Educator, 85, created Fry Readability Graph

Educator, author and environmentalist Edward Fry died in his Laguna Beach home Sept. 2, surrounded by his family. He was 85.

"He lost his battle with leukemia, but we all know how he loved life," his wife, Cathy, wrote friends. "He especially loved teaching, whether in a Rutgers classroom or up in the hills hiking with a grandson. It was a learning experience and he made sure he learned something new every day."

Fry especially loved being a docent in Laguna Canyon.

"Ed was one of the original Red Hat Docents, the very first group of Laguna Greenbelt docents," said Mary Fegraus, founding executive director of the Laguna Canyon Foundation.

"He was also a major donor to the foundation, an active member of Village Laguna and was very supportive of the Laguna Canyon Conservancy dinners. He had Laguna groups down pat."

Fry was also a member of the Laguna Beach Democratic Club.

"I always thought of Ed as a gentle, thoughtful and wise person," said City Councilwoman Verna Rollinger, a member of many of the same organizations. "He was a person always involved in good works."

Near the end of his life, a doctor asked him if there was anything he would like to do, if he could.

There was one more book he wanted to write, Fry replied.

He wrote more than 31 books and more than 100 articles, including "How to Teach Reading," developed for the Peace Corps; "The Reading Teacher's Book of Lists," with Jacqueline Kress; and a video series for series for Time Life, narrated by Dick Cavett and Bill Cosby.

In Laguna, Fry founded Laguna Beach Educational Books and sold it to Teacher Created Materials.

Fry, born in Los Angeles, moved to Laguna when he was 12.

He got a job at the Pottery Shack, which paid him 15 cents an hour. He claimed he was the Pottery Shack's first employee. Fry attended the seventh grade in bare feet.

He was editor of the Laguna Beach High School newspaper and graduated in a class of 40 in 1942.

World War II interrupted his studies at Occidental College and he joined the Merchant Marines, serving mostly in the Pacific Theater.

He retuned to college after the war and graduated from Occidental.

In 1950, Fry married Carol Addison. Fry became an expert in teaching. He invented the Fry Readability Graph, which is a widely used tool for assessing the readability level of almost any type of reading material. He was on the faculty of Loyola University in Los Angeles and Rutgers University in New Jersey where he became a full professor.

During 22 years at Rutgers, he was president of the National Reading Conference, the International Reading Assn., and the New Jersey Reading Assn. He is a member of the Reading Teacher Hall of Fame.

He also taught at Makerere University in Uganda as a Fulbright scholar in 1960. Starting in 1994, he taught at the University of Zimbabwe also as a Fulbright Scholar and later developed the University Press at Africa University in Zimbabwe.

"He loved Africa," his wife said.

Fry was a member of the Laguna Beach United Methodist Church, happy to inspire church work teams to go Africa.

After retiring from Rutgers, Fry moved back to Laguna with his second wife, Cathy, whom he married in 1974.

"We had a wonderful life in Highland Park while he was at Rutgers," she said.

Ed is survived by his wife, daughter Shanti, son Christopher, stepchildren Kim Rau and Kirk Boyce, and grandchildren Julia Zinsmeyer, Victoria Zinsmeyer, Jeremy Fry, Jeff Rau, Jamie Rau, Dustin Boyce, Brandie Boyce and extended family granddaughter Elizabeth Linn.

A memorial service will be at 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 18, at the United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley Drive, Laguna Beach.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Edward Fry Endowed Graduate Fellowship Fund (Rutgers University), Africa University or Laguna Canyon Foundation to Cathy Fry, 245 Grandview St., Laguna Beach, 92651.

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