Brewster Wall of Fame honoree puts local history on display


Brewster School Superintendent, Eric Driessen presents the Brewster School District Wall of Fame Inductee Certificate to Ralph J. Fries at last Friday’s outdoor graduation ceremonies on the Brewster school football field.
Fries, a 1955 graduate of BHS and grandson of Ulrick Fries, author of “From Copenhagen to Okanogan” covered two walls of the gym with large poster boards full of stories, photos and information about Paradise Hill, Brewster Flats, Davis Canyon, the Chiliwist, Cougar Canyon, Monse, North Star, Harmony Heights, and College Flats.

BREWSTER – History was literally on display at Brewster High School last Friday and Saturday, June 2-3, as Brewster alumnus, Ralph Fries brought a comprehensive exhibit of southern Okanogan life and profiles of early pioneer women to the school’s small gym.

Fries, a 1955 graduate of BHS and grandson of Ulrick Fries, author of “From Copenhagen to Okanogan” covered two walls of the gym with large poster boards full of stories, photos and information about Paradise Hill, Brewster Flats, Davis Canyon, the Chiliwist, Cougar Canyon, Monse, North Star, Harmony Heights, and College Flats.

Fries also profiled six pioneer women: Katherine (Miessen Bagwell) Shipman, Nancy (Gerig) Rawley, Ruth (Bluett) Thayer, Samantha (Wheeler) Curtis, Mary Ellen (Newton) Wilson and Anna (Friis) Fries. 

Visitors to the exhibit were treated to details about family, school and agricultural life and some even learned a fact or two they didn’t know before about their ancestors. Art and Cindy Brown of Paradise Hill discovered that a relative had once served as the area postmaster.

One panel of the exhibit told the story of a 13-year-old North Star resident, Jimmie Fehlhaber, who was attacked and killed by a cougar in the winter of 1924, while walking between farms through what is now called Cougar Canyon.

Fries presented the exhibit to the Brewster School District for use in its future historical curriculum.

Following graduation and vocational school, Fries enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1957 where he served with distinction through the Vietnam conflict. After 20 years of military service, Fries retired in 1977 and became a long-haul truck owner-operator and served on the board of directors of the Owner Operator Independent Driving Association.

Inspired by Vietnam Moving Wall Memorial, Fries was instrumental in creating the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy Vietnam Memorial Monument and U.S. Navy Three Boat Display at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, Calif. The memorial honors USCG/USN Vietnam casualties from 1960-1975.

Fries continues to perform archival research on seamen whose names are submitted for inclusion on the Vietnam War Memorial.

During Brewster High School senior class graduation ceremonies last Friday evening, June 2, Fries was inducted into the Brewster School Wall of Fame in an award presentation by school superintendent, Eric Driessen.

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