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David Gardner Frey, 81, passed peacefully on June 14, 2023. David was born January 12, 1942, at Blodgett Hospital and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan until attending and graduating from the Cranbook School, Bloomfield Hills Michigan, in 1960. He went on to earn an A.B. in English 64’ and a J.D. 67’ from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a member of Zeta Psi fraternity and the Order of Gimghoul, a secret social society founded in 1889. The society’s fraternal Hippol Castle is located in Glandon Forest on the outskirts of Chapel Hill, NC. David was the proud recipient of the William R. Davie Award (2013) and the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Service (2015) by the University of North Carolina for his lifetime of extraordinary service to, exceptional vision for, and strong leadership at the university. In addition to his active involvement in the University of North Carolina, David, individually and through the Frey Foundation, demonstrated an extraordinary level of enthusiasm for the University of Michigan, where his wife, father, and many family members attended.
David served in the United States Navy including a tour of duty as an Aide and Flag Lieutenant to Commander Service Group III during the Vietnam War. After a stint working in the banking industry in New York with Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company, he returned home to Grand Rapids in 1975 to succeed his father, Edward J. Frey, as Chairman of Union Bank & Trust Company, the bank founded by David’s grandfather in 1918. David led the bank through a series of mergers and remained an executive and advisor through 2004 upon its merger with JP Morgan Chase. In 1978, David married Judith Campbell Spindle, a widow of four children. David and Judy raised the four children along with two sons of their own. They traveled extensively throughout their 45 years together.
David was first and foremost a proud Grand Rapidian, serving on various boards and leading significant community development. Much of the Grand Rapids we know today reflects his efforts to develop Grand Rapids into a great national mid-sized city. He found success leveraging public private partnerships for the betterment of the community. Perhaps the most visible manifestation of his commitment to Grand Rapids’ development and these partnerships was as co-chair of Grand Action (1992-2018) and Chairman of Grand Design (1995-1997). His leadership in both, brought to Grand Rapids Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place Convention Center, the downtown Grand Rapids Grand Valley State University Campus, a historic renovation of Meijer Majestic Civic Theatre, Michigan State University of College of Human Medicine, and the Downtown Market. Later (2009-2013), he co-led the fundraising effort for the construction of Grand Valley State University’s Seidman School of Business and International Trade Center. David further supported Grand Rapids through decades of service to various boards including the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, United Way of West Michigan, The Frey Foundation, founded by his late parents in 1974, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation. He also was a long-time board member for Foremost Insurance Company, founded by his father in 1952. David was proud to have served as an honorary pall bearer for former President Ford. David’s passion for and commitment to the development of Grand Rapids continued up until the time of his death with his involvement in Grand Action 2.0 (2018-2023), which is focused on bringing an amphitheater and professional soccer stadium to Grand Rapids.
David, or “Skeeter” as he is affectionately known by his 15 grandchildren and numerous college friends, will be missed by all whose lives he touched including his family and his college, trout fishing, and hunting friends. He is survived by his wife, Judy, of 45 years; children William K. Spindle (Michele), Robert K. Spindle, David K. Spindle (Katie), Jennifer S. Fee (Michael), David G. “Tripp” Frey, Jr. (Lucy), and Campbell W. Frey (Alice); 15 grandchildren; his siblings, Twink Frey, John M. Frey (Hilda), sister-in-law Brenda Frey, and numerous nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his parents, Edward J. and Frances T. Frey, his brother, Edward J. Frey Jr., and his grandson, Parker L. Spindle.
The family will hold a private interment service at Graceland Memorial Park & Mausoleum. A celebration highlighting his life followed by a reception will take place at 4:00 p.m. on June 28, 2023, at Kent Country Club, 1600 College Avenue NW, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Memorial contributions may be made in David G. Frey’s honor to the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, 185 Oaks Street SW, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 49503, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, 303 Pearl Street NW, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 49504, or a charity of one’s choosing