Mom poured energy into family, philanthropy
A brainy lady who held her own in the bustling Pittsburgh Press newsroom, Betsy Frey gladly gave it up to wed a war hero, raise two sons in Edgewood and passionately plunge herself into philanthropy, the arts and ensuring that her kids never turned into Eddie Haskell.
“She epitomized the homemaker of the 1950s,” said her son, sports broadcaster Bruce C. Frey of Edgewood.
“Kids today wouldn’t understand it, but she could’ve been a model for Mrs. Cleaver in ‘Leave It to Beaver,’ without the pearls. She considered it her mission to make sure that her boys fended off the Eddie Haskells of the world and didn’t become him.”
Elizabeth A. “Betsy” Frey died Wednesday, March 4, 2015, in ManorCare Shadyside after a long battle with dementia. She was 91.
Born Elizabeth A. Crawford on Dec. 26, 1923, to Archibald M. and Annie E. Crawford, she was raised in Ardmore, a Philadelphia Mainline suburb. Her father, the chief signal engineer for Pennsylvania Railroad, moved the family to Pittsburgh when she was a teenager. She graduated from Peabody High School in 1941 and, four years later, Allegheny College, where she majored in history.
“She was very bright and she took writing seriously,” said her son, Dallas Frey III of Edgewood, a retired Westinghouse executive. “She held us accountable for whatever we did and she gave us lessons that stayed with us for life: Show up early. Do more than is expected of you. Always help others.”
She was a cub staff writer for the Press in 1947 when she asked her future husband, George D. Frey Jr. — a junior teller at the East Liberty branch of Peoples First National Bank and Trust Co. — to cash a check. They wed on Sept. 10, 1949, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Wilkinsburg.
A hard worker who sold tickets at Forbes Field and attended night school at the University of Pittsburgh, he forged a career in finance, retiring at 65 as a high-ranking executive from the same bank – now the financial services giant PNC – he joined at 18. An Army combat veteran, he survived World War II’s Battle of Okinawa.
The couple settled in Edgewood, and her sons walked home from school every afternoon to eat a hot lunch.
When they graduated, Mrs. Frey dedicated herself to charity — fundraising for the Edgewood Cot Club, leading tours in Carnegie Museum of Natural History, staffing the Three Rivers Art Festival. She and her husband journeyed to Bermuda, and bought a Florida vacation residence. He died in 1993.
In her later years, dementia took its toll, but her boys returned the love she always gave them.
“Asking me about my favorite moment with my mom is like asking Terry Bradshaw which one is his favorite Super Bowl ring,” said her son, Bruce, who coaches cross country at Winston Thurston School. “But the moment I’ll always remember was kissing her goodbye. In the last stages of her dementia, she was in a coma, covered in tubes. I told her that I loved her.”
In addition to her sons, Bruce and Dallas, she is survived by two grandchildren, Kelly Frey of Shadyside and Dallas Frey IV of Chicago.
In addition to her husband, George, she was preceded in death by her brother, James P. Crawford
A reception for friends is 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday in McCabe Bros. Funeral Home, 6214 Walnut St. in Shadyside. Funeral services begin at 11 a.m. Monday in St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Wilkinsburg.
Carl Prine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7826 or [email protected].