World War II veteran and DeLandite John Frazier, 97, threw the first pitch at a Stetson University baseball game March 11. He was also awarded a key to the City of DeLand by Mayor Bob Apgar.
Frazier knew he was throwing the pitch, but the key to the city came as a surprise, he told The Beacon.
“I told my daughter and son, ‘You know, I could get used to that,’” he said.
He certainly wasn’t complaining.
“It’s been a great life,” Frazier said. “As I tell my children, I got my money’s worth.”
One of his sons had been asking him to move to DeLand, and Frazier finally took him up on the offer in 2009. Before that, he lived most of his life in Kentucky.
At the age of 17, he began working with his father on the railroad. That’s when his dad taught him Morse code, which made Frazier an asset when he was drafted to join the war effort in 1942, not long after his 18th birthday.
Frazier’s communications skills led to work as a radio operator at HMAS Harman, the largest communications facility in Australia. Once the war ended, Frazier made it back home on Christmas Eve 1945.
“I was very, very fortunate,” he said of his time during the war.
Frazier went back to working on the railroad in San Francisco, and the rest is history. Nowadays Frazier is happy and healthy and finds himself plenty busy with hobbies, like golfing.
Honoring Frazier was personal for Apgar, whose own father served in World War II as an officer in the Office of Strategic Services, the U.S.’s precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency.
“America owes a great debt of gratitude to our greatest generation. There are very few people like John — World War II veterans — still surviving,” Apgar told The Beacon. “I thought that kind of service to our country deserved recognition, and I decided to give him a key to the city as a way to thank him for his service.”
Apgar said he hoped Frazier would find a use for the key, even if it is just as a paperweight.
Not only did Frazier take home a key to the city, but his pitched opened up a winning game for Stetson University. Stetson took home a win over Florida Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University’s baseball team with a score of 2-0.