Froehner performed with Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey
A 91-year-old man who wandered from his Egg Harbor Township home Sunday was found dead in the woods Monday.
Billy Dennison Froehner suffered from Alzheimer’s and dementia, and had a history of wandering away from his residence, police said.
Froehner was a jazz musician and composer whose 74-year career included performing with Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Tommy Dorsey, grandson Jeremy Froehner said.
“He was an amazing person,” the younger Froehner said.
The elder Froehner even helped raise Jeremy Froehner and his twin sister, when his single mother needed some help.
He had been trying to get some help for his grandfather, who disappeared at least three other times over the summer.
This time, he got out around 8:30 Sunday morning.
Froehner said his uncle had been caring for his grandfather, but began suffering his own issues in recent years.
“I have never met a more caring, loving and devoted person than my grandfather,” he said.
Billy Dennison Froehner was a World War II veteran, having served in teh Navy, and also toured with the USO.
“When we won over Japan,” he told the Good Day Journal in 2009. “I was playing piano in the VJ Day parade in San Francisco. Playing jazz. Then I went back to New York, you know, playing gigs. In one hotel lobby I looked up from my keys and there was Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio.”
“He was just the most gentle person,” Jeremy Froehner said of his grandfather. “He didn’t deserve to go out like this.”
Froehner had three sons, three grandchildren and two great-granddaughters.
Police said they located Froehner after a second search of the woods included bloodhounds from the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office.
His cause of death has not yet been determined, but foul play was not suspected.
Jeremy Froehner believes his grandfather froze to death.
Froehner said his uncle was a great caregiver for several years. But when he started to suffer from problems as well, the younger Froehner couldn’t get the right people to listen to his concerns.
“My grandfather wandered into the woods and died alone because people couldn’t connect the dots,” he said. “It was unnecessary.”
Froehner said he wishes he could have done more.
“He was there for everyone,” Froehner said of his grandfather. “I just feel bad there was no one there for him.”