OBITUARY: Fredric F. Ehrich, 94

Fredric F. Ehrich passed away on August 17 at 94 years of age. He was born on December 17, 1928, in New York City to William and Yetta Ehrich. Fred loved the serendipity that his birth date marked the 25th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first powered flight — an auspicious precursor to his long career as an engineer in aircraft propulsion.

Fred grew up in NYC, attending Hunter Elementary School and Townsend Harris Hig School. At age 15, he enrolled at MIT.

Upon graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1947, the Netherlands awarded him a fellowship to attend its Technical University of Delft. Moved by his encounters with Holocaust survivors in the Netherlands, Fred volunteered in May 1948 with the Haganah, an army organized to defend the new state of Israel. He served in the engineering corps, which opened a road to Jerusalem when it was under siege.

In 1949, Fred returned to MIT and graduated in 1951 with a Doctor of Science in mechanical engineering. His first position was with the Westinghouse Aircraft Gas Turbine Division in Philadelphia. Always eager to explore new technology, Fred pioneered the use of digital computing in engineering analysis, and in aircraft engine design at Westinghouse.

While at Westinghouse, Fred met his future wife, Joan Collier. They were married on September 4, 1955, and two days later sailed to England for a year-long honeymoon while Fred served as Westinghouse’s technical liaison to Rolls Royce Aircraft Engines in Derby. In 1956, they returned to the United States where he resumed his work with Westinghouse in Kansas City, Missouri.

In 1957, Fred and Joan moved to Marblehead and Fred began a long and illustrious career at General Electric’s Aircraft Engine Division in Lynn. He led the design and development of the T64 turboprop/turboshaft engine, which is still in service today. He was also responsible for the research, design and development of components for GE’s extensive product spectrum of advanced aircraft gas turbines. He wrote numerous articles, held 10 patents and served as the chair of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Design Engineering Division.

In later decades, Fred turned his professional focus to rotordynamics. He edited the Handbook of Rotordynamics and served as the founding editor of the ASME’s Journal of Vibration and Acoustics. Fred wrote more than 50 technical papers and lectured at the Chinese Academy of Science, the Technion in Israel and the National University of Korea among many other institutions around the world. He was very proud of his election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1992. After Fred retired from GE in 1994, he returned to MIT as consultant and senior lecturer, conducting research in its Gas Turbine Laboratory’s micro-engine project.

Fred pursued a fulfilling career while remaining true to the priorities that make life good in all its dimensions: family, friends, community, social justice, life-long learning, as well as fun and adventure. He showed the depth of his love and commitment by quietly and effectively helping others. 

He and his beloved wife Joan were avid sailors. They enjoyed music performances, theater and art exhibits. They loved travel; they cross-country skied in Vermont and hiked over 100 miles in the Rocky Mountains. They rode camels in Morocco and strolled along the Great Wall of China. However, Marblehead was Fred’s favorite place. He and Joan created a glorious garden at their home overlooking Doliber’s Cove and enjoyed taking long walks through the quaint streets of the historic district. Fred was a talented sculptor and exhibited his work in the Marblehead Arts Festival. He took great delight in interviewing local students who were applicants to MIT. He served on the boards of Temple Emanu-El and the Jewish Federation of the North Shore.

Fred was a devoted and cherished husband, father and grandfather. His marriage to Joan was one of mutual love and admiration. Joan predeceased him in 2022. He was deeply loved by his three children and their spouses — Diane Ehrich and Martin Cohen of Melrose Park, Pennsylvania; Elliot Ehrich and Nancy Donovan of Boston and Manchester; and Naomi Ehrich Leonard and Tim Leonard of Princeton, New Jersey; and his six grandchildren — Hannah and Nathaniel Cohen, William and Fiona Ehrich, and Amara and Lily Leonard. He was predeceased by his sisters Zara Blechman and Lila Lief. Fred was a gentle, humble, brilliant man of deep personal integrity, and he inspired us with a life filled with passion, delight, curiosity and joy.

Donations in memory of Fred can be made to Hebrew Senior Life, MIT Hillel or Temple Emanu-El Adult Education.

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Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter. She also works as a PR specialist.

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