A Father. A Froehlich. A Family. A Farm.
When I reach back to my childhood, many memories of Christmas come to mind but one in particular, spending Christmas at the home of our grandparents, Elizabeth and Joseph Froehlich. As tradition, the years between the late 50’s through the early 60’s were when my dad, mom, two brothers and I would pile into the blue Chevy that was parked in front of our house on West 19th Street in Deer Park and make our way to the farmhouse in Elmont. Adjacent to the house were the 54 acres of farmland that extended out from Elmont Road to the Belt Parkway. And it was the house we would all enter for Christmas dinner.
Proud to be part of the Froehlich lineage, my dad often reminisced about his days working and playing on the farm. Unlike bankers and lawyers reaping from their investments, the Froehlich family reaped a harvest. Crops. My dad would often comment that because they toiled the land, there was never was a shortage of food. That given, Christmas dinner at the Froehlich’s was always a bounty.
Followed by his two older siblings, Robert and Dorothy, my dad, Vincent was born on January 18, 1930. He was the youngest of the three until seven years later when Joseph, Jr. was born, yet the family didn’t stop there. Not more than two years later came the twins, Betty and William. Thus, Elizabeth and Joseph, Sr. not only had their hands full, but they also had their full share of farmhands.
Through the years, my dad labored alongside his father and brothers in order to maintain the farm logistics as well as the harvest. With his many tasks on the farm, my dad also had his bulk of schoolwork. His early years were spent at St. Bonafice Elementary School until he was old enough to attend Sewanhaka High School. Once my dad graduated from high school, he enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed in London where he served from 1950-1954. During those years, he met the woman who would soon be his wife. Lily Soh, an Asian woman recognized by her black glossy hair and high cheekbones. Soon after my dad and mom got married, they had their first son, Vincent, Jr. and when his time in the Air Force came to an end, my dad with my mom and their newborn returned to Long Island. Upon their arrival, they faced a new set of challenges. Interracial marriages were denounced in the 50’s but that did not stop them from growing a family. I was born in 1954 and two years later, my mom gave birth to my brother, Raymond. Since this family of five needed a home, my parents purchased their first house in Deer Park where we lived for twelve years.
Although my dad worked hard on the farm and served in the Air Force, his attempt at finding the right job did not come easy. After several job opportunities, he eventually landed an assignment with Bendix Corporation, a company that opened the door to international travel. First stop, Madagascar. After a year of living halfway around the world, we made our way back to Long Island however, within a year my dad accepted another opportunity that transported us to Kauai, Hawaii where we stayed for five years. Where next? Several other international locations but toward the end of the family globetrotting, it was back to Long Island where my dad accepted an offer from Grumman. He would work there until it was time to retire which gave way for him and my mom to move to the Bay Area in California. Their decision to move to Northern California was not just to experience a warmer climate and a different environment but more so, to be near my brothers and their significant others (the “west coast” family). The transition to the west agreed with them but not with my mom. Her battle with Parkinson’s ended her life in 2009.
Soon after, my father met his loving companion, Wanda who not only complemented his life but was the center of it. Their common interests such as attending church, taking long drives and frequenting the Cheesecake Factory kept them together 24/7. Their desire to see their siblings, nieces, nephews and friends had them driving and/or flying whenever or wherever they felt led, especially back to Long Island. Distance was never an issue.
Central to all my dads’ greatest joys were his two grandsons, Owen and Lukas. He was fascinated by their professions in technology and aviation. And he never turned down their assistance when it came to fixing his computer glitches. My dad was not a prideful man, but he was proud of his family and nothing gave him greater peace knowing that he had nothing to worry about. Every phone call that we exchanged ended with him saying, “All my prayers have been answered.”
Now that Christmas 2020 is fast-approaching, it will be different. A new tradition begins. My dad passed away on November 15, 2020. His death happened during a year we can all agree as one of the worst in history. Yet, by grace, I made it to California to see him before he departed and for that, I am grateful.
My dad was the epitome of humble. He never complained. He never criticized. He was staunch in his values. And because of his faith, he was content in all things. He will be missed by us three and our respective spouses, Vincent Jr. and Arlene Froehlich, Linda and Ed Santavicca, Raymond Froehlich and Nora Pirquet as well as his two grandsons, Owen and Lukas Froehlich. He is also survived by his sister, Betty Pope and brothers Joseph Froehlich and William Froehlich and his wife, Patricia in addition to many nieces and nephews.
Most who knew this “quiet man of strength,” can agree that he was defined by his oversized heart, his humility and his enduring love for family. And of course, the Froehlich farm.