Mark Clairmont |

GRAVENHURST —  One of Gravenhurst’s most beloved citizens has died.

Cyril Fry passed away yesterday, Tuesday June 22, at Andy’s Place hospice in Port Carling.

He was 96 and to many admirers he seemed ageless.

“Mr, Fry” was many things, including pilot, humourist, traveller, teacher and much beloved Gravenhurst citizen. He died yesterday, June 22, at age 96.

His daughter Jill Fry said he “just faded away.”

She said her dad had been in hospital at Bracebridge a few times in the last month “with a few issues.

“And it just wore him right down. He was 96 and even though it was something a younger person could probably deal with — it wasn’t anything big, it wasn’t a terminal disease or anything. He just kind of faded away.”

Fry said her dad had been doing “pretty good until probably the last couple of months.”

She said her mother, Marion, is coping as well as possible with her husband’s loss.

“She’s OK. Mom said they had a great life together. She said: ‘Well, you know, we’ve lived a long life and we’re all old. And I’ll miss him.’ And she shed a few tears. She seems to be OK and it’s a blessing.”

Cyril and Marion Fry were married 74 years and they were the same age. He always joked he married “an older woman.” Her birthday was Jan. 5 and he was born Feb. 14, both in 1926.

The couple were together to the end at the hospital, before Fry was moved yesterday to Hospice Muskoka, where died.

Jill Fry, 65, and her brother, Allastair, 61, were also with their dad in his final hours. Their sister Gretta, 63, lives in Australia and couldn’t get back.

Allastair said he was hoping to move his parents to a retirement home in Aurora any time now, where he and his wife live. But due to his dad’s recent illness that was delayed. However he expects only his mother will be able to live in the new home closer to where his family lives.

Jill Fry said there will be no funeral and only a family interment after.

There will also be no public celebration of life.

She said her mom and dad had requested years ago that there not be anything.

“So we’re going with that.”

Fry said friends and admirers can express their sympathies in the tribute section of Cavill-Turner Funeral home website where there’s a death notice.

And in lieu of flowers people are encouraged to donate to any of the many charitable groups that both Frys were involved with, including the Gravenhurst Archives.

Or in his words: “Perhaps give to some individual you know who needs help.”

“We just said if people wanted to make a donation in Dad’s name to a charity of their choice,” said Jill Fry. “I think people who have some memories of him will have their ideas about things he was associated with.”

She said: “He was very charitable person. He donated to many, many charities over the years. And in a wide range of different areas. He was very good that way.”

Gravenhurst’s Centennial in 1977 was a highlight for the town with committee chair Cyril Fry leading the parade on his penny farthing. (Family photos)

Fry, 65, who came home from Calgary last week to help out, said on a personal note: “I remember that he always made life fun for us. We always had a good laugh around the dinner table. He would joke around and so on.

“I think he taught us kids so many things. He was a very knowledgeable man in many ways on a wide variety of topics. So we learned about art and nature and theatre and music. And we travelled and we just had a much richer childhood probably than we would have without him around.”

Cyril Fry was many things. He first came to Gravenhurst in the early 1950s as a chemical engineer at Rubberset, before becoming a science teacher at the Gravenhurst High School in the 1960s.

“He switched to teaching because, I think, he loved to share his knowledge. And that stayed with him through his life. And he loved to talk.”

He had such a vibrant, lively, outgoing personality

Her father, said Fry, was “very community-minded” and involved with a lot of things.

Including helping start the Muskoka Concert Association and the Muskoka Field Naturalists.

And Gravenhurst’s Centennial celebration, which he chaired. And that led to starting the Gravenhurst Archives with his wife Marion. Fry also helped produce several history books on the town with the Archives.

In 2019 he received the Ontario Lieutenant Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Ontario Heritage.

He was a leading citizen whose opinion mattered.

As co-owner of the Gravenhurst News  with John Christensen, his Ivory Tower column was a popular read with its combination of humour and opinion.

“He had a lot of opinions on politics and things,” including those that shaped the town in most ways, Fry said.

When he would approach the microphone at public forums the audience would listen closely for his sage advice.

He was involved in a wide number of local organizations, she said, including for years championing fundraising for arthritis.

Former Beechgrove teacher Bruce Dart said today: “It was quite a shock, even though how old he was. He was quite a Gravenhurstite.”

Fry was unmistakeable in town and beloved by former students who called him “Mr. Fry,” and couldn’t have a reunion without inviting their “favourite teacher.”

Town parades in the 1970s and ’80s were often led in summers by him high atop his penny farthing unicycle or in winter dressed as a clown with huge ears.

Fry was also renowned for his sense of humour at work, in school and in public. For a few years he was on the Stephen Leacock Humour Awards committee Orillia.

Fry was also long-time supporter of the NDP.

A humourist at heart, Fry was on the committee in Orillia that annually awarded the Stephen Leacock Humour medal. At GHS he would often regale students reciting poems by Robbie Burns and using his dry humour in science classes.

Jill Fry, who comes back each summer to visit, returned a little earlier “to help mom and dad,” who had a housekeeper at their long-time minimalist, Scandinavian-inspired home they built on the Beach Road.

Allastair Fry said his parents “provided us with a pretty good life. Meaning a lot of different experiences. We travelled all over the place, all over North America, really around the world.

“Both Marion and Cyril were trying to give us an opportunity to see as many things and experience as many things as possible.”

He said his parents loved to travel and one of his fondest childhood memories was the year the family spent in England in teaching exchange in the late 1960s.

“I must have been around seven years old and I’m pretty sure I still remember more about that year than any other year of my life. Just because of so many things we had the opportunity to do and see.”

He said his dad was in to so many things: “He had a pilot’s licence ….”

Cyril Fry’s father was from England and set out for Canada headed for Brandon, Manitoba, and ended up buying a ticket to Brantford.

After graduation from UofT as a chemical engineer Fry and Marion travelled to his homeland and to Europe where he eventually found a job in England for a year before coming to Gravenhurst.

Allastair said: “He had a pretty good 96 years and about four months and then one month that wasn’t so good.”

He said his dad had survived prostate cancer about 15 years ago and some heart problems a decade ago.

But was “pretty chipper up until a couple of weeks ago.”

Fry said his dad “liked to laugh. He enjoyed a good joke” and often shared his sense of humour as a teacher and as an emcee. “He liked a lot of different forms of humour.”

Fry added one thing that “impressed” him was a story about his dad as a teen cycling to Montreal with a friend via Algonquin Park on some roads that were dirt.

“He was always pretty active and enjoyed living in Gravenhurst,” which he adopted and adapted to so well, leaving his mark on many student minds and community endeavours that continue with his legacy of involvement in much of Gravenhurst’s life over 60 years.

Fry is predeceased by two older brothers.

No parade in the ’70s and ’80s could be had without Fry dressing up as a colourful clown with his outrageously hilarious set of ears.
Marion and Cyril Fry knew more about Gravenhurst than many residents after they helped start the Gravenhurst Archives. Here they are at the Train Station in 1977. 


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