The fragility of human life is sometimes most apparent in the randomness of accidental, sudden, and profound loss. Such was the fate of a close friend and colleague, Bartley R. Frueh, MD. A fall down the steep stairs of a local restaurant and the severe head injury sustained from it led to his tragic death the next day, February 16, 2010. Although Dr Frueh retired last year from the University of Michigan and its Kellogg Eye Center, he remained on the active medical staff, seeing patients in the clinic and performing surgery on a regular basis. Dr Frueh and his wife, Cheryl, were enjoying his retirement in myriad activities including an archeological dig outside of Rome last summer as well as several bicycle trips and travels to 24 countries in the past 11 years. Special among the Fruehs' travels were multiple trips to Australia, where Dr Frueh had taken 2 sabbaticals in Melbourne and maintained close ties.
Bartley R. Frueh, MD
Dr Frueh was a man of many interests outside of medicine. He became intensely interested and knowledgeable in such hobbies as Roman coin collecting, Roman history and archaeology, woodworking, playing the violin, Chinese calligraphy, and collecting Asian art. He built a Ford Model T from a pile of old parts and went on to collect other vintage automobiles. His calligraphy will be exhibited in the newly opened Brehm Tower at the Kellogg Eye Center. A long-standing interest was in shooting pool with a group of friends who met each Wednesday evening for the past 20 years.
Dr Frueh was born and raised in Lakewood, Ohio, and left there to attend Cornell University as a chemical engineering major. He later graduated from Columbia University's medical school. Following his internship and 2 years in the US Air Force as a flight medical officer, Dr Frueh undertook his ophthalmology residency at the University of Michigan. He next went to Birmingham, Alabama, to take a preceptorship in oculoplastic and orbital surgery under the tutelage of the late and world-renowned Alston Callahan, MD. Dr Frueh then joined the faculty of the University of Missouri in Columbia in 1971 until he was recruited back to the University of Michigan to develop an oculoplastic and orbital surgery service.
Starting this new service was no mean feat at the time—1979—since oculoplastic surgery was still a relatively new field and the board-certified plastic surgeons felt that they alone should perform all plastic surgery. Dr Frueh was respectfully tenacious and was able to demonstrate his unique skills and knowledge. Over a few years, the differences that had at first existed between Dr Frueh and the plastic surgery service evolved into a collaborative and collegial relationship that has flourished in our institution. Dr Frueh instituted an accredited fellowship under the umbrella of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. He served as that organization's president in 1976. The service Dr Frueh started at the University of Michigan grew and prospered not only clinically and educationally; Dr Frueh strongly emphasized research such that his service today has what is arguably the most active oculoplastic service in the world in terms of basic research. Recognized for his particular expertise in Graves eye disease and eyelid function and greatly respected for his knowledge of oculoplastic and orbital surgery in general, Dr Frueh was a speaker in great demand to share his knowledge and skills. He was honored widely, including his delivery of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery's prestigious Wendell L. Hughes Lecture in 1993 and the Kellogg Eye Center's F. Bruce Fralick Lecture in 2003. He published widely—nearly 100 peer-reviewed papers plus 30 additional contributions—covering the gamut of his subspecialty.
Dr Frueh had friends dating to his school days and was diligent in staying in touch with people. He valued his friends and they valued him. The same was true of his professional colleagues and, of course, his adoring family. In addition to his wife, Cheryl, and his mother, Virginia Frueh, Dr Frueh is survived by sons Christopher (Karen) Frueh, Terry (Kerstin) Frueh, Eric (Annette) Sargent, and Cain (Char) Christen; daughters Cherilyn (Cameron) Boswell and Laura Sargent; and 6 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his father, Lloyd Frueh, and by his son, Dylan Frueh.
Correspondence: Dr Lichter, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, WK Kellogg Eye Center, University of Michigan, 1000 Wall St, Ann Arbor, MI 48105 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Financial Disclosure: None reported.
Lichter PR. Bartley R. Frueh, MD (1937-2010). Arch Ophthalmol. 2010;128(7):914. doi:10.1001/archophthalmol.2010.111