers:  Richard Frey, William Frey and John Frey, and one sister, Mary Frey Hickman, who resides in Las Vegas, Nev.

Mr. Frey was a graduate of Soldan High School and of the University of Illinois, with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard, where he was first in his class.

Mr. Frey had started his promising career in commerce and finance in New York, but his future was altered by the Japanese attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He enlisted in the Navy and in August 1942, he entered naval officer training as a midshipman.

In an interview with Mr. Frey for the Jewish Light by the late Irv Breslauer, Mr. Frey recalled that even before graduating from the intensive Navy training, he was taken out of class and sent to join a ship, the newly commissioned destroyer, the USS Mayrant, whose first cruise included taking part in the Allied invasion of Africa on Nov. 8. Mr. Frey received his commission as an ensign six days later, while acting as an assistant gunnery officer under combat conditions. His job was titled anti-aircraft or “sky gun” officer, and he and his crew were responsible for the gun batteries, designed to protect the ship from enemy air attack.

Mr. Frey’s roommate on the Mayrant was Lt. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., the President’s son. Mr. Frey was officer of the watch when the ship joined a battle group shelling the beaches near the Sicilian towns of Geia and Licata to soften them up for the Allied landings. Mr. Frey, by then a lieutenant junior grade, directed the 40-millimeter guns, which were responsible for the destruction of two German tanks that were firing at the troops and equipment on the  beach.

Mr. Frey recalled in the interview that German bombers killed six crew members, blew a hole in the side of the ship and flooded the engine spaces, unleashing hot steam with more than 600 pounds of pressure. The powerless ship was towed into port and was moored alongside the dock.

Mr. Frey was awarded the Legion of Merit for “steadfastly remaining at his station, and although exposed to flying missile and  shrapnel, continued to direct the fire of his gun battery with skill  and accuracy, probably damaging or destroying one  or more of the  hostile  planes.”

Mr. Frey, who never boasted in any way about his heroism  during  World War II, was written up for his valorous service in an article in the Dec. 30, 1945 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.    

Following his heroic service in the European Theater of Operations,  Mr. Frey was assigned to a new ship, the USS Yarnall as gunnery officer and senior watch officer.  The ship took part in the actions in Iwo Jima and Okinawa and in the shelling of the Japanese mainland in 1945. On Aug. 11, after the Japanese surrendered, Mr. Frey was advised that he was eligible for release from active duty. He was able to witness the formal surrender of the Japanese to General Douglas MacArthur in Tokyo Bay, from the Yarnall, which was 2,000 yards away from the USS Missouri, where the surrender took place. Breslauer noted that Mr. Frey’s long-range glasses “brought the action (of the surrender) right to him.”

Mr. Frey also was awarded the American and Asiatic/Pacific Theater Campaign ribbons and the European/American Theater ribbons, with two Battle Stars.

In addition to his long and successful career in St. Louis with A. G.  Edwards & Sons, Mr. Frey was an active volunteer leader in the Jewish community.  Like his father, former Circuit Judge A. B. Frey, he became president of Congregation Shaare Emeth during a crucial period in the congregation’s history. He negotiated the sale of the former Shaare Emeth building  in University City to philanthropist and Shaare Emeth member Ruth Fischlowitz Marget, which enabled the temple to complete its plans to move to  the land it had purchased on Ladue and Ballas roads in Creve Coeur.

 “Bob had just the right calm judgment and business acumen, along with a love of the temple to bring about this important and historic accomplishment,” a fellow  past president told the Jewish Light.

Mr. Frey later served as president of the St. Louis Chapter of the American Society for Technion, Israel’s Institute of Technology in Haifa, which he visited numerous times.  After his presidency, he continued to serve on the Technion Society’s National Board of Directors and its International Board of Governors.  He was awarded the Technion’s highest honor, the Albert Einstein Award, for his exemplary service  to his country, his community and the technological advancement of the Technion, which has been called “the MIT of the Middle East.”

Mr. Frey also served as a member of the board of directors of the Jewish Center for Aged, and  helped raise substantial  funds for the construction of the Cedars at the JCA facility on South  Highway 40 in Town and Country.

Mr. Frey’s marriage of 30 years to Dodie Frey produced a combined family of five married children:  Dr.  James L. Frey (Sandra), Nancy Sale Johnson (Ahmad Rashad), Alan Frey (Suzanne), P. David Wool (Jill) and Leslee Wool Larner (Dr. Bernard  Larner), and 14 grandchildren (one deceased) and one great-grandchild.  He also is survived by his sister, Mary Frey Hickman, of  Las Vegas, Nev.

A memorial service and a reception will be held 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug.  22, at Congregation Shaare Emeth, 11645 Ladue Road in Creve Coeur, followed by private internment at the New Mount Sinai Cemetery.