Gerald Wayne (Jerry) Fronterhouse

By Montecito Journal   |   October 18, 2022
Gerald Wayne (Jerry) Fronterhouse

Gerald Wayne (Jerry) Fronterhouse, beloved husband, brother, father of two, grandfather of nine, great-grandfather to four, business leader, and friend to many, passed away peacefully on September 17, 2022. 

Jerry was born on May 22, 1936, in Ada, Oklahoma, the second son of three to Victor and Austa (McClintock) Fronterhouse. Victor was working for Magnolia Oil Company and Jerry’s early years were spent living in Wewoka, an oil patch town. Later the family moved to Oklahoma City where Jerry attended Northeast High School (Northeast) and distinguished himself as an honor student, school leader, and athlete. He was President of his senior class, Co-Captain and All-City center of the Northeast varsity football team, ran track, and played basketball. Very well-liked by his classmates and close friends, they always noted his outgoing personality, ear-to-ear grin, and that he was always a gentleman. Every summer he worked for his father’s trucking business. Also, during this time he developed an interest in cars, was very mechanical and proficient in modifying engines, and from time to time would race others on the country roads around Oklahoma City. 

Upon graduation from Northeast in 1954, Jerry enrolled at the University of Oklahoma, where he majored in Petroleum Engineering. At OU, he met the first love of his life and future wife of 53 years, Gretchen Gover of Altus, Oklahoma, at the Mont Restaurant. She loved to tell the story that for their first date he asked her out to study at the library. While initially she thought he was joking, and hoped he was, she soon learned that he was serious about his academics. She loved that quality about him and  supported him in all he undertook throughout their years together.

Jerry’s penchant for action and engagement led him to be very involved with everything OU had to offer its students and his accomplishment were many. He served as President of his fraternity, Beta Theta Pi. He served as Battalion Commander for the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corp (NROTC), and he was selected as one of two most Outstanding NROTC students for 1958-1959. He was Treasurer of Trident Naval Society, Treasurer of Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society, a member of the select engineering society, Loyal Knights of Old Trusty, and many honorary societies, including Pe-et that recognized the top ten students at OU. He was selected as Outstanding Senior Man of 1958-1959, and named to the Big Man on Campus list his junior and senior years. He also played on the 1955 national championship Oklahoma Sooners football team coached by Bud Wilkinson. All four summers of college he worked for Magnolia Petroleum Company and Calvert Drilling Company. 

Upon graduation from OU in December 1958, he married his college sweetheart, Gretchen, on January 27th, 1959, in her hometown of Altus, Oklahoma. Immediately after their wedding they headed out to California to report for duty with the United States Navy at Oxnard, spending a one-night honeymoon in Memphis, Texas, at the Western Hotel on the way out. After his initial time at Oxnard, Jerry was stationed at Key West for two years where his skills were utilized in overseeing the supply chain and logistics of the Naval operations in the region. 

Upon successfully completing his duty with the Navy, unfavorable conditions in the energy industry persisted. No stranger to the cyclical nature of the oil business, Jerry concluded he needed to get an education in something else. So he applied to the Harvard Business School, and graduated with an MBA in 1962. He made great friends while at Harvard, and always valued the life-long relationships built there, the rigor demanded by the school, and the analytical frameworks developed in the classroom. He remained engaged with the school and was a generous contributor through the years. He and Gretchen then moved to Dallas and he began his career at Republic National Bank, starting as a credit analyst. 

His daughter Jennifer (Jenny) was born in 1963, followed by son Jeff in 1965. He worked long hours at the bank, but he continued to cultivate and enjoy many other pursuits including becoming a licensed pilot. He purchased a Cessna Debonair, and enjoyed flying the family on vacations. He enjoyed time with the family at Lake Texoma, and playing duplicate bridge with Gretchen and a close group of friends during the early years of their marriage. And anyone that was close to Jerry knew he had a love for carpentry and all things mechanical, and could build or repair virtually anything. 

Jerry had great success at Republic National Bank. Known as a team player, humble, with a strong work ethic, he was also recognized for his ability to solve complex problems and his attention to detail. Many knew of the story of his purchasing a bag of marbles and scattering them across the floors of his new residence under construction to test the level of the flooring. Always willing to put in the extra effort and hours, he would say, “Success takes a lot of hard work, and there are no shortcuts. It’s just one step at a time. But if you are willing to take responsibility and discharge it properly with as much skill as you have, you will be very successful.” He quickly advanced through the organization and at age 42 he was named President & Chief Operating Officer of Republic of Texas Corporation (later re-named RepublicBank Corporation), and was later named CEO of RepublicBank Corporation, the largest bank holding company in Texas. When Republic merged with First National, Jerry was named Chairman & CEO of First Republic, at its peak the 12th largest bank holding company in the U.S. Just as he exhibited grace and humility on his way up in his career, he was a wonderful example of grace under fire when the state was impacted by both an oil price collapse and a severe contraction in the commercial real estate market, and First Republic required government assistance. 

