News

John Fritts, former longtime Lee County treasurer, killed in Earlville car crash

Fritts was campaign manager for his cousin, 74th District candidate Brad Fritts, who was injured

John Fritts, at right, was killed in a crash Monday afternoon, the campaign for Brad Fritts, at left, announced on its Facebook page. This photo was taken Feb. 4  when Brad Fritts announced in Dixon he was running for the Republican nomination in the 74th Statehouse district. John Fritts served as campaign manager.

DIXON – John Fritts, former Lee County treasurer and campaign manager for a his cousin, 74th District candidate Bradley J. Fritts, died Monday in a two-car crash in rural La Salle County near Earlville.

Brad Fritts and other family members also were in the SUV; Brad was injured but “not seriously,” the campaign post said.

According to a news release Tuesday from La Salle County Coroner Richard Ploch:

The crash happened around 3:30 p.m. at U.S. Route 34 and East 1251st/Ottawa Road, in Earl Township, when the southbound SUV driven by David T. Fritts, John’s younger brother, failed to stop at the stop sign and was struck by a passenger car.

John and Brad Fritts were thrown from the SUV. John, 76, died at the scene. Brad was taken to Mendota OSF St. Paul Medical Center and later flown to a trauma center. Another passenger, Brad’s mother Nancy L. Fritts, was treated at St. Paul for minor injuries. David Fritts, a retired Lee County Circuit Court judge, was not injured.

An autopsy is being conducted.

The driver of the car, Daniel Angulo, and his juvenile daughter were not injured, the release said.

The La Salle County Sheriff’s Office and the Illinois State Police Accident Reconstruction Unit are investigating.

No information was provided on whether citations were or will be issued.

John Fritts, a staunch Republican, was elected treasurer in 1994. He announced in September 2017 that he wouldn’t seek reelection; he served 24 years in the position.

Before that, he served on the Lee County Board as vice chairman, health and welfare chairman, and negotiating chairman, among other committee positions.

He was involved in many community activities. He served as 4-H leader of the Palmyra Hillbillies for more than three decades; was a three-sport IHSA official in baseball, basketball and soccer; a member of the Lee County Farm Bureau for more than 40 years; and a lifelong member of St. Anne Catholic Church in Dixon.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Rolinda Fritts, and his sons Mark and John.

Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday and funeral Mass at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Anne’s. Jones Funeral Home is handling arrangements; condolences can be posted at thejonesfh.com.

According to the post:

“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved friend, husband, father, uncle and brother John Fritts.

“John, who was managing Brad’s campaign for Illinois State Representative, was killed in a car accident in Earlville, IL Monday afternoon. Several family members were also in the car and Brad was sent to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

“Please keep the family in your prayers as they deal with this sudden tragedy. John is known best for his smile. We love him very much.”

And in a subsequent post:

“Brad was not seriously injured in the accident, but he is understandably shaken up as is the entire family, Thank you all for your outpouring of love and concern.”

Fellow Republicans have issued statements about the family’s longtime commitment to the community.

“Please join me in sympathy for the Fritts family,” state Rep. Tony McCombie said. “John has been by Bradley’s side every step of this campaign and he was so proud. Last night, I was with many who have known the family for years and many wonderful stories were told. He will be missed.”

Dixon Mayor Li Arellano Jr., who’s running against Brad Fritts in the 74th District, and his wife, Jamie, extended condolences to the family.

“Jamie and I extend our deepest condolences to the family of John Fritts, who was lost in a tragic accident yesterday,” Arellano said. “John was a long-serving public servant who spent decades working as our Lee County Treasurer. His smile and handshake were a constant presence at community events. Our prayers for God’s comfort to cover all who knew and loved John, and for a fast recovery to those who were injured.”

The Lee County Republican Central Committee said Fritts was “a friend in the purest form.”

“John Fritts was kind and generous. Lee County has lost a beloved man,” according to a statement from the organization. “John gave so much of himself to this community and touched so many lives with his infectious, positive outlook on life. He was always willing to go the extra mile. He was always there when you needed him. He gave of his time and of his heart. Lee County owes John a great debt of gratitude for his service that cannot be repaid.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Fritts family as they mourn the loss of John and try to pick up the pieces from this tragic incident. We also think of Brad Fritts in this time, and wish him a speedy recovery.”

Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers joined Sauk Valley Media in 2016 covering local government in Dixon and Lee County.