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Westminster councilman who pushed Vietnam War memorial dies

Vietnam memorial
Frank Fry, a Westminster councilman for 44 years who watched over the city’s transformation from a largely white middle-class community into bustling hub for Vietnamese immigrants, has died. He was 87.

Frank fryFry was a force behind the creation of a Vietnam War memorial near City Hall featuring a South Vietnamese and American soldier standing side by side. Since it was dedicated in 2003, the statue has been a steady attraction in the central Orange County city.

Friends say Fry, a familiar face at hundreds of local gatherings through the decades, could be counted on for hearty laughter or candid opinions.

"He did not hesitate to speak out and you always knew what he was thinking. He loved to share," said Mayor Margie Rice, who had planned to celebrate both her and Fry's retirement at a Nov. 15 ceremony at the Westminster Rose Center. That will go on as scheduled, she added.

Fry, first elected to the council in 1966, often formed an alliance with Rice and Russell Paris, who died in 2006. The lawmakers banded together to approve the building of the Vietnam memorial.

Fry initiated the project in 1997, steering it through opposition, an extensive search for a sculptor and the challenge of raising more than $1 million. The statue became part of Fry's legacy and helped him connect to the immigrant community in Westminster, Rice recalled.

"He loved this city and it always showed," she said. "He could be stubborn, but he also could be a big old teddy bear. We always referred to him as the Energizer bunny. He always came back, he never gave up."

Fry's name remained on Wednesday ballot for the Midway City Sanitation District.

His survivors include his wife, Marilyn, whom he married in 1952, two children and three grandchildren. Funeral services are pending.


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-- Anh Do

Twitter: @newsterrier

Photo: Westminster's Vietnam memorial features an American and South Vietnamese soldier. Credit: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times.

Photo: Frank Fry. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

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