Whether Gar Fritts was advising businesses about marketing or management strategies or hospitals about comprehensive health care for the elderly or clergymen on laying down their business-side burdens, people listened and got positive results.
Mr. Fritts got his start in the consulting business in Chicago in 1960, built on that experience as an economic development advisor in the Philippines for two years, then restarted his consulting career in Atlanta. Over the years his clients included banks, manufacturing firms, carpet and rug makers in North Georgia and, later on, hospitals both near and far.
"Gar was a visionary," said Frank Corvino, president and CEO of Greenwich (Conn.) Hospital. "He was instrumental in the creation of our hospital's Center for Healthy Aging and the drafting of its strategic plan for the 21st century."
Through the 1990s and into the 2000s, Mr. Fritts made numerous trips to Greenwich consulting with the hospital's board, management and staff.
"Gar was a great communicator, very good at rallying people to his recommendations," Mr. Corvino said, "One thing he stressed was that the health needs of the elderly are special and require specialized medical treatment, something too many of them don't get."
Garland G. Fritts, 80, of Atlanta died Thursday at Piedmont Hospital of complications from heart disease. His funeral will be at 2 p.m. Monday at the Cathedral of St. Philip with a graveside service to follow at Arlington Memorial Park. H.M. Patterson & Son, Arlington Chapel, is in charge of arrangements.
"Gar favored the adventurous life," said his brother, Bob Fritts of Williamsburg, Va. " He was an Air Force pilot stationed in Greenland when the Cold War was at its height and scrambled numerous times in his F-89 jet fighter to confront Russian bombers testing U.S. defenses. He became an advocate for improvements in health care for seniors long before it became the issue it is today. And in his late 60s he went on mission trip to Ecuador and helped build a church there, doing the same work as men half his age."
In the 1990s Mr. Fritts joined a Civil War history organization called the Grand Army of the Cussewago and became a tour director for the group, guiding its members on memorable visits to various sites of the Battles of Chickamauga and Atlanta.
"Gar was a consummate historical tour guide," said Dr. Michael Brennan of Greensboro, N.C. "He went beyond the secondary sources for those battles and spent hours of research through official military records and diaries kept by the soldiers, both Union and Confederate. And he visited the battle sites himself before the tours and even found remnants of fortifications that current property owners were unaware of."
"Gar furnished us with many a ‘You Are There' moment," Dr. Brennan said. "He brought history alive."
For years Mr. Fritts had a hand in improvements in his northwest Atlanta community, most recently leading a fund-raising effort to properly outfit Fire Station No. 8 on Marietta Boulevard.
"Living conditions there have been deplorable -- chairs falling apart, beat-up kitchen ware, that sort of thing," said Rick Meyers, one of the station's three captains. "So several months ago Mr. Fritts asked us to produce a wish list and started an adopt-a-station drive that has raised $3,000 so far. In my 22 years as a firefighter, I've never seen an individual spend anywhere near as much time and effort on our behalf as he did."
The Cathedral of St. Philip was a central part of Mr. Fritts' life. For 40 years he was a lay reader there at evening prayer and Sunday services. And when the cathedral's dean, the Very Rev. David Collins, needed help in streamlining St. Philip's business side, he sought advice from Mr. Fritts.
"I wanted to free myself and the cathedral's other clergy to concentrate on spiritual matters and not have to devote so much attention to the temporal," said the Rev. Collins, now retired and living in Stockbridge. "Gar recommended hiring a business coordinator and suggested corrections in procedures that enabled us to do just that."
Survivors include his wife, Ruth Fritts; a son, David Fritts of Atlanta; two children from a previous marriage, Rich Fritts of Coral Springs, Fla., and Julie Kaptur of Evergreen, Colo.; and five grandchildren.