By Dylan Goforth
Phoenix Staff Writer
Gene Frusher was born in Muskogee in 1926. In the 86 years that have followed, he’s lived quite a life.
He served in the Navy and was a Muskogee police officer before joining the Oklahoma Highway Patrol in 1948. In 1969, he retired from OHP and was appointed Director of Public Safety at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. Now, he teaches diving classes out of a shop on Oklahoma 10 near Fin and Feather Resort in Cherokee County.
Frusher and five other men were recently inducted into the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Museum and Hall of Fame. Frusher’s class was the fourth group of members selected into the hall.
“I was real proud of it,” Frusher said. “I didn’t have really anything to do with being nominated, it was actually a lot of former students that I’d taught in criminal justice at Northeastern (State University.)”
Bob Harshaw, assistant director at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, was one of those students.
“When I started in college, I didn’t intend on a career in law enforcement,” Harshaw said. “It was through attending or enrolling in criminal justice classes that really kind of changed my career path, and of course, I had Gene as an instructor along the way. He was a strong influence.”
Harshaw said Frusher had a way of fleshing out textbook examples by using real-world experiences.
“A lot of the classes he taught were traffic related, and he was able to bring real life experiences to the classroom,” Harshaw said. “He would go over the text and then apply it to a real life experience in a way that made sense.”
Frusher, Harshaw said, had a way of anticipating “what new programs needed to be put in place” during the time Frusher spent at the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety. The OHP must have recognized that skill as well: They named him first lieutenant over the newly created Department of Special Services in 1959. That department was in charge of rescue and recovery work on lakes and rivers, and Frusher said he was responsible for recovering 147 drowning victims in the 10 years he was in charge.
After retiring from the OHP in 1969, Frusher was appointed Director of Public Safety for NSU in Tahlequah.
“In the first six months I was there, there was a protest, and I got hit in the face with a rock and lost a couple of teeth and had 30 stitches,” Frusher said. “I had to go to Muskogee to get my teeth stuck back in, and then go back for the press conference. Back then they were always protesting something (at NSU.)
“They asked me if I was going to quit. I said, ‘Hell no, I came here to work for 20 years and I’ll work my 20 years.’”
And Frusher hasn’t slowed down. He said he’s taught more than 5,000 people through his dive shop, and he plans to continue diving as long as he can.
“I’m going to Cozumel next month,” Frusher said. “I’m still going strong.”
Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or email@example.com.