Vail Daily obituary: Peter L. Frechette, 1937-2017
Peter L. Frechette, 79, retired chief executive officer and chairman of Minnesota based Patterson Companies, passed away suddenly on Feb. 22, 2017, just five months after the passing of his beloved high school sweetheart and wife of 55 years, Patricia O’Brien Frechette. Pete was born on Aug. 15, 1937, in Janesville, Wisconsin, where he grew up and graduated from Janesville Senior High School.
In 1961, Pete and Pat married and set off on a life journey of hard work, wonderful friends, devoted family, great fortune and tremendous generosity. They lived in several cities before settling in Glencoe, Illinois, where they raised their twin daughters. In 1983, the family relocated to Minneapolis and in 1999 the family began to call Beaver Creek their second home.
Pete graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 1961 with a degree in economics, and later with an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in 1980. Prior to his business career, Pete proudly served as an army officer in the U.S. Army Military Police Corp. In 1962, as an Army MP Battalion leader, he was a member of the federal troops sent by President John F. Kennedy to Mississippi to contain the race riots and protect James Meredith, the first African American admitted to the University of Mississippi.
Following his time in the Army, Pete was employed by American Hospital Supply Corporation for 18 years, the last seven of which he served as president of its Scientific Products Division.
Pete joined Patterson Dental Company in 1982 as president. In 1985, he led the management team in purchasing the company from its then parent company, Beatrice, and became the board chairman. This was the start of a new Patterson era. As the “modern day founder” of Patterson, Pete’s vision, entrepreneurial spirit, and customer focus led to success built on the highest ethical standards of honesty, integrity and fair dealing. Under Pete’s leadership the company went public in 1992. He led the company in a series of purchases to broaden its operation base. It grew rapidly by embracing a customer-centric strategy that leveraged technology and innovation across sales, marketing, technical service and logistics. Before he retired as board chair in 2013, Pete’s vision guided the expansion beyond dental into the animal health and rehabilitation supply which set the framework for the modern Patterson of today. Pete always took his work seriously, but never himself.
Pete gave actively of his time, talent and resources. He served on the advisory board of the University of Wisconsin Business School, the University of Wisconsin Foundation Board of Directors, and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University Board of Directors. He also served on the boards of the Vail Valley Foundation and the Vail Valley Medical Center. A leader in philanthropy, Pete initiated and seeded the Patterson Companies Foundation. Together with his wife Pat, he supported many organizations including the University of Wisconsin, Basilica of St. Mary, Ascension Schools in North Minneapolis, Colonial Williamsburg, Marquette University, Vail Valley Foundation, Roundup River Ranch, and Walking Mountains Science Center to name a few. Pete and Pat were passionate about giving and how it benefits the community. They joyfully passed this value onto their much-loved children and grandchildren.
Pete is survived by his daughters, Kathy Tenhula (Peter), of Alexandria, Virginia, and Kristy Woolfolk (Bill), of Hinsdale, Illinois; his grandchildren Grace, Claire and Tom Tenhula and Tucker and Spencer Woolfolk and his brothers, Dr. Paul Frechette (Louise) and John Frechette. In addition to his beloved wife, Pat, Pete is predeceased by his father and mother, Dr. Francis and Gladys (Farness) Frechette and his brother, Francis Frechette.
Funeral services will be held at 12 p.m. on Thursday, March 2, at the Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis. The Rev. John Bauer will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial. Visitation will be at the Basilica of St. Mary at 10 a.m. prior to the Mass. A private family interment will be held at a later date. Washburn-McReavy Edina Chapel will be handling funeral arrangements. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Pete’s name honoring his late wife Pat: Mass General Hospital, Dr. Steven Greenberg, Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy Research Fund (angiopathy.org).