When Frey, 49, died unexpectedly on July 4 while vacationing at the beach with family and friends, he left behind more stories to remember him by than he was given years.
“Bill had fun. It didn’t matter if it was just you and Bill or you, Bill and 50 other people, you had fun,” said Keith Pike, a longtime friend.
Scott Crump, another close pal, said the atmosphere that surrounded Frey everywhere he went was no accident.
“He would go out of his way and do without to make sure that everybody around him was having a good time,” Crump said.
Frey’s love of people was on full display each night at his family-run restaurant, Cafe’ Bill’s.
Frey was most often seen chatting up customers and catering to their needs, whether it meant refilling salt shakers or taking his turn in the kitchen.
Frey often boasted about his restaurant while traveling and was always looking for ways to improve it.
He was especially proud of Cafe’ Bill’s being named Best Bar and Grill in the Daily Mountain Eagle’s 2013 Reader’s Choice Awards.
“And if you didn’t think it wasn’t the best restaurant in Jasper, just ask Bill,” Crump joked.
For the last five years, Cafe’ Bill’s and Scott Crump Toyota teamed up for the Cookin’ for a Cure Crawfish Boil, an idea Crump credits to Frey. Proceeds benefit local breast cancer survivors.
Frey also helped organize or in some way supported numerous other fundraisers.
“He had his hand in so many different things that touched so many different families. Some people would know that it started with Bill, but a lot of people would never know,” Crump said.
Frey was the kind of person who was always looking forward to the next event. If the wait got to be too long, he got busy creating one.
Pike, the city planner, never knew what to expect when Frey’s name appeared on his caller ID.
“It might be just a ‘hey, what are you doing?’ or he might have this elaborate plan that he was coming up with and had to talk to you about,” Pike said.
Frey died last week surrounded by the things that mattered to him most — his family, his friends and good food.
The number of people who not only attended his funeral but traveled to the graveside as well shocked even those who knew that Frey never met a stranger.
“Somebody once told me that a man shouldn’t measure his wealth by the money he has but the amount of friends he has. Bill Frey was probably the wealthiest person I knew,” Pike said.
His absence is already being felt around Walker County.
Cafe Bill’s remains closed for the rest of the week but will reopen for business next Tuesday.
Although they know the place Frey loved will never be the same, his friends know what he expects of them as they prepare to move forward without him.
“Bill would want everybody to show up down there with a smiley face, not a long face. He’d be the first one to tell you, ‘Don’t be sad over me,’” Crump said.