Franklin – Christian Nelson Frolund, 81, passed away Nov. 11, 2017, from a massive brain hemorrhage.
A Life Well Spent
Born in Lansing, Michigan, Chris and his younger sister Emily grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, the only son of two Michigan State University graduates, Mary and Nelson Frolund.
He is survived by his wife, Sonja, of Franklin; son Nelson of Pompano Beach, Florida; daughter Christa of Auburn Hills, Michigan; sister, Emily Louise Riepe of Bluffton, South Carolina; grandchildren Ryan, Dayna, Jenna and Jordan; and great grandchildren, Casey, Jesse, Parker, Jackson and Vivian.
A longtime resident of Franklin, Chris was very active in the Backcountry Horsemen of North Carolina, Macon County Horsemans Association and the County Mounties Mounted Patrol Unit. He contributed many hours of his time establishing, maintaining and clearing riding trails throughout the various recreation areas, parks and forests in the Smoky Mountains.
In summing up Chris’s life, one would have to say it was adventurous, daring and ultimately very fulfilling. From an early age, he gravitated to anything with speed, usually motorsports, seeking out those activities that could satisfy his insatiable thirst for danger and speed, much to his mother’s chagrin. He thrived on racing, though it was not a particularly competitive need so much as simply the thrill of excessive motion. This fascination developed into building his own iceboats and racing carts, and modifying motorcycles and hot rods as a teen in the ’40s and ’50s.
He was viewed easily by those who knew him to be the forerunner to the later popular fictional TV character, “The Fonz” in “Happy Days.” Though in stature, his 6-foot-6 inch frame would have dwarfed Fonzarelli’s, as well as his accomplishments. The ultimate Cool, that was Chris, completely immersed in his mechanical passions oblivious to dictated protocols, never making himself out to be more than just an ordinary kid whom everyone liked.
At 14, he went to work for his Dad, who owned a thriving lawn and gardening center on Mack Avenue, becoming a top-notch mechanic even as a teen, well-versed in lawnmower and snowblower repair, catering to the needs of such notable families as the Edsel Fords. Chris attended Grosse Pointe High School with Ford’s sons and spent many afternoons at the Gaukler Point estate where his grandfather was head gardener and groundskeeper. Such a distinguished association had no impact on Chris, who always exhibited a casual, indifferent attitude toward notoriety and wealth. He always maintained a humble and down-to-earth demeanor that was the hallmark of this remarkable man.
In 1955, Chris joined the Navy and served as an aircraft mechanic, stationed in the Aleutian Islands, assisting in air and sea rescue until 1957 when family obligations called him home. At this point, his hearing had begun to deteriorate thanks to the incessant, loud noises he had long been subject to working in a high decibel environment that back then no one protected themselves from.
Marrying his first wife, Pat, in September 1958, the two settled into the community close to their respective parents in Grosse Pointe Woods. In October 1964, they became the proud parents of Christa Lynn and in May 1965 Nelson Christian was welcomed into the family.
In 1979, after owning a series of smaller power and sail boats through the ’60 and ’70s, Chris and Pat purchased a 36-foot sailboat with the long-term intention to sail and explore the Caribbean. Leaving Michigan in 1981, they traveled in the sailboat down the entire East Coast and then island hopped for several years around the Bahamas, enjoying a semi-retired life, (with Nelson joining them the first year before he went into the Navy in 1982) until they eventually landed in Stuart, Florida. They lived there full time and then part time (spending summers in North Carolina), before relocating to Franklin permanently in the late 1980s.
In 1988, Chris began work for Faith Mechanical Service as an experienced small motor repair mechanic and salesman. He continued with the company when it later changed ownership, becoming Carolina Junction, until he finally retired on his 72nd birthday in 2008.
While living in Florida, Pat had become enchanted with gaited horses and convinced Chris they had to have one. He then turned his focus to horseback riding and became a proficient rider and breeder of Spotted Saddle horses once they settled in Franklin. They gradually expanded their homestead from eight to its present 17 acres to accommodate the horses as well as goats and chickens. He and Pat continued raising and showing horses until her death in 2007.
At that point, Chris switched to mules and began trailer-
ing and RVing around the area with them. Unable to find a consistent travel companion, he started looking online for a horse-oriented woman who could meet his criteria, basically someone who could ride 5-8 hours and had the time to travel with him. Eventually, in 2012, Sonja seemed a possible candidate and he began corresponding with her by email with his son Nelson’s encouragement.
In August 2013, he convinced her to come down for a visit and signed her up right away to spend a month with him and the mules in his RV in a Virginia campground to see if it would work. Little did either of them know just how well they were suited for one another. The result was Sonja staying with him for a year before relocating here from Michigan in 2014 to become a permanent partner, sharing his life and riding adventures. Incredibly, it was one of those rare, made in heaven relationships that brought unsurpassed fulfillment to an audacious life.
In the ensuing years, they were inseparable, making frequent day rides in the Smokies. Twice a year, in the spring and fall, they would make a month-and-a-half long interstate circuit of whatever new campgrounds and riding trails took their fancy.
Tragically, the end to this blissful union came unexpectedly, when only four years later Chris succumbed to a massive brain hemorrhage. He peacefully passed away surrounded by family on Nov. 11, 2017.
It’s important that this incredibly kind, unassuming but very special man not be forgotten. He spent his life just being a kind, responsible, caring, dedicated and delightful human being who never asked more out of life than just to be himself and to enjoy his activities.
He gave of himself tirelessly to the various horse organizations he belonged to. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Backcountry Horsemen of North Carolina, where a special fund in Chris’s name has been established that will serve as a source of revenue to maintain and clear riding trails in the Smokies.
To celebrate his life, please join us for a Memorial Service and barbecue at the Macon County Fairgrounds Pavilion on Oct. 20, from 1-5 pm. We would like to share remembrances of him with all of you.