TIME OUT!! The oldest living NFL official, Frederick “Fritz” Graf, has made his final call. On November 29, 2017, our fearless leader and patriarch died peacefully within his family huddle. Born on December 28, 1922, Fritz was a lifelong resident of Akron, Ohio. He was a graduate of St. Vincent High School where he was All City and All State in football. He graduated from Western Reserve University and Midshipmen School at Northwestern in Chicago. Fritz served as a Lieutenant Naval Officer in both the European and Pacific Theatres in World War II.
For nearly 40 years, Fritz was successful in two careers; one with the Ritter Corporation as a medical equipment sales rep and, more notably, as an NFL official. His dedication and commitment to excellence earned him the honor of officiating 23 post season games, including 10 championship games, 4 Super Bowls ( V, VIII, XV, XVIII), and the infamous Ice Bowl of 1967 which earned him the honor of having his whistle placed on display in the Canton Football Hall of Fame.
Fritz spent his life working to make a difference in the lives of his family and in the community. He was active in numerous clubs and organizations: Eastern Ohio Officials (past president), NFL Referees Association, Executive Board of Summit County Hall of Fame, and Knights of Columbus. His integrity and character earned Fritz many distinguished and prestigious honors. He was inducted into the St. V-M Hall of Fame along with the Summit County Hall of Fame. He was also awarded the Fr. Mahar St. V-M Outstanding Alumni Award, the “Dapper Dan Award” in 1985 and the Outstanding NFL Official Award in 2000 (one of only 8 people at that time to receive this award).
However, Fritz’s greatest joy in life was spending time with his family, especially the 62 years he spent with his high school sweetheart and love of his life, Rita Botzum Graf. He felt he scored a touchdown each time one of his 10 children graduated from college. He will be greatly missed by his kids; Denny (Judy), Judi Piekarski (Ron), Larry (Margret), Mary Graf Kase, Jack (Christine), Martha Thomas (Jim), Al (Susan), Helen, Kathie, and Paul (Victoria). Grandpa Fritz was diligent in keeping up with the athletic endeavors and report cards of his 22 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren. The gift of providing an education and instilling a positive self image in their children was paramount to Fritz and Rita. There was always a great combination of discipline and laughter in the Graf house - just ask anyone who had the unique experience of having dinner there!
Thank you to all who provided so much enjoyment for Fritz this past year, especially Chuck Smith, Bethanne Mullen, and our dear sister Kathie. A special thanks goes to all staff at St. Edward’s and CCAG Hospice for their kind and loving care.
Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11:00 am on Monday, December 4, at St. Sebastian Catholic Church with Father William Karg (first cousin) and Father Joseph Kraker (relative) presiding. Private interment will be in Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman. Friends may call on Sunday, December 3, at Hummel Funeral Home from 1:00 pm - 5:00pm, 500 E. Exchange St. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the St. Vincent-St. Mary Graf Family Scholarship Fund, 15 N. Maple St. Akron, OH 44303. If you would like to share a memory of Fritz’s “larger than life” personality, please visit hummelcares.com to leave your thoughts or view the video tribute.
“Dad, thank you for always loving us unconditionally. We will continue to love and miss you every day of our lives. See you when we get there…"