Alan Earl Fryrear, co-founder and chairman of Networld Media Group, died at the age of 81 on June 10, 2020.
Born in Louisville on Feb. 8, 1939, Fryrear is remembered as a passionate follower of Jesus Christ, a member of Crestwood United Methodist Church, and a man of intense generosity, love and convictions.
He served his country in the Army Reserve and was honorably discharged in 1966. He went on to work at NCR, in the Systemedia division, enjoying a successful sales career until starting his own business as a forms distributor for Duplex in Louisville. He eventually pursued his dream of launching an independent company and in 1995, WaterMark Group was born.
Just a few years later, after winning national recognition from Inc. magazine, his entrepreneurial spirit led to the founding of Networld Media Group, an industry publisher and event producer, which he launched with his son-in-law, Tom Harper, in 2000.
“Alan modeled for me what it’s like to lead with character and strength,” Harper said. “Being an entrepreneur himself, he encouraged me and gave me plenty of space to try out a lot of business ideas. Out of that creative collaboration came organizations like the ATM Industry Association, ATMmarketplace.com and Networld Media Group.
“We had lots of fun, worked hard, and shared a faith that drew us closer over the years. Many people would tell you they don’t think they could work with their in-laws, but our relationship flourished because of work.”
Networld Publisher Kathy Doyle first met Fryrear nearly a decade ago when he was interviewing her for a VP role. She adored him from the moment they met.
“A devoted husband, father and grandfather, Alan’s values were reflected in his beautiful family,” Doyle said. “He also practiced those values as an insightful business entrepreneur, who believed that honesty and goodwill were the essential building blocks of building a business. I loved his grit, drive, and willingness to take the time to help his employees succeed.
“He did a lot for many people, but always chose to be humble and silent, not wanting the accolades, for helping people. It was my pleasure, my honor and my privilege to have worked with such a generous, kind and patriotic man.”
Similar accolades are heard from those who worked with Fryrear in the industry.
“I will always remember Alan as a warmhearted person and true gentleman,” ATMIA CEO Mike Lee said. “He played a huge part in the establishment of ATMIA in 1997, which is still going from strength to strength over 20 years later.”
Lee said he and the entire ATM industry valued Fryrear’s support, leadership, vision and friendship.
“Alan will be sorely missed and fondly remembered by ATMIA staff and many stakeholders and members in the industry,” he said. “We send our condolences and prayers to his family, friends and colleagues and salute his legacy.”
Although Fryrear handed over the CEO role to Harper in 2013, he remained involved with Networld as chairman and would often drop by to check in with the employees he grew to love so dearly.
Dave Wurm has been one of those employees for nearly 19 years.
“It was Alan, along with another SVP, who gave me a shot,” said Wurm, who thought of Fryrear as the calming presence in the office. “Even up to his final days, still coming in and knocking me on the back of the head or knee with his cane,” he said. “Plenty of times he would just come around lunchtime and ask if I’d like to go to lunch. I would not miss. I viewed him as a business mentor. I will take a lot of those lunch meeting talks with me as we carry on without our beloved leader. Personally, he meant the world to me and I hope that my clients recognize that how I treat them and try to do them right is a lot from Alan Fryrear.”
Derek Minor, another longtime employee, said Fryrear held many roles outside of just being the co-founder of Networld.
“On any given day at any given time, he would play the part of mentor or financial adviser or story-teller or political commentator or comedian or advice-giver,” he said. “Alan would spit fire and brimstone in the morning, then sit down in the afternoon to donate money to help pay for a third-grade basketball team’s jerseys. That was Alan in a nutshell: passionate about his opinions, quick to disagree but also quick to forgive and help any who needed it. He always had a fierce dedication to his employees, not only as workers but as people and friends.”
Sandy Prendergast, SVP of human resources, said Fryrear was the main reason she joined the Networld team.
“From the moment I met him, I knew he was a person that cared for his employees and their success. I admired him for his masterful storytelling,” she said. “I will miss those stories and him dearly.”
Fryrear was even more than a mentor for Matthew Stethen.
“The most special thing he gave me was his time,” he said. “Wisdom and experience are one thing, but his time was much more valuable. In my 14+-plus years working for him, he was always available to me. Whether a phone call or a request to see him in his office, at his home, or over lunch, he never denied me.
“Even in the end. Thankfully, over the years our conversations shifted from being purely business to a little business and more personal. I will miss him dearly but that’s what I admired most about Alan Fryrear…his willingness to spend the time and energy on a young salesperson who knew nothing.”
Fryrear is preceded in death by his brothers David and Winston, and his parents, William A. Jr. and Mary (Demaree). He is survived by his wife Kathy, daughters Kristin Smith (Kelly) and Karen Harper (Tom); 11 grandchildren, and many extended family members and friends. He cared deeply for people and cherished his relationships over the years with close friends and coworkers.
A memorial service was held June 15 at Crestwood United Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers, contributions in honor of Fryrear may be made to Wesley Manor (https://wesman.org), a retirement community where he served as a board member, and where his own parents lived out their final years.