JOHN A. FRATE age 80, of Highland Heights, beloved husband for 39 years of Christine (nee Roberto); former husband of Josephine (nee Marino); loving father of Charles (wife Pam), John Jr., Nicholas (wife Katie), and Matthew (Cara Mastrangelo); devoted grandfather of Melanie, Charles Jr. (wife Lydia), Melissa, Aria, John Anthony, and great-grandfather of Giovanni; cherished son of the late Grace (nee Cucchiara) and Celeste Frate; dearest brother of the late Celeste “Les” (wife Toine) and brother-in-law of Renee & Rick Rhein, Terri Roberto, Sharon Roberto (Kay Fatica), and Gina & James Strauchon; dear uncle, great-uncle, cousin, and friend of many.
John was born on January 4th, 1943 to Celeste and Grace Frate in Cleveland Ohio and grew up in South Euclid. John passed away peacefully on September 15th, 2023 surrounded by his loving family. He was the son of Italian immigrant parents who came to this country in the 1930’s. His father Celeste worked as a sewer contractor and his mother Grace was a stay-at-home mom. As a young boy, John would help his father at work. Times were tough and money was tight. He often told the story of wanting to go to a school dance and asking his father if he would by him a pair of Stetson shoes, because many of the boys had them. His father told him that he would buy the shoes for him but he would have to wait until he got his next paycheck. John graduated from Brush High School in 1961. While at Brush at 16 years old, he began to mow lawns after school and things were different then as the school teachers would let him go to class in the morning and work cutting lawns in the afternoon. John was a tremendous athlete but chose to work instead of playing football, which he loved. John was big, strong and fast. The football coach at Brush gave John a uniform even though he was not on the team. 50 years later, while at his class reunion, the star football fullback got up before the class and said if “John Frate would have played, I would have sat on the bench”. John quickly excelled in the landscape design and construction business. The business would be named Celeste Frate Inc. in 1959. John was just 16 years old when he opened up a bank account at Society National Bank for the business and that account, now named Key Bank, is one of the oldest accounts in Cleveland and still in use today. John had many mentors in the business and learned from the best to become the best. He listened and learned from many of the old timers in the business such as John Florian and Joe Burke. He loved talking to old nurserymen in Lake County about plants and trees. They passed down to him knowledge that he would hold the rest of his life. As Frate Landscaping grew, he would expand and begin to really make a name for himself in the business. John loved his craft and was forever trying to improve the business. Years later his son Chuck came aboard and the business really flourished. Frate Landscaping became an industry leader in landscape design, construction and property maintenance. So much so that Cleveland magazine featured an article in praise of the company for its 60th year in business. Frate Landscaping continues to be the industry leader. John would go on to teach, train and employ hundreds of people in this industry and complete thousands of jobs throughout his 64 years of service. John is truly a legend. A couple of his favorite sayings were “There are spies everywhere”, which referred to the competition forever trying to copy him and figure out why he was so successful. Another one “Nobody plans to fail, they just fail to plan”, which spoke to his always be prepared attitude. John worked for some families for over 55 years. John was never afraid to stand his ground on any situation if he did not like what you had to say, or someone did wrong to him you would immediately know it whether it was by words or fists!
John was so enormously proud of his organization with having many employees on staff over 25 years. To put it plain and simple, John was The Man. The landscaping industry has lost the equivalent of John Wayne. On another note, a lady customer once called and said that it was her 25th wedding anniversary and her husband asked her what she wanted, she replied I want a Frate landscaping designed yard. John loved family, friends, ice cream and Jack Daniels, and he cherished each one of them. John loved sitting around his pool with a roaring fire, drinking and telling stories with his sons and nephews about life, family and our proud Italian heritage. Many nights were spent with his close friends enjoying his beautiful property, which he took immense pride in, listening to John hold court and tell old war stories, while Jackson Browne music played in the background. His favorite was “The Pretender”. John also enjoyed his property in Naples, Florida where he spent his winters. He was so generous with his time and loved when family would come down to see him. John had lung cancer for nearly seven years and fought it hard. He continued to work and live life to its fullest. John was a proud man. In his final days he spent time eating ice cream with his granddaughters, and other family members. Please remember John as a hardnosed old school man with a heart of gold, the likes of which we may never see again. So the next time you see a Frate Landscaping truck go by, or a crew beautifying a property, please think of and thank John A. Frate. John will be remembered by his family as hard-working, devoted to his family, social, artistic, and innovative. He will be dearly missed by so many. Special thanks to all of John’s Doctors, Nurses, and care-givers for their wonderful care.
Contributions suggested in memory of John to Hospice of the Western Reserve. Mass of Christian Burial Friday, September 22, 2023 at 10 AM at St. Paschal Baylon Catholic Church, 5834 Wilson Mills Rd, Highland Heights. Entombment following at Knollwood Cemetery. Family will receive friends to pay tribute to and celebrate the life of John at THE DeJOHN-FLYNN-MYLOTT FUNERAL HOME OF WILLOUGHBY HILLS, 28890 CHARDON ROAD (between Bishop Rd. and Rt. 91) THURSDAY 1-4 and 5-8 PM