George E. Fries, 69, the chairman of the Government Employees Life Insurance Co. and a longtime executive of the firm, died at his winter home in Stuart, Fla., Friday following a heart attack. He lived in Arlington.
Mr. Fries joined the insurance company in 1948. A year later, when the Government Employees Life Insurance Co. was formed as an affiliate of Geico, he was named its office services manager.
In 1950, Mr. Fries was elected assistant vice president of Gelico. A year later he became vice president. In 1958, he was elected first vice president and in 1964 he was named president. He served in that position until his retirement in 1975, but continued to serve as director and on various executive committees. He was persuaded to come out of retirement and serve as chairman of the board in April 1979.
Lorimer A. Davidson, the chairman emeritus of the Government Employees Companies, credited Mr. Fries with playing a leading role in guiding Gelico from its beginnings to its current stature as a company which has more than $2 billion of life insurance policies in force.
"he was a dear friend and a brilliant executive," Davidson said.
Mr. Fries' technique was to use direct mailing to sell life insurance. The same method had been used with notable success by Geico to sell automobile insurance, but it had not previously been tried on a large scale in the life insurance field. Gelico now combines direct mailing with insurance agents who follow up the leads generated by the mailings.
A native of Milwaukee, Mr. Fries earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin. He got his first experience in direct mailing before World War II when he wrote direct mail advertising for a textbook publisher.
During the war, Mr. Fries was a civilian official with the Army Ordanance Department at the Pentagon. He later worked for the War Assets Administration.
Survivors include his wife, Holly, of Arlington and Stuart, and two daughters, Wendy Fries of Fairfax, and Annette Munday of Iowa City, Iowa.