I-House custodial worker remembered as inspirational family man

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Damon Frick, a custodial worker at Berkeley’s International House, died as a result of critical injuries sustained in an accident that occurred earlier this week. He was 45.

Frick is remembered by his friends and colleagues as a gentle friend and an inspirational family man always open to a good conversation.

At approximately 7:50 a.m. Monday morning, Frick was operating a motorized lift to clean the upper windows of the north wall of I-House’s auditorium when the lift tipped over. According to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore, Frick fell about 20 feet and sustained various injuries. The campus is currently investigating the incident.

Colleagues recall that Frick was dedicated to his work and, more especially, to his family, for which he was the sole provider.

“On the weekend (at work), it was just me and him,” said Cliff Addison, Frick’s co-worker at I-House. “He loved his kids. He tried to take care of all of them, and he did the best he could. But that’s all he talked about — his kids.”

Those who knew him say he was a fastidious worker who always went above and beyond his enumerated duties as a custodial worker at I-House.

Tammy Scott, the human resources service coordinator at I-House, recalled a habit Frick picked up when he began working at I-House in 2011.

“(My office) has a candy bowl at the door, (and) he would come in after his shift, and he’d sort through the candy to try and get the green ones so he could give those to his kids, because they always expected the candy,” Scott said. “When he came home, they’d check his pockets … they’d expect he’d have a treat for them.”

Frick’s coworkers Mary Cinko and Nestor Salo also iterated his role as the “ultimate family man.” Salo said that in addition to the green candies, Frick would sometimes bring cookies home to his kids.

“He used to say, ‘My kids will be searching my pockets for goody-goodies,’ ” Salo said.

I-House’s director of physical operations, Greg Rodolari, knew Frick well at work. He said it was a blessing to see Frick so in love with his family.

“He was a huge family man and was loving with (them) every day,” Rodolari said. “It was great to see somebody who loved being a family person — that was a big part of Damon that kept him working here.”

It is unclear what caused the instability of the lift Frick was operating. Investigation findings from the campus’ Office of Environment, Health and Safety as well as the California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration are expected to be released Friday, according to I-House Executive Director Hans Giesecke.

He is survived by his partner, Denise Allen, and his children.

In an email to I-House residents Wednesday night, Giesecke said the housing custodial team determined the best way to honor Frick’s memory was to recognize him at the gala scheduled to be held at I-House on Thursday night and create a trust fund in his memory. Donations were accepted at the gala, the I-House mailroom or by the cashier during cashier hours.

The campus is providing counseling services for employees affected by the tragedy.

Contact Zoe Kleinfeld at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @zoekleinfeld.