Obituary of Harold J. Fronapfel
Harold Fronapfel was born in 1929 near Hemingford, Nebraska, on land homesteaded by his Grandfather Leo. He was the eldest son of John & Rose and brother to siblings Eveyln and Chuck. In his youth, he grew up without water or electricity in his home, was educated in a one room schoolhouse and enjoyed life on the farm with his dogs, pigs, chickens and cows. He attended Colorado State University and after graduating in 1952, served as First Lieutenant in the United States Army stationed at Fort Carson working as a tank commander.
Harold met the love of his life Bonita Marie Schuman and married her in 1955. They had ten children, (Thomas, Steven, James, Karen, Michael, Gretchen, Lora, Edward, Eric and Paul), 35+ grandchildren, and 20+ great grandchildren. He said, “Having ten kids just happened, it wasn’t planned, I have no regrets, and I love you all very much.” As empty nesters Harold and Bonita traveled to numerous destinations for work and pleasure allowing them to share precious time and great moments together. He was adored by his family and was notorious for consistently replying to all of the countless vocal "I love you's" with a self-effacing “Me too.”
He began a brilliant structural engineering career at A.J. Ryan and Associates in Denver. There, he designed bridges and viaducts which are still in wide use today. He continued to advance his knowledge at the University of Colorado and was employed for 30+ years with Stearns-Roger. Then dedicated an additional 30 years consulting nationally and internationally in the mining and energy industries. Harold’s work included the design and oversight of the structural upgrades to nuclear and industrial plants and the occasional single-family home. That legacy continues not only with his family but also through the hundreds of engineers he trained.
Of the many milestones in his life, one was having the honor of all three generations of his family presenting “The Order of the Engineer” on behalf of the National Society of Professional Engineers of which he was a longstanding member.
Harold was a tranquil genius whose life experiences can never be fully summarized. However, all anyone had to do was inquire about any of it and he would proudly tell you the stories with great detail. One such story was that he led the design and reconstruction of the launch towers at Vandenberg Air Base after the Titan missile explosion in 1985. Amusingly, Harold brought back the solid rocket fuel from the Titan on the airplane in his coffee thermos and coat pockets. When he got home, (much to Bonita’s chagrin) he demonstrated to his children how much fun it was to ignite. He probably would not get past TSA in today’s world! Also, for those that travel between Durango and Silverton, the Red Mountain Pass snow shed structure was designed by him. He kept the photo of it on his computer as his background, and it always made him smile when he knew how many lives were saved by his work.
Harold reveled in learning and doing. Besides his family, his passions included woodworking, cabinetry, photography, science, and math. He was unbeatable at just about every board game, as well as answering Jeopardy questions. We are so blessed for the fond memories he provided us such as polka dancing with his daughters, teaching us of his crafts, and the humble smile he made every single time he was us. Harold all we can say at this time is "Us too"
Rest in peace and give Bonita and Steve all our love and let them know we miss you all.
Donations may be made to www.standingpines.foundation
Standing Pines Foundation will match all donations made in memory of Harold to Engineers Without Borders
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