On Oct. 2, 2020, Donald (Don) Fritz passed from this earth, only seven days before his 87th birthday. He was the loving husband of Beverly (Cahill, Barr) Fritz for almost 20 years. Born Oct. 9, 1933 in Jenner Township, Pennsylvania, he was the son of the late Charles A. Fritz and Margaret A. (Foreman) Fritz.
He was a 1952 graduate of JBJ High School in Boswell, Pennsylvania, and attended the University of Maryland. Don was a Veteran of the United States Army, serving his country during the Korean War as a Specialist 2nd class technician, receiving several service medals including: for National Defense, United Nations, Korean and Good Conduct. He retired to Naples, Florida, in 1998 after 42 years in the machinist and tool & die industry.
Mr. Fritz was a satellite industry pioneer. He began doing satellite technology research in 1959, shortly after the Russian satellite Sputnik opened a new era of space exploration. He was instrumental in tracking telemetry and command systems of the world’s first commercial satellite in a digital satellite communications company that eventually became Hughes Network Systems. Mr. Fritz later rose to become director of the company’s machine shop division helping Hughes to become the world’s leading provider of commercial satellite networks.
After NHS, Mr. Fritz worked for the COMSAT Corp. in 1964; his first job was working on the Early Bird project team with manufacturer Hughes Aircraft Company. He soon transferred to COMSAT Laboratories, where he was part of the development in a series of high-performance satellite modems and a number of patents in satellite communications applications.
In 1972, Mr. Fritz and a group of colleagues left COMSAT to form Digital Communications Corp., a company that specialized in building sophisticated digital communications systems, utilizing both terrestrial and satellite technology. The company prospered and was acquired in 1978 by Microwave Associates and became MA/COM Telecommunications, which was acquired by Hughes Electronics in October 1987, becoming Hughes Network Systems. Mr. Fritz was initially head of the tool & die section of the satellite communications division. He was later involved in the new satellite technology, very small aperture terminals (VSAT), which eventually become the backbone of the private satellite network industry connecting millions of retail establishments, hotels, gas stations and other users. His role expanded to include responsibility for introduction of the GPS system for GMC.
Don’s Lutheran faith extended to Grace Lutheran Church in Naples, Florida, where he served as an usher and elder for many years and to Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Ocala, Florida, where he served on the Call Committee and as an usher. He was a well-traveled individual visiting several countries around the world.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by daughter, Tammy (Mike) Schwartzbeck, their children, Tiffany (Bill) Nallo of Monrovia, Maryland, Michael (Alicia) Schwartzbeck, great-grandson Ryan Marshall Schwartzbeck of Boonsboro, Maryland, and son, Donald J. Fritz of Rockville, Maryland. He was also a beloved stepfather to Ramona, James and Robert Barr of Lynn, Massachusetts, and is solely missed by his faithful dog, Sydney Jack.
From a family of seven children, he has one surviving brother, Richard of Riverview, Florida, and seven nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by five siblings: Robert, Charles, John, Ronald (twin) of Pennsylvania, and one sister Evelyn Rice of Naples, Florida.
A memorial service will be held in November at the Zion Hoffman Lutheran Church in Boswell, Pennsylvania, with Vicar Regina Holiday officiating. Interment by Hoffman Funeral Home will be in the Hoffman Cemetery across from the church.