He generously served on the board of directors of numerous public and private companies as well as nonprofits (on the board or as a trustee) through the years, including Texas Instruments, where he served on the board for over 20 years, Hoblitzelle Foundation, UT Southwestern Medical Foundation, Children’s Medical Foundation, Dallas Citizens Council, State Fair of Texas, Lamplighter School, Hockaday School, and Highland Park United Methodist Church. No doubt he made an invaluable contribution wherever he served. 

This chapter of life brought Jerry great joy as he and Gretchen watched their children marry and the grandchildren start arriving in 1992. They were blessed with nine grandchildren – Jenny and her husband David had five children, and Jeff and his wife Elizabeth had four children. He loved all his grandchildren beyond compare and took an active interest in their lives. He and Gretchen took them on trips and created memories with them. He had a practice of sitting down with them when they turned 18 to discuss life, the importance of having a plan, and would share a few of his favorite truisms and words of wisdom such as “it is your will not your skill that will help you succeed,” and “plan ahead and you will not get stuck in the past.” His grandchildren sought out his counsel countless times, and valued his input and perspective. He loved his grandchildren, and was able to celebrate and enjoy four great-grandchildren by the time of his passing. 

He also developed his love of travel and golf during this period of his life. He and Gretchen toured around the U.S. in their 45-foot bus and went on many cruises throughout the world. He and Gretchen renewed their vows on their 50th anniversary on a cruise when they were in Hawaii. They also spent more and more time in Carmel and at Monterrey Peninsula Country Club (MPCC) where they developed some very close friends. Jerry enjoyed playing golf several times a week at MPCC. He picked up bridge again, playing weekly with a group of good friends at MPCC. And when in Dallas, he had a regular game at Dallas Country Club with some close friends, and had some surprising successes in club tournaments when teamed with one particular “bud.”

In 2012, Gretchen went home to be with the Lord. Jerry provided great care for her while she was battling pancreatic cancer. In the years after her passing, he was characterized as always by his determination to keep moving forward, not looking back, and living the best life he could. He kept traveling, being involved with friends and family, further developed his bridge game, and spent as much time in Carmel as possible. 

He met the second love of his life, Annette Simmons, at a Christmas Party at Dallas Country Club in 2014, the result of some thoughtful matchmaking by a few good friends. Surprisingly Jerry and Annette had never met despite both residing in Dallas for decades. They quickly bonded, fell in love, and were married on Valentine’s Day in 2016. Friends noted they were the youngest couple in their 80s in the city, and that they seemed to be dating versus married. He and Annette instantly shared a love of travel, constant dinners and events with friends, Dallas Cowboy games, and time in California smartly split between Carmel and Montecito. They both had incredible energy, were much younger than their years, loved people and being around their close friends, and were constantly on the move. They were inseparable. And Jerry grew to love Annette’s daughter Amy and her husband Joe who were very often with them. Annette never left Jerry’s side during his short battle with cancer. 

Jerry’s life was marked by action, engagement, service, hard work, great friendships, love for family, great successes, failures, loyalty, humility, integrity, a sense of responsibility, and a willingness to be in the fight. He was always characterized by optimism, a broad smile and a hearty laugh, and always leaned into what was next. He never ever complained, never changed, and is a great life example for his family.

Jerry’s death was preceded by the deaths of his wife of 53 years, Gretchen Gover Fronterhouse, his parents, Victor and Austa Fronterhouse, and his older brother, Bill Fronterhouse. 

He is survived by his wife, Annette Caldwell Simmons, and her children Amy Simmons Crafton and Andy Fleck; his brother, Don Fronterhouse; his daughter Jenny and her husband David Larsen; his son Jeff and his wife Elizabeth; his grandchildren Brant, Lindsey (and her husband Will Wade), Lauren, Blake, and Laney (and her husband Nicholas Kinnear), Carson (and his wife Katie), Hayden, Alex (and his wife Sarah Kate), and Kara, and four great-grandchildren. 

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made to UT Southwestern Medical Center, the Highland Park United Methodist Church, or the charity of your choice.  


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