Remembering John M. Frey

A message from President Holly A. Johnson

John M. Frey, a 2nd generation trustee emeritus of the Frey Foundation (foundation), passed away peacefully at his beloved farm in Charlevoix, MI on March 28, 2024. He was 84 years old.

John’s parents, Edward J. and Frances T. Frey, established the foundation in 1974, and John served as Vice-Chair until 2014 and retired as a trustee in 2015. John’s leadership at the foundation contributed meaningfully to the way we approach our Community Arts and Environmental grantmaking pillars. He also was an ardent advocate for historically underserved populations.

John’s passion for diverse arts, land conservation and preservation, and the belief that we must protect and care for our freshwater resources has shaped our philanthropic investments in these important spaces.

John’s love of the arts has helped to scale the foundation’s support of theater, ballet, dance, and diverse community arts. John was a thespian and talented artist himself and advocated for these vocations to be viewed as professions that were heralded and respected.

As a farmer and conservationist, John knew that land is precious and should be protected for future generations. The work that the foundation has done in preserving private land for public use and creating access to Michigan’s beautiful natural resources is very much attributed to John’s leadership.

John not only advocated for robust support of lakes, rivers, streams, and watersheds—he was happy to be in the water as an avid fly fisherman and outdoor enthusiast too. John reminded us often that Michiganders are caretakers of an impressive percentage of the world’s freshwater resources, and we must always strive to keep our rivers Grand and our lakes Great.

John was instrumental in launching the Charlevoix County Community Foundation (C3F) and was a proud partner in ensuring their success. He was an active advisor, friend, and benefactor to the community foundation for more than 30 years.

John had a keen ability to make everyone in his presence feel like they belonged. If you found yourself in conversation with John, you most certainly were challenged to think about complex issues and you never forgot how special he made you feel. He shared his thoughts transparently, honestly, directly, and always with humor and curiosity generously sprinkled in.

John embraced the family philanthropy model – understanding that it creates a space where extended family can come together to create community impact and stay connected. The Trustees, family, and staff of the Frey Foundation are deeply saddened by John’s passing. We will miss his funny quips, his colorful conversation style, the twinkle of mischief in his eye, and his unconditional love for all.

If you ever received correspondence from John, his salutation was, “Warm Hugs.” The Frey Foundation sends Warm Hugs to the many people who loved him, learned from him, and will miss him.