Joseph Harold Frost 1916-2004

Pop died on Monday 29 March, two days after his 88th birthday.

I'm making this page to both honor him... and to somehow realize that in this lifetime, I'll not see him again.

Joseph Harold Frost, born 27 March 1916, was raised by his mother, Beatrice Edmunds Frost. She fed them and let the three kids come and go pretty much as they chose. "The door is unlocked", she would say. At age 10 he won the junior olympics doing 67 chin-ups.
Joe met Mom at a dance when she was 13 and he was 15. "Across a crowded room", he was enchanted. He asked her to dance and informed her that she was the woman that he would marry. She thought he was impetuous and nuts. Later she told him that her husband would have to be able to support a family.
In order to fulfill this requirement, he put himself through military prep school.
Joe and his Mom
And, on his own achievements, earned an appointment in the most prestigious military school of all, West Point.
While Pop was at West Point, Margaret was wooed by handsome Dan Courier back home in Long Beach. During his next leave, Pop arranged for Mom to have a job in the Bank of America in San Clemente. Thus she had to move safely far away from her suitor. When I asked him if he set this up purposely, he replied, "Well, I had to get her away from there!"

In his junior year there, he won the US high bar gymnastic competition. He was so humble. I only found out about this when I was 17. In my senior year at high school, I had to wear black for a class picture. Pop loaned me his black West Point sweater. It had a big felt "A" for Army with a little gold star sewn upon it. I asked Pop what the star meant. He explained that at West Point, they did not let you put things upon your sweater. But if you won the nationals in some competition, you could wear that little gold star. This is how I found out that he was a national champion.
Dan Courier
Mom the swimmer
In the bank
Old clothes day
Pop the gymnast
In his West Point year book, one of Joe's friends wrote, "Watch out or when you're not looking Joe is likely to give you the shirt off his back." He was an avid photographer and got into big trouble by spending too much time taking pictures and not enough studying math. Unless he got 100% on his math final, he would have flunked out. One problem on the exam required a theorum that he hadn't learned. He created his own theorum, proved it, and used it to solve the problem. His professor said that he had never seen such a solution but that, yes, it was valid. Joe passed his math class.

In 1939, he graduated. Mom (with her friend Paulene and Joe's mom) took the train to Detroit, bought a new car, and drove it to West Point where Joe and Marny were married complete with guns' salute. On the way, she watched out carefully for the purple mountains that, she was warned, were so steep that she might have trouble with the brakes. Being from California, she was so used to our coastal range (that we don't even call mountains) that she never even noticed those dangerous purple mountains of the East coast!
Mom and her Mom
Mom and Paulene arriving at West Point
Wedding kiss
In the service, Joe learned to fly and this was one of his greatest joys. He first flew and later trained others to fly in the PT-13, a small byplane. The wings were of cloth stretched over a frame. When World War Two broke out, there was a sudden need for lots of pilots. The Army-Air Force (still united at that time) program for training pilots required six months. My father taught his students to pass the exam and be competent pilots in three months. As a result of this, he was promoted from captain to major and on to Lt. Colonel in just three months.

During the war, he piloted B-29s. He also was stationed in India where he directed the flying of gasoline "over the hump" for bombing missions over China into Japan. They had 6 inch pipelines through which gasoline was pumped from the coast to their base where it was filled into planes which took it over the Himalayas to fuel the bombers. They had to fly low over the mountains to save as much gasoline as possible for fueling the bombers. Once they sent cleaners through the pipe and then sent 500 gallons of cold beer pressurized through the pipe. Those hot soldiers in India were really pleased!
Taking Mom for a flight
I was born at the Hamilton Field Air Force base near San Rafael, California on July 14, 1950. Three years later, Pop left the Air Force. He was there for 18 years. Two years more and he would have had a military retirement, but he was young and impetuous and thought he would make a bundle or money in business. He completed his masters degree in business administration at Stanford. His subsequent work was for major developers, earning them vast moneys and earning him a good salary. He was very generous and dedicated to the family. During my whole life from age 4 (when he left the military) until I left home, my parents never lived more than two miles from the beach and often directly on the beach. He thought this to be the best environment for the kids. It meant that he sometimes had to commute 2 1/2 hours to work and again home from work, but he did it for us.
In Redondo Beach, I learned to body surf when I was five years old. I had my own little yellow fins. Mom was scared, but Pop told her that I was to be allowed to swim and surf, even at that tender age. Both my parents always encouraged the kids, telling us that we could do and be anything we chose. They often said that if we would only apply ourselves, anything was possible.
When I was in school in Laguna Beach, Pop was the coach of my baseball team. I excelled in swimming and was a good backstroker in my high school days. Pop often went to the beach with us and was pretty good at body surfing himself.
When I was about 7, I told Pop a lie. He listened to my long convoluted explanation with a bit smile upon his face, which unnerved me. Then he said, "Son, there will be times in your life when you will decide that it is the right time to tell some one a lie. Let me give you two pieces of advice: 1) Make it short and simple so you will be able to remember it. And, 2) don't believe it yourself."

