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home : news : news May 22, 2019

2/24/2019 1:22:00 PM
Pinkney Froneberger Calling It A Day
Insurance ace has been at it since 1959
Pinkney Froneberger
Pinkney Froneberger

Thomas Lark
Staff Writer

GASTONIA, N.C. - Sixty years in business is quite a remarkable achievement.

But after being a life insurance agent since the Eisenhower administration, Pinkney Froneberger says he’s ready to retire.

Make that semi-retire. As Froneberger, 86, recently told The Herald, it may be time now to scale things back a bit. But he still intends to keep a foot in the door as a chartered life underwriter (or CLU) with his longtime business: Pinkney Froneberger & Associates, located on Audrey Drive in Gastonia.

He looked back on a life well lived. The son of the late Pinkney C. and Geneva Thornburg Froneberger was born Dec. 12, 1932.

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“My father was an attorney and later a superior court judge,” he recalled, “and my mother owned an antique shop next to our residence on Jackson Road.”

The younger Froneberger has a sister, Ann Lee Froneberger, now retired. She taught art at Gaston College and worked at the Schiele Museum of Natural History.

“I attended grammar school at Victory School and Gastonia High School for one year,” Mr. Froneberger said, “and then I enrolled at Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro, Va., for the next three years. I like to think because the war was over, resulting in so many new students enrolling in high school, that I was required to attend classes at night.”

Upon graduation from military school, he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and then earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of South Carolina in 1956.

“I also attended Wake Forrest Law School, the first year it moved to Winston-Salem, to follow my father,” he added. “While I did not fail, I did learn lawyers and preachers must be called, and I was not.

“In 1958, I answered an ad in the newspaper,” he continued. “Pilot Life Insurance Company was hiring. I got the job, which required moving to Greensboro, to become one of Pilot’s group service representatives. This introduced me to traveling and calling on employers having group life and health insurance and as (one of) those agents who sell the products to make sure Pilot was providing the service expected.”

And Froneberger found that he was good at selling insurance. Very good.

“It appears my selling ability came from helping with my mother’s antique shop business and not that of my father’s legal expertise,” he observed, “or maybe some from both!”

He recalled how he met his wife, Lenoir native Phyllis Sherrill Froneberger. She was teaching school in Charlotte at the time.

“Not long after we were married, I was offered a job to move to Texas with Pilot,” Mr. Froneberger recalled, “and I made the decision to become a commission-only salesman to avoid moving away from Gastonia.”

And so it was that he became a Pilot Life salesman with an office in the Commercial Building on Main Street in downtown Gastonia. The rest is local business history.

The Fronebergers are the parents of two children, Catherine Siarris and the late Pinkney Froneberger III, and the grandparents of five grandchildren. Siarris teaches at Limestone and Converse colleges. She has three children: Nick, who is disabled, and James and John, who are both following their mother’s career in music. The younger Froneberger had two children, Martin and Anna. Both reside in Europe, which their proud grandparents have visited 11 times.

Yes, after 60 years, Froneberger is hanging up his spurs. But not entirely.

“At age 86,” he said, “I am closing my office, where my wife has kept the books and corrected my outgoing correspondence for years. But I still intend on providing the service to my clients from home at 2105 Monticello Drive, where we have lived for 50 years.”

So much has changed since then, as Froneberger reflected.

“When I began selling life insurance, I used a small rate book with Pilot’s term and whole-life policies,” he said. “Today, I use a computer with hundreds of insurers’ products available to see for my clients and myself. The prices of products have changed because of the Internet.”

Think you’d like to enter the lucrative career of life insurance? Froneberger has some advice for you, based upon his six decades of experience.

“The option to become an insurance salesman today has not changed,” he said. “You may be referred to as a ‘captured agent,’ who represents one company and receives, in addition to a commission, fringe benefits, such as life, health, disability, retirement and sales conventions to exotic places, or become a broker, placing the business with insurers who accept independent salesmen, which seems to be most of them today. I sold both ways, and the captured agent compensation is the most rewarding, although the brokerage approach is more satisfying.”

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