PHOENIXVILLE — Some students that walk the hallways of Phoenixville Area School District hallways leave lasting footprints in the community.
Phoenixville Area School District staff and area residents gathered in the high school lobby on Monday to honor two former students who have made an impact locally. The late George E. Smith and David M. Frees Jr. were inducted into the Phoenixville Area School District’s Wall of Fame.
Smith lost his life during the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 and was inducted posthumously. Wall of Fame committee member and childhood friend Alan J. Hughes had the honor of speaking on behalf of Smith.
“I was overwhelmed with joy when I saw letter nominating George Eric Smith,” said Hughes.
Hughes was again overwhelmed by emotion as he reflected on the fond memories he had of Smith: his two missing front teeth, his sense of humor, his ability to dunk a basketball, his positive outlook, his infectious laugh.
Smith attended Barkley Elementary, then Phoenixville Area Junior High School, according to a press release from the school district. Smith graduated with the Class of 1981 from Phoenixville Area High School where he also played varsity basketball.
Hughes recalled that while his friend may have faced some challenges as a young man, raised by his grandmother and lacking in material wealth, “George never made excuses. After graduating, he put himself through college. He found himself a job and he excelled in that job. He was determined to be successful.”
Smith attended Allentown College and Ursinus College. He was a senior business analyst for SunGuard Systems.
Hughes also teaches math at Phoenixville Area High School and said he believes that Smith, “is an inspiration to every student who steps foot into a school here in Phoenixville. He is a true example of an individual who was able to overcome his childhood struggles and grow into a fine, upstanding citizen.”
An award is given each year in Smith’s memory. The recipient is a PAHS senior who displays the same determination to succeed while maintaining the qualities of character that typified Smith’s life.
Smith’s sisters, Christine and Elaine, expressed appreciation for the overwhelming love that had been shown for their brother and shared the hope that his legacy might continue to serve as inspiration for Phoenixville area students to strive for success.
Smith’s contribution to the community continued throughout his adult life. He was an active member of Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church, he devoted time to providing scholarships and safe recreational facilities as a part of Phoenixville Area Positive Alternatives and gave much of himself in support of other charitable organizations namely, the United Way.
Frees joked that in the days leading up to the induction ceremony the question had been posed as to how, as an Owen J. Roberts graduate, he had managed to be chosen for the Phoenixville Area School District Wall of Fame.
After learning of all that Frees has done to contribute to the betterment of the Phoenixville area, it becomes quite clear why Frees was chosen to receive this honor.
Frees was instrumental in the founding of the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area. He has served as president of the Phoenixville Jaycess, as president of Phoenixville Chamber of Commerce, and on the board of Phoenixville Hospital.
He has devoted time to the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation, YMCA Endowment Fund, Rotary Club, Phoenixville Heritage Center, the Phoenixville Public Library, and Boy Scouts of America Troop #15.
Frees is a former council president of St. John’s Lutheran Church where he is an active member. He has also served on the Stewardship Committee at the church and taught Sunday school for more than 30 years.
Frees’ son, Robb, put it simply, saying that his father, “always admired his hometown and worked to make it a better place.”
Robb also recalled how, when he and his siblings were growing up, his father always impressed on them his appreciation for the community of Phoenixville and the importance of giving back to the town in which they grew up.
Frees and his wife, Mary Jane Frees have three children and five children. All have been involved in volunteer work.
“I am very honored to be named to join this great group of local citizens ,” Frees said.
He spoke about the time he helped to raise 10,000 dollars in just three months in order to rebuild the bandshell in Historic Reeves Park, saving it from being torn down. Frees explained that he felt strong conviction to restore the bandshell because, serving as a venue for church functions, charitable concerts and similar community events, it stood as a symbol for all that is important to the Phoenixville community.
Helping to found the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area is said to be one of Frees’ proudest accomplishments. While he did proudly report that, “through total contribution of volunteers” the Historical Society now had more than 5,000 items in its collection, Frees remained quite humble considering all he has accomplished here in Phoenixville.
Frees claimed that, “whatever small contribution” he has made was due to the fact that he has “been able to work with so many other fine people.”
Frees attended Pierce School of Business and the Philadelphia Insurance Society while employed by Frees Insurance, where he is still currently employed.
He is the recipient of the Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award, B’nai Birth Brotherhood Award and the Schuylkill River Heritage Award. Frees has also been named the Phoenixville Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year.
Candles representing peace and hope, lit by Frees, burned throughout the ceremony.
The singing of the Phoenixville Area High School Alma Mater marked the end of the ceremony.
Prior Wall of Fame inductees were in attendance and were recognized by Henry F. Coyne at the start of the ceremony.
Superintendent of PASD, Dr. Alan Fegley, welcomed the guests. He also reminded guests of their ability to nominate someone for future induction by simply filling out the proper nomination form.
Members of the Student Government, Annie Rubino and Kyle Kobilka participated in presenting the inductee plaques, reading the inscriptions for the audience.