Gamecock Legend Sarge Frye Passes Away
His 50-year association with Carolina made him an institution
Sept. 3, 2003
Columbia, S.C. –
Weldon B. “Sarge” Frye, whose 50-year association with the University of South Carolina Athletics Department first as groundskeeper and then as consultant for grounds and playing fields made him an institution around Carolina athletics, passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 90. Frye had been hospitalized late last month for congestive heart failure and died peacefully in his room at Providence Hospital.
Born May 7, 1913 in the farming community of Medon, Tenn., Sarge joined the United States Army in 1931. He spent the next 23 years in the Army, being stationed in forts all over the South. Fourteen of those years he spent as a Master Sergeant. While stationed at Fort McClellan in Alabama, he met Ruby Howard, the woman who would later become his wife. Sarge was wounded during the Allied invasion of Europe in World War II and received the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his heroism. During the Korean conflict, Sarge was awarded a second Bronze Star.
Following the Korean conflict, Sarge and his wife, Ruby, along with their two children – Jerry and Nancy – moved to Columbia, where Sarge was stationed at Fort Jackson. It was during that time that Sarge began his duties as the non-commissioned officer in charge of Fort Jackson’s recreational facilities. “The Army has always tried to have a good athletic program and facilities,” Sarge said in a 1984 interview. “I’ve always enjoyed athletics and was assigned field maintenance. A lot of it was the same thing I did for USC but on a larger scale.”
Sarge left the Army in 1953 and was hired by USC to take care of its athletic facilities. Groundskeeping was still a new talent of Sarge’s when he came to USC, but he learned as he worked and studied what other schools were doing to keep their fields in good shape. “I never had a class in it (groundskeeping) and those first few years were a growing process for me,” Sarge recalled. “Warren Giese was the football coach then and he’d let me go with him to other schools to look at their facilities and learn from them.”
Sarge became so proficient at his job that he was placed in charge of all the University’s grounds in 1968. He continued in that capacity until he retired from full-time employment in 1977. Sarge continued to supervise the maintenance of USC’s athletic facilities through the 1996-97 academic year.
Sarge received the ultimate tribute in 1980 when the USC baseball field was named in his honor. Sarge Frye Field has become a legendary facility among Gamecock fans. Sarge was honored in 1993 when the American Baseball Coaches Association named him National Groundskeeper of the Year.
Sarge’s son, Jerry, was a standout end on the Gamecock football squad, 1958-60, and was co-captain his senior year. Sarge’s daughter, Nancy Stiehr, retired from USC in June of this year. Sarge’s grandson, Jay, was a Gamecock football letterman, 1983-84, and is currently the head football coach at Richland Northeast High School in Columbia. Sarge’s wife, Ruby, passed away in the spring of 1997.
“When you think of someone who was revered by the entire Carolina program, you think of Sarge Frye,” said USC athletics director Mike McGee. “Sarge was a tradition around our department. I can honestly say I never heard of or met anyone who didn’t think the world of Sarge Frye. His contributions to Carolina will last an eternity. We mourn with his family, yet we celebrate his life and the service he provided to so many for so long. Carolina loved Sarge and will miss him dearly.”
“Sarge Frye was a constant within the Gamecock athletics program,” said head baseball coach Ray Tanner. “It’s difficult to put into words the high regard and feelings we all had for him. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have known him, to have been around him, and to have the privilege to represent this University in the ball park that bears his name.”
“Sarge Frye was a Carolina legend who touched the lives of countless coaches, students and staff members alike,” said USC President Dr. Andrew Sorensen. “He was truly beloved, and his legacy will live on in the hearts and lives of those who knew him. We at the university mourn his passing, but are grateful for the privilege to have known and worked with him.”
ARRANGEMENTS FOR SARGE FRYE ARE AS FOLLOWS:
* Visitation at Dunbar Funeral Home on Devine Street, Thursday, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
* Memorial Service at Sarge Frye Field (public invited), Friday, 10 a.m.
* Burial following Memorial Service, Friday at Greenlawn Memorial Park on Leesburg Road