Pat and Chuck Fritz
Pat Fritz always swore she would never live in Florida. Chuck, her husband of 37 years, said the idea needed only a passing mention for her to passionately expound on the subject. Then, shortly after their dual retirements from demanding careers, they came to Orlando for Thanksgiving with an old friend who had recently undergone surgery.
"It was Thanksgiving Day and we had gone for a walk in the neighborhood with our friend’s girlfriend. We saw a house for sale and, just for fun, she knocked at the door and asked if we could see it," Pat said.
Walking into the house was akin to having the heavens open and a choir begin singing “Hallelujah” because by January 8 (six weeks later) they had purchased it, sold their own home in Baltimore, downsized their possessions, and moved into the new house near the University of Central Florida.
Chuck still exhibits an air of bemusement when describing these whirlwind events but he was a very willing participant and, despite most of his life having been spent living in the Northeast, has no desire to return to a life there.
He was christened Charles when he came into the world on April 18, 1933 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She – the former Patricia McDermott – followed him into the world on February 27, 1935. Born in the New York City borough of Manhattan, she grew up in Brooklyn. She first married at age 22 and, in rapid succession, gave birth to four children. That marriage lasted 15 years. Chuck also married and had three children before that marriage ended after 18 years.
"You can see," he chuckled, "that we believe in marriage because we stayed married for quite some time."
Pat and Chuck met when they were both working for Westinghouse in Pittsburgh, but she soon accepted a better job offer in Rochester, New York. It wasn't long, however, before he called to say he would be in the area on business and could he take her to dinner.
"I didn't know that ‘in the area’ meant he had business in Canada," Pat said gleefully.
The pain of her divorce had made her vow never to remarry, but Chuck's patient and consistent attention – although mostly long distance – wore her down. On May 15, 1976 they were married in Rochester. The day before the wedding, Chuck was in Brussels, Belgium on business.
"It was a little nerve-racking wondering if he would make it back in time" Pat said.
But he did and together they got on with the job of raising seven children while they both held stressful jobs. Pat took an administrative position with a neurosurgeon at the University of Pittsburgh medical school and somehow thought it would be a quieter position than what she was used to. It morphed into 10 years of overseeing more than 100 staff at five different hospitals and keeping track of grants from the National Institutes of Health.
Chuck continued his travels around the globe doing management consulting and development for Westinghouse, which was later bought by Northrop Grumman. One year, they recalled, he had 30 different travel assignments but somehow managed to make it home most weekends.
The years went on and seven kids multiplied into 11 grandchildren and then also five great-grandchildren. Through it all, they said, their focus was on their family and their deep faith in God.
“I think it was faith in each other too. You were the best there was,” Chuck said to Pat.
She retired in 1994 and Chuck in 1999. Then came the surprise move in 2001. They dove eagerly into Central Florida living.
“Two days after we moved in we were over at the University of Central Florida checking things out, and a week after that we became members of Life At UCF. And, shortly after that, I became its President,” Chuck recalled. “I just recently retired from the Board but we still attend the programs.”
Soon after their move to Florida they saw an ad for Orlando Lutheran Towers and decided to check it and similar communities out for future reference. In the years that followed they did their due diligence (what they like to call “the free-lunch tour”) and ended up making a deposit at Lutheran Towers.
“All seven children want us to move back north but our whole life is here in Florida. We love it here,” Chuck said.
“There was a time we looked at retirement communities up in the Pittsburgh area, where we would be close to most of our children, and Chuck would get this stricken look on his face,” Pat said.
“They didn’t have anything to offer more than we have down here,” he said. “The friends we had in Pittsburgh either died or moved. We love it down here. We’re very happy here. One couple moved in here yesterday that we recruited,” Chuck said.
The thing that seals the deal for them at Orlando Lutheran Towers, Pat said, is: “The staff is fun!”