Remembering Fred Anton

I first met Fred Anton in 2002 when I was appointed president of the Commonwealth Foundation. I knew him as Mr. Anton then, and I called him Mr. Anton for many, many years after that. Even to this day, I would regularly call him Mr. Anton out of respect. It was only after we spent a lot of time together—especially on the golf course—that I felt comfortable calling him “Fred.”  I’m also proud to say that I called him my friend.

Fred was a founding board member and longtime supporter of what was then a three-man think tank—the Commonwealth Foundation. Although Fred stepped off the board a few years ago, his enthusiasm for our work never waned. In fact, Fred was one of my biggest cheerleaders and encouragers as we labored together to make Pennsylvania a better place for everyone. He would regularly tell me—like a proud father—how he loved seeing our growth and impact over the years. More than once, he reminded me of his initial skepticism about our big plans, and he actually loved saying how glad he was to be wrong. He should be proud, too. Much of what has been accomplished over the years with regard to free-market policy changes and the conservative movement in Pennsylvania was built on his shoulders. 

Matt Brouillette presents Fred Anton with the Speaker Franklin Award, 2006

Yes, Fred was passionate about improving the business climate in Pennsylvania, especially for manufacturers, but Fred also had a passion and concern for the bigger things—like rescuing kids from violent and failing schools and ending corporate giveaways that distort our economy. He easily could have siloed himself and focused only on “business issues” rather than engaging in the bigger policy fights, but Fred knew he could and should do much more than that. He had a platform and relationships, and he used them for the greater good of others. 

Anyone who knew Fred knew he loved to play golf. But he also loved to work. Despite having a home on a golf course in Florida, he couldn’t stand being away from the political fray for too long, even in the winter. For me, there are three reasons to stay long periods in Florida: January, February, and March. Not Fred. He loved being in the mix and staying up to date on Harrisburg’s goings-on. I just knew he’d never fully retire from his life’s work at PMA. Not even his passion for golf could keep him in Florida for long. 

Fred Anton addresses the Speaker Franklin dinner guests, 2006

I’m so thankful for the time we spent together. I’m going to miss our early morning meetings in his office to catch up on the latest political scuttlebutt of the day. And I’ll cherish our many golf games we played together. He always said that golf was a key part of his business success. Of course, if you ever played golf with Fred, you knew you didn’t have to play well, but you had better play fast!  Speed was the key. I crossed off many bucket-list golf courses with Fred. Stonewall and Pine Valley, of course, are at the top of the list, but I’ll most fondly remember the time I spent last winter in Florida with Fred and a few of his close loved ones, including his son Fred and Emily Ryan. He told me it would probably be his last time playing the famed Seminole Golf Club, and I’m glad I was able to do it with him. 

We shared some great memories that I’ll always keep with me. But one thing I know for sure is that many of the important people I’ve met in business, and the successes I’ve achieved along the way, are in large part because of the graciousness and generosity that Fred Anton extended toward me and my family. From Phillies games with my kids to New York City weekends in December with my wife, Fred was a generous giver. 

Thank you, Mr. Anton, for your friendship, your mentorship, and your passion for improving the lives of people all around us. You certainly improved mine! You are and will be greatly missed.