Robert A. Fria

Oct. 14, 1942 – April 1, 2020

It is with great sadness to announce the death of Robert (Bob) Fria of Escondido. Bob passed on April 1 at the age of 77 from complications of COVID-19.

He married the love of his life, Joyce M. Pagliuso, on Feb. 24, 1968. They shared 52 years of marriage and had a wonderful life together. He is survived by his wife, Joyce; daughter and son-in-law, Nicole and Wade Wendell; granddaughters Lauren, Calista and Mattea Wendell; and brother, Rick Fria. He was preceded in death by son Matthew Fria.

Having a successful and busy life, he always made time for his family who adored and looked up to him greatly. Bob was born in Essex, Maryland to parents Anthony and Audrey Fria. He spent his early life in Littleton, Colorado where he developed an awe for flying and obtained his student pilot license at 15 years old.

Bob received his B.S. physical sciences degree from Colorado State University (1964) where he was a member of the Air Force ROTC program and served as cadet wing commander. After graduation, Bob entered into the U.S. Air Force in February 1965 as a commissioned officer. He flew the C-130 transport aircraft worldwide 1966-70 and served in Viet Nam in 1968. He was awarded the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal, and achieved the rank of captain.

After the Air Force, Bob flew Boeing 727, 737, 757, 767 for United Airlines for 32 years, retiring as a captain. During his career with United, Bob originated/operated Airsalvage Resources, Inc. and Performance Aero 1975-92. Once Bob and his wife Joyce retired they moved from La Crescenta to Escondido to be near family.

In Bob’s retirement years, he researched early Mustang history and became a noted historian with many nationally published articles, and personal and radio/TV interviews. Bob was the owner of the first pre-production (1965) Ford Mustang hardtop. He authored the world known book “Mustang Genesis” on early Ford Mustang history that was published in 2010. Bob consulted for the Ford Motor Company and the Henry Ford Museum on early Mustang history, as well as for numerous national radio, TV and DVD productions, including segments with Jay Leno. Bob was a well-known classic car collector.

He was a friend and mentor to many. He will be missed and fondly remembered. In light of the current COVID-19 crisis, no memorial service is being held. The family will instead have a celebration of life in the future.

In lieu of sending flowers, the family asks that donations be made in his name to The Iacocca Foundation or Doc Jacobs Foundation, both of which were near and dear to Bob’s heart.