A man who helped plan and oversee many of Scottsdale’s landmark projects has died.
George Fretz, Scottsdale’s first city planner in 1963, died of apparent congestive heart failure about 4 a.m. Friday while on a hunting and camping trip in Coconino County near the Grand Canyon with his sons and grandsons, according to his second oldest son, David. He was 83.
Fretz’s city planning accomplishments included the Scottsdale Airpark; establishing ordinances that prohibited billboards in the city; underground utilities; and the beginning of the 1970s-era McCormick Ranch, one of the first upscale master-planned communities in the country.
He and his staff also conceived and implemented the design for the Indian Wash Greenbelt, considered one of the nation’s most outstanding flood-control projects.
“The older he got, the better he got,” George Fretz’s wife of 30 years, June, told the Tribune on Tuesday. “He had a lot of compassion. He was a father to my six children, and was especially kind to them. He loved the outdoors.”
Fretz was an inductee in the Scottsdale History Hall of Fame in May. His oldest son, Doug, died last month.
An avid fisherman and hunter who ran a fishing camp near Kenai, Alaska, Fretz guided his friends and family to the best fishing holes in America.
In fact, David Fretz said shortly before his father died, their group was sitting around the campfire telling hunting and fishing stories.
“He died doing what he loved to,” David Fretz said. “Before he got up to go to bed, one of the last things he said was, 'Well, save a couple for tomorrow.’”
A native of DeKalb County, Ind., and a U.S. Army veteran of World War II, Fretz became Scottsdale’s first city planner the same year he moved to the largely undeveloped town that ended at McDonald Drive.
Bill Schrader, former president of the Salt River Project, “coaxed” Fretz into moving to Scottsdale from California, where he held similar jobs with cities throughout Monterey County, June Fretz said.
“It (Scottsdale) was a 'burg’ then,” Fretz told the Tribune prior to his induction into the Scottsdale History Hall of Fame. “You didn’t know where it was going. We started building things we needed. We made history.”
Fretz’s visitation will be 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at the Messinger Indian School Mortuary, 7601 E. Indian School Road, Scottsdale. Funeral services will be 9 a.m. Thursday at the Franciscan Renewal Center, 5802 E. Lincoln Blvd., Paradise Valley.