Remembrance of Warren Fraleigh by Sondra Fraleigh
Warren Fraleigh is my husband of 55 years and will always be in my heart. He lived to the age of 96-plus years and was everything to me. We were partners in life, love, careers—family, world travels, and the study of movement and philosophy.
Warren was born in Detroit, Michigan, on December 26, 1925. He was a child during the great depression, and he belongs to the Greatest Generation. His mother was Ethyl Sarah Dobson, and his father was William Royden Fraleigh. His sister Ruth visited us often when we lived in NY, but I never met his brother Buddy who was killed in World War II. Warren also served in WWII. He joined the navy at age 19 and entered as a submariner. One has to have nerves of steel to serve on a submarine. Warren underwent tests for the ability to spend weeks underwater in close quarters with many other men and to endure possible attacks.
He is now one of the few veterans of World War II to live into 2022. Warren and I watched every submarine movie that came around. Our favorites were Run Silent, Run Deep, and The Hunt for Red October. There was something timeless about them, however transparent today. Warren’s submarine experience included being in the Sea of Japan off the coast of Tokyo close to our fateful bombing of Japan. His submarine endured depth charges there. It’s a wonder that Japan eventually became a special place for us. Warren had many professional associates from Japan and assisted Japanese students in their studies in New York. I wrote three books about butoh, an avant guard form of dance originating in Japan after WWII, eventually taking root worldwide. Warren and I had many Japanese friends and often reminisced about our travels in Japan.
Warren loved life. Growing up in Detroit during the heyday of Big Band Jazz, he enjoyed the best of Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Eckstein (two of his favorites), and many more. He liked the stride piano style of Errol Garner, as I do. I studied music, and jazz came naturally to me. Warren and I spent many happy hours listening to incredible jazz artists, live and on old-fashioned records. Warren also loved wine, good food, friends, and travel. Some of our favorite countries were Israel and Greece. Warren collected great wines over the years. Lucky for me!
As for his professional life, he earned his college education on the GI Bill of Rights after the war, graduating from Wayne State University first and earning his Ph.D. at the Ohio University. During his education, he taught elementary school and high school physical education. After earning his doctorate, he embarked on a long and eventful university career as a physical education teacher of many sports and became a baseball coach. He taught for many years at San Jose State University. He then became dean of Physical Education and Athletics at Brockport State College, part of the State University of New York. Brockport had a large and prominent faculty of Physical Education at that time. We moved from California to New York and became part of SUNY in 1970. I joined the faculty of dance there in 1973.
Warren and I met at San Jose State University in 1966 when I returned from my Fulbright study at the Mary Wigman School of Dance in Berlin. I joined the dance faculty at San Jose, and Warren introduced himself to me at registration. After that, he courted me in Northern California. Yes, I use the word “court” because Warren was a traditional guy. Lucky for me, I had a great escort everywhere we went, and he took me on a whirlwind courtship. We went to outdoor symphony concerts at Stanford, Broadway musicals in San Carlos, jazz concerns in nearby Los Gatos, and many special plays and dinners in San Francisco. Warren knew how to woo a girl. We visited Big Sur, south of San Jose, and Point Lobos, a particular lookout point we liked. We swam there in China Cove with seagulls overhead.
We married in Carmel by the Sea, eloped, and took our best friends with us as witnesses, returning to the university as a couple, which didn’t surprise anyone. Christina was born the following year, and we have been an inseparable threesome ever since. Now that Warren is gone, Christina and I remember all the beautiful travels we enjoyed and the many Christmases we shared. We remember how many people loved and appreciated Warren from different perspectives. He conceived and initiated a worldwide organization for the study of sports philosophy, IAPS, the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport. This organization is now extensive and awards a yearly prize named for Warren Fraleigh. His great-nephew calls him “A Rock Star.”
Warren lived a long and happy life and made me proud to be a part of it. We held a family and close friend gathering for Warren to celebrate his life. It was his wish to have a simple and friendly party at home. Christina and I both remembered him in our own words. My sister read a letter she wrote for him, and my brother sang, “How great thou art.” I also read some of Warren’s poetry, and we felt his presence in his own words. Our family is grateful for the many good wishes sent our way in cards and letters, especially for those international friends in IAPS. We will all miss Warren, but he is free of pain now, and we celebrate his life of honesty, grace, and achievement.