Westerville News & Public Opinion

Westerville native, business leader Fritsche dies at 96


Westerville native Ernest G. Fritsche, founder and CEO of development company the Fritsche Corp., died June 10.

He was 96 years old.

Fritsche was considered a pioneer of central Ohio homebuilding, with his company having constructed more than 10,000 houses and apartments.

His company created special opportunities to first-time homebuyers, such as allowing them to landscape their homes for credit toward a down payment, which later became popularly known as "sweat equity."

Fritsche served as CEO emeritus of his company until his death.

Fitsche also was deeply involved in the central Ohio arts organizations, nonprofits and charities.

He served on the National Association of Homebuilders Board of Directors from 1952 until 1966, was the president of the Columbus YMCA during the 1960s, was on the national board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters in the 1960s. He was chairman of Columbus United Appeals -- predecessor to the United Way -- from 1969 to 1971, and served on the board of directors and as chairman of the board for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra for 15 years, beginning in the 1960s.

Fritsche also was a National Housing Hall of Fame inductee and was recognized in 1999 as one of the 100 most influential people in the U.S. housing industry in the past 100 years.

Fritsche earned and honorary doctorate from Otterbein University in 1965, and he received the Mary B. Thomas award for lifetime contributions to the university in 2011.

He was inducted into the Westerville South High School Alumni Hall of Fame in 2003.

He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a lieutenant colonel in 1946 after service in World War II.

Fritsche is survived by his wife, Neva, and their three children, Nevalyn, Roberta and Bill, who has been acting CEO of the Fritsche Corp. since 2005.

While formal funeral services were held last week, the family said in a press release that a celebration of Fritsche's life is being planning at Otterbein University's Fritsche in early August, close to Fritsche's birthday.