Frederick Irving, 95
Frederick Irving, affectionately known as “FTG” (Frederick the Great) by his family and close friends, died peacefully in the comforting presence of his children and grandchildren on Nov. 13, 2016. He was 95 years old.
A WWII veteran, U.S. diplomat and author, he was most proud of his lifelong commitment to, and professional and personal work on behalf of, equality of opportunity for all human beings regardless of sex, race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or disability status, and to the prevention of conflict leading to war. His is a quintessentially American life story.
Born in Providence, R.I., Frederick was the sixth and youngest child of Rebecca Lerner, an immigrant from Bessarabia, Russia and Philip Irving, an immigrant from Romania. His father died when Fred was four years old and Rebecca kept the family together by taking in piecework. Fred worked full-time at a soda shop while attending Classical High School and, in the 10th grade, he met the love of his life, Dorothy Petrie, to whom he stayed constant and true to the end of his days.
Fred continued to work 40 hours per week while attending Brown University and playing on the fencing team. Following in the footsteps of his four older brothers, Fred joined the U.S. Army Aircorps immediately upon graduation from Brown in 1943. His photographic memory led to an assignment as the navigator on a B-24 bomber crew based in Italy. On the 37th mission, Fred’s plane was shot down over Hungary. He credited the Tuskegee Airmen with saving his life as they circled the plane until the crew could bail out. Fred was captured by Hungarian partisans, turned over to the German Army and interned in Stalag Luft III, the site of the “Great Escape.” He was liberated by Patton’s Army — two of his brothers amongst them — in May 1945.
After receiving military honors for bravery, including the Purple Heart, and a period of recovery at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., Fred attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University. There, he met his lifelong best friend, Harish Mahindra, of India, who served as best man in his wedding to Dorothy.
After graduation from Fletcher, Fred and Dorothy embarked on a tandem career in the U.S. Foreign Service. They served together in Austria, New Zealand, Washington D.C. as well as in Iceland and Jamaica, where Fred was the U.S. Ambassador. Fred always acknowledged Dorothy’s critical, if unpaid, role in forging and maintaining personal and professional ties that supported U.S. interests abroad.
After retiring from the U.S. State Department, Fred joined the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. After a few years there, he and Dorothy determined that life was much more fun when lived in their cabin on Highland Lake in Bridgton. Fred often talked to school groups and civic organizations about his experience as a prisoner of war, his efforts in the U.S. Foreign Service to promote peaceful solutions to inevitable disagreements, and the need for all Americans to ensure that the freedoms, justice and prosperity that we enjoy in the United Sates are available to all people equally within and outside its borders. Fred wrote a book about his life experiences: Mr. President, Do You Think I have Rocks in My Head?!
Fred’s wife of 64 years predeceased him in 2010.
He leaves three children, eight grandchildren, a great grandchild and innumerable great friends and admirers.