SPRING HILL — By all accounts, Greg Frey loved nothing better than to take to the skies. A week after his final flight, family and friends gathered Thursday at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in Spring Hill to remember a man whom many say was unforgettable.
The 66-year-old Frey is missing and presumed dead after the single-engine Piper Cherokee plane he was piloting plunged into the storm-tossed Atlantic Ocean about 100 miles north of Iceland on Feb. 21. A two-day search of the area by British and Icelandic rescuers was called off Saturday after they failed to find any trace of Frey or the wreckage of the plane.
Although they say they haven't given up hope, Frey's family members chose to hold a service in order bring some closure to their friends. Many who gathered for the service cried as friends spoke of Frey's love for and dedication to his wife, Maureen. The couple would have celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary this coming Sunday.
Greg Frey Jr. described his father as a man who was easy to like.
"You knew him well even if you had met him only for a minute," he told mourners. "That's how much he loved people."
Although retired from a 34-year career as a commercial pilot with TWA, Frey had a passion for flying that never waned, his neighbor and friend A.J. Crowell said.
"He loved being up in small planes because they were more of a challenge to fly," Crowell said. "He enjoyed the thrill of it."
An employee for Globe Aero Ltd., a Lakeland company that ferries planes to worldwide customers, Frey was flying the Piper Cherokee to Germany when he radioed that he was experiencing ice buildup on the plane's wings.
Unable to find a suitable landing area, Frey apparently was forced to "ditch" the craft into the ocean amid 20-foot swells.
The Royal Air Force said it believed that Frey was wearing a survival suit, which would have offered him temporary protection from the elements. But according to his friend and fellow flying enthusiast Bernie Berger, Frey's chances of survival were probably minimal at best.
"We're talking very rough seas and very cold temperatures," Berger said. "There's not a lot of hope unless someone can get to you pretty quickly."
Berger, who is president of the Brooksville chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, said Frey was well-regarded by the Hernando County aviation community. In addition to being a former board member of the Hernando County Aviation and Airport Authority, he was also a longtime member of the Young Eagles, a program dedicated to instilling the love of flying in young people.
Berger said the EAA club has plans to co-sponsor a flying scholarship with Frey's family.
"I think he would have liked that," Berger said. "Being able to share his passion was very important to Greg. He was all about helping others."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 848-1435.