WWII hero passes away

Published 12:55 pm Monday, July 29, 2013

Col. James Fisher (Tut) Frakes, a distinguished World War II veteran, died Saturday. He was 93.

Frakes, a West Point graduate, flew P38s for the 34th Reconnaissance Squadron in the European Theater during World War II. He flew 52 combat missions during the war, including a flight over Normandy on D-Day.

The 34th Reconnaissance Squadron was part of a group selected to provide beach photography to give the invading forces a first-hand picture of what they would face on D-Day.

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Frakes served in the European Theater until the Germans surrendered in May of 1945.

He continued to serve his country as a member of the United States Air Force until 1970 when he retired from the service. By then, Frakes had served as assistant athletics director at the Air Force Academy, as Base Commander of Wheeler Air Force Base in Hawaii, as a member of the faculty of the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, and as head of the Air Force ROTC program at Georgia Tech.

Following his retirement from the Air Force, Frakes and his wife, Frances moved to the Camellia City. Frakes then served as the president of Evergreen-based Natural Decorations, a floral products company, until 1986 when he retired a second time.

Frakes was a longtime member of St. Thomas Episcopal Church.

Elise W. Parmer, who attended church with Frakes, remembers how the Colonel made her feel welcome when she started attending church at St. Thomas.

“I am new at St. Thomas,” she said. “My husband Walter loves his church so I am going with him now to St. Thomas. I am a member of First Baptist Church and have been since I moved here in 2000. It was hard for me to leave my church family but it was made easier by people like Tut and Frances. They welcomed me with loving arms and made me feel like family. Tut will be missed by all who knew and loved him especially by Walter and me.”

Frakes was also an active member of the Rotary Club of Greenville, where he was a Paul Harris Fellow. A Paul Harris Fellow is an individual who meets high professional and personal standards set forth by Paul Harris, founder of Rotary.

Dr. Jean Thompson described Frakes as one of the club’s most dedicated members.

“I met him years ago when I joined the Greenville Rotary Club,” she said. “We always knew something was wrong when he was absent from the Rotary Club meetings; he was one of the most faithful and dedicated members. He did all he could to contribute to making the Greenville Rotary Club better. As long as he was able, he supported and was involved in all of the club’s projects and activities. We will all miss him.”

William Johnson, a fellow Rotarian, also had fond memories of Frakes.

“I think he was one of the nicest gentlemen that I ever had the chance to be around and I always enjoyed sitting with him at Rotary,” Johnson said. “He spoke to us once several years ago at Rotary and told us a little about his WWII exploits in the Air Force. I can’t really recall many details of his talk, but not in a bragging way, he was able to get across to us the danger and hardships that he and so many of his fellow servicemen were exposed to while fighting for their country. I just wish that we had gotten him to speak again before he got so fragile. He was truly an inspiration.”

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Thomas Episcopal Church.