By Mark Carpenter
It is a select and elite group of Americans who can say that they own both an Olympic gold medal and a Purple Heart. One of that group hailed from Manchester, Mr. Wayne Frye. The town and surrounding communities lost a legend last week when Frye passed away at the age of 83 at the University of Kentucky Medical Center.
Frye’s story was an amazing and inspiring one to say the least, Born in Kentucky in 1930, Frye moved to Ohio and graduated from Manchester High School in 1948, where he was the Class President and co-captain of the basketball team. He received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy but before his graduation there, he was a member of the ‘coxed eights” rowing team that won the gold medal at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.
Frey was a Distinguished Graduate from the Naval Academy in 1954 and was commissioned into the Air Force, where he became a fighter pilot and also earned an MS from MIT. He taught pilot school for three years before the Vietnam War called him into action in 1968 and he flew 266 aerial combat missions in Southeast Asia as an F-4 Phantom pilot, commanding the 555th Fighter Squadron and being credited with on MIG-19 kill in the skies over North Vietnam. In 1974, after 22 years of active duty, Frye retired from the Air Force with the rank of colonel and as a command pilot.
After his service in Vietnam, Frye switched sports and played with several amateur soccer clubs in the U.S. , Mexico, and Brazil. He also served as a company president in the field of aerospace management, worked for Continental Airlines, taught at the Maysville Community College, and was a member of the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association.
His list of awards from his military service is also quite impressive: Legion of Merit, two Silver Stars, six Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, 16 Air Medals, and the Purple Heart.
Always a modest man about his accomplishments, Frye returned to the Manchester area in 1987 where he was a long time member of the Bentonville Community Church.
For a man who was truly a gift to the community, the county, and the country, it was fitting that his visitation and funeral services were held in the gymnasium at Manchester High School last Friday and Saturday. The county mourns a true hero.