Theresa Fritsch, 85, indie record exec and activist

By Nick Fritsch

Theresa Fritsch, a longtime West Village resident and activist who, along with her late husband, Peter Fritsch, was a founding member of The West Village Committee, died at home on Mon., Aug. 18, after a lengthy fight with cancer. She was 85.

She and Peter Fritsch, who died in 2004, also founded the independent world and classical music label Lyrichord Discs in 1950. Lyrichord was based for many years on Perry St., in the ground floor of the townhouse the couple purchased in 1958.

Theresa Fritsch was born in 1922 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and grew up in East Orange, N.J. In the early 1940s she moved to Manhattan and got a job as a researcher for Fortune Magazine. While at Time Life/Fortune she met Peter Fritsch’s sister, Mia (later Mia Agee, wife of writer James Agee), who introduced her to her future husband.

An avid enthusiast of contests, in 1950 Theresa entered a jingle competition sponsored by the Lipton Tea Company as a promotion for its new line of ice cream. The contestants had to supply the jingle’s last line. Her line, “Creamy goodness piled high on the plate,” was chosen as the winner and she won $10,000. Theresa and her husband used the money to launch their new record label, at which they worked shoulder to shoulder until they retired in the early 1990s. In 1970, the Fritsches acquired a property on Washington Place, where Theresea continued to live until her death.

During the 1960s, Theresa and Peter Fritsch became committed to community activism and were founding members of the West Village Committee. Along with author Jane Jacobs and other members of the committee, they were tireless fighters against urban-renewal plans that would have leveled the Far West Village, Robert Moses’ proposed Broome St. Expressway and the Westway landfill-and-highway plan of the ’70s. Their efforts, along with those of Jacobs and others, helped get the plan approved for the low-rise, middle-income West Village Houses, as well as helping in the fight to convert the former Bell labs complex on Washington St. into Westbeth, affordable artists’ housing.

Theresa was a great opera enthusiast, reader, traveler and gardener. She loved summering on Fire Island, and spending time with good friends. She was a supporter and advocate of numerous charities, and continued on Lyrichord’s board.

Theresa Fritsch is survived by two daughters, Erica and Christina, a son, Peter Nicholas, and granddaughters Nora, Calliope and Iolanthe. A private memorial is planned.