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Fred F. Ertl, Jr. 1930-2017


Posted By: j.n. (email)
Date: 9/28/2017 at 23:12:04

Fred F. Ertl, Jr.

Fred F. Ertl, Jr. 87, formerly of Peosta, Iowa, sadly passed away in his sleep Wednesday, August 23, 2017 while at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Funeral services will be 10:30 a.m. Saturday, September, 2, with visitation from 9:15 to 10:15 at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Peosta. Burial will be in Mt. Calvary Cemetery. Visitation will be Friday, September 1, from 1 to 7 pm at the Egelhof, Siegert & Casper Westview Funeral Home and Crematory, 2659 Kennedy Road .

Fred was born on June 6, 1930 in Dubuque Iowa.

He was the son of Fred F. Ertl, Sr., a German immigrant and Gertrude M. Sauser of Cascade Iowa, the daughter of a German immigrant. Fred lived a long and very fulfilling life where he was very proud of being a practicing Catholic. He made every attempt to attend church whenever he could. He touched many people's lives and took great pride in trying to help anyone succeed. At the young age of 15 Fred Jr. started helping his Father Fred Sr. with the Family business. Fred Sr., a journeyman mold maker, had been the union steward at the Adams company in Dubuque Iowa. After a strike was voted in, Fred Sr. himself, too proud to strike against his employer, chose to terminate his employment. With 5 boys and one daughter soon on the way, he began making toy tractors in his basement furnace using sand from the river and used airplane pistons as aluminum material. Fred often said they had the hottest house in town. It became a family effort. Often-times the brothers would carry toys in their cars as they bartered for hunting rights from farmers around the state. Eventually the company began selling to stores in other counties as word spread. The back seat of the family car was removed so they could use it to make deliveries. Soon Fred Sr. became ill and at around 18 years of age Fred Jr. took up the reins of the family business as vice president. In 1967 Fred took the role of President until 1990 when he became CEO. Fred helped grow the company through the acquisition of 6 major toy brands.

Fred Jr. retired as CEO in 1992 after almost 50 years of employment, surviving three corporate mergers; sold to Victor Comptometer in 1967, Kidde Corporation in 1977 and Hanson PLC in 1987. In his various management roles for many years at the Ertl Toy company he always kept his employees first and cared about each and every one. While he never showed it publicly, he was devastated when management chose to move the manufacturing out of Dyersville after his retirement.

In the earlier years, Fred was proud of the fact that he had regularly employed young juveniles who had spent time being rehabilitated in a youth facility in Eldora Iowa. He kept track of the young men, many who went on to lead successful and happy lives. He kept on this tradition by creating scholarship programs for high schoolers. In his later years in Arizona, he and his wife Nancy, supported Sunshine Acres, a nonprofit organization in Mesa, Az., by each taking an underprivileged child Christmas shopping for a day at their own expense. He enhanced that effort by giving motivational talks to young children in the area in the hopes he could convince them that, if he and his family could succeed in their capacity, anyone of them could also.

Throughout Fred's career he accomplished many things. Fred served on the board of the Toy Manufacturers of America from 1968 until 1975, serving as president from 1970 to 1971. Fred was instrumental in creating the first Toy Safety Standards, many of which, later went into effect as legal safety measures. The toy industry was the first industry which was self-regulated regarding safety issues following Fred's lead of always putting children first. Later, in 1976 Fred was President of the Hobby industry where he sat on the board from 1973 to 1975 and was the first inductee into the Hobby Manufacturers Association Legends of Industry in 2008. He was inducted into the Toy Manufacturers of America Hall of Fame in February of 2000 and the National Farm Toy Hall of Fame in 2005. He was instrumental in the development of the National Farm Toy Museum and sat on the board from 1982 until present. He also served on the Iowa Manufacturers Association Board of Directors from 1967 to 1968. He even helped the shipping industry create zones for shipping. Seems at the time, they had difficulty understanding where Dyersville was and what the rates should be around the rest of the country.