Papa was a craftsman. He always had a good workbench and workshop. He did most all the household maintenance and repairs. I learned from him how to build most anything I wanted. Later I learned to work with finer tools and became a jeweler. When I was at university, I was amazed to learn that other young men didn't know how to work with tools. I naively thought that all boys learned that from their fathers. I didn't yet know how blessed I was to have parents that absolutely loved and supported me in every way.
Pop moved from job to job. For awhile, he worked for the Southern California real estate magnate, Kilroy. After I graduated from High School and went to UC Santa Cruz, he moved to Reno, Nevada where he was business manager for the eccentric millionaire inventor, Bill Lear. Pop moved around so much, and dragged Mom and the kids from home to home (mostly before I was born). I think Mom has lived with him in nearly 40 different homes.

Pop was the developer of the Sands Motel on the beach in Laguna Beach and the "Top of the World" project of more than 100 houses on the hills above Laguna Beach. We lived there with a wonderful view of the ocean in a house that Mom designed herself. It was a wonderful home with big rooms for each of us, walk-in closets and as much cupboard space as you could desire.
Top of the World
Pop's last job was working as a partner for Grant McCoon. They bought old apartments, renovated them, and turned them into "own-your-own apartments". The California city counsels had never heard of such a thing. Pop got the legal papers from New York (where these had existed for many years) defining the laws. These were rewritten for California and the "condominium" in California was born.

I worked with them on the "Country Squire" apartments in Burbank, California. My job was to hire professionals for every job needed and to learn from them how to do their job. I learned plumbing, carpentry, electrical wiring, painting, plastering and much more. Then I hired a crew, taught them what they didn't know, and followed up to see if they were doing their job well. We renovated 85 apartments. As a result, I know how to fix up and maintain a home. I did this job for two years, earning money for my further education in London where I studied to become a teacher of the Alexander Technique.

For their last project (before Pop's retirement), he and Grant bought a large tower of apartments in Santa Monica. At that time, Jane Fonda's partner got elected to the city counsel and got the laws changed, effectively making it impossible for them to turn the rentals into sale apartments. Pop lost his big nest egg and retired with a very modest income. He and mom bought a home in Victorville, in the high desert of Southern California. They planted a great deal of roses and had a wonderful fruit and vegetable garden. But every afternoon, the wind blew hard and raised so much dust there.

I put my life savings together with theirs and told them to find a home near the beach. They did so, in Carlsbad. I've lived here with them during the last year, taking care of them and learning to surf - long-board surfing. I've been surfing about three times each week for all this time. It is a great passion and joy for me now.
Mom and Pop aged very well indeed.
50th Wedding Anniversary (Pop is 73)
60th Anniversary
Pop developed a cancerous tumor in the spheniod sinus; the deepest sinus, behind the eyes. January 21, the surgeon tried, but could only take out about 1/2 of it. March 25, an MRI revealed that it had grown back to a larger size than before surgery. The tumor was pressing on the optic nerves. He was totally blind in one eye and losing his sight in the other one swiftly. The only medical solution offered was a massive surgery that Joe reconned he wouldn't survive.

We had been following a strict healing diet and regimen, but Joe decided he had started that too late. He stopped all treatments and just enjoyed himself. He ate his favorite food - ice cream two or three times every day. We went through most of his papers together. I played his favorite night lullaby (Winken, Blynken and Nod) for him. I cooked all his favorite foods and generally spoiled him as well as I could. I did tell him how much I loved him and appreciated how he had done so much to make my life so wonderful. I told him that I would take care of Mom, sell the house, and see to it that she was well off for the rest of her life. I regret not as I said and did most all I wanted.

For his 88th birthday, he wished to fly again while he still had some sight. I found a kind pilot, a real aviation lover, who owned a PT-17; the same airplane as the PT-13 exactly with a different engine. He heard of Pop's past flying experience and kindly offered to take him up for a flight. I drove Pop there and helped him into the little biplane. He told me that he had been instructed in his flight training years ago to never take valuables up in an open plane and gave me his wallet. They taxied out and took off.
The pilot told me that during the flight Pop and he told stories and jokes and had a wonderful time. He gave Pop control of the airplane. Pop said that he couldn't see well and therefore must be flying poorly. The pilot looked at the controls. After each turn, Pop leveled the plane perfectly. He hadn't forgotten a thing. He was like a joyful boy having fun. One the way back, nearing the airport, Pop must have decided that this was a good time, unbuckled his seat belt harness and climbed out. The pilot tried to hold him back, but Pop was like a lithe athlete, pushed him away, and jumped under the tail (so as to not damage the plane). They were several hundred feet in the air. I watched as Pop plummeted down.

As I watched, my inner reaction was "You cantankerous old galoot; sneaking out like this!" I uttered the Klingon death cry; warning the dead that a warrior was coming. Then I felt a rush of joy, kind of a wild ecstasy. Must have been Pop's feeling - free at last.
I don't think what he did was necessarily right, but it was his choice and I have to accept that. He went out in joy as a man "with his boots on".

I miss him. He was becoming very uncharacteristically soft and needy. He took care of me when I was a child. I was taking care of him in his declining time. The cycle felt right. I guess that he didn't want to be a burden in his old age - that he had lived a good full life and when his time was come, he wanted to just go with his faculties still intact. However, two things make me think that he wasn't planning this ahead of time: Two days before the flight, he asked me him to buy him a tape player so he could listen to his audio books. And he was looking forward to a second flight in May. This must have been a quick decision on his part. No one suspected it before the flight. My heart goes out to the pilot who must be suffering too.

I'm sure that in his mind, Joe was relieving the family of the burden of taking care of him. He was being valiant, impetuous and brave... and, as always, doing what he thought best for the family.

Good-bye Pop. It's an honor to be your son. Be well in the great beyond.