Fred was also a pioneer in licensing, as a long-term licensee of John Deere, Case IH, Allis-Chalmers and other agricultural and construction companies. He was very proud of the very fair and iron clad licenses he helped negotiate, especially with John Deere. He broadened his reach with Universal Studio and other major movie companies with licenses for properties like Dukes of Hazzard, Smokey and the Bandit, Batman, Star Trek, Star Wars, Thomas the Tank and even Gremlins. The Ertl company was also an early licensee of NASCAR racing. As a former dirt track racer, this was right up his alley. His parents put a stop to that after the bankers told them they would no longer finance the business if he was going to put himself at risk by driving a stock car. Through these connections, he experienced many things, like driving an actual NASCAR race car on the track and making friends with the heads of NASCAR including Bill France and Richard Petty. Unfortunately, just before NASCAR really took off, the Ertl Co. management at the time chose to discontinue that license.

Fred, along with his wife Nancy enjoyed many great years travelling, golfing and entertaining friends, colleagues and family. Christmas and holidays were extremely important to them both. They always made the extra effort to cook, organize and execute enjoyable celebrations at every opportunity.

Being the head a multi-national business, Fred had the opportunity to travel the world. He spent many months in other countries, particularly in China, where he was one of the first Americans allowed in the mainland. He immediately noticed many safety hazards and began helping the new manufacturers understand the importance of safety for both the toys and workers. Fred truly believed that if he did a portion of the manufacturing overseas, he could offset the higher cost and keep a substantial amount of production in Dyersville Iowa, where the Ertl Toy Company at times employed over 1000 people. The Ertl company eventually had offices in New York City, Canada, UK, Italy, and in Hong Kong. Fred made annual trips to the World Toy Fair held in Nuremburg, Germany and the American Toy Fair held in New York City. He attended many company sponsored fishing trips where he spent weeks in Canada hosting many customers and employees. He even met Fred Bear, the founder of Bear Archery and world renowned archery hunter, on a corporate sponsored hunting trip to Alaska.

Fred loved to hunt, fish and golf. He was an avid sports fan of the Chicago Bears and Cubs (the 2016 World Series Champions). He also loved watching the Hawkeyes play any sport and eventually became an Arizona Cardinals and Diamondbacks fan. He absolutely loved being able to spend time with his wife Nancy golfing. For his retirement, the staff at the Ertl company sent them both on a trip to Scotland where they enjoyed a few rounds of golf together. He also golfed in a few Pro-Am Tournaments like the Disney Oldsmobile Classic in Florida, where he met and golfed with his favorite player, Freddy Couples. In his early days, he loved to go bowling and he and his brothers often won trophies together as a team. They even built and co-owned, for many years, the Ertl Lanes and Supper Club. Fred and Nancy were longtime members of the Thunder Hills Country Club where Fred helped create the Ertl/Thunder Hills Couples Golf Classic which is still running today and is on its 30th year. Fred and Nancy were also long time members of the Red Mountain Ranch Country Club in Mesa Arizona. He loved playing Hearts and Gin Rummy card games and enjoyed attending pot luck together with his friends.

Fred attended and graduated from Loras Academy where he was head Sacristan his junior and senior years. He also attended Loras College for 1 ˝ years and was a member of the ROTC until he was forced to forgo his education and commit to the family business. Fred was also involved with both the Dubuque and Dyersville Junior Achievement on and off over the years.

Fred married Nancy Torgler, who became his lifelong best friend on December 3, 1969. Fred brought to the marriage two wonderful children, Cathy (Jim) Hubbard and Fred III (fiancé Joan Nicks) and eventually three grandchildren, who were the love, enjoyment and pride of both Fred and Nancy; Audrey (Nate Miller), Erick Hubbard and Alexis Ertl. All surviving.

Also surviving are a sister and brothers, Carol (Mike) Lundgren, Joe (Helen) Ertl, Allan (Sue) Ertl, of Dyersville, and John (Pat) Ertl of Guttenberg. Three brothers- in- law, Larry (Alice) Torgler of Winterhaven, Florida, Ron (Dale) Torgler of Colorado Springs, Colorado and Naples, Florida, George (Linda) Torgler of East Dubuque, Illinois; Sisters-in-law, Darlene Ertl, of Dyersville, and Pat Torgler of Dubuque and many wonderful nieces and nephews and friends from both Iowa and Arizona.

He was preceded in death by his wife Nancy, parents, Frederick and Gertrude Ertl and beloved brother and friend, often considered the heart of the company, Robert Ertl.

Online condolence may be left for the family at www.egelhofsiegertcasper.com

The family would like to offer special thanks to the staff and management of the Hotel Julien Dubuque for their wonderful accommodations and kind treatment of our father during his many extended stays over the past couple years.


Dubuque Biographies maintained by Constance Diamond.
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