Remembering Passionate Artist, Leader and Social Activist Jon Fromer | Not in Our Town

Remembering Passionate Artist, Leader and Social Activist Jon Fromer

Jon FromerJon Fromer, an award-winning television producer, singer, social activist and early leader of The Working Group passed away on Jan. 2, 2013. He was a talented, passionate, powerful force for social justice who will be dearly missed by thousands of friends, labor activists, artists, and community leaders. 

 Jon Fromer: A Working Group Hero

Emmy statues and awards for his television production overflowed the top of the piano at Jon Fromer’s house. Jon walked the world with a twinkle in his eye, a perpetual smile, a big sense of humor, and a fervent commitment to equality, social justice, and presenting the stories and lives of working people with dignity and respect. He wanted everyone to like him, and they did. Jon Fromer’s passing is a great loss, but his spirit will live long through his songs and stories. (Read more about his work and career below. Here's a video produced for the 2012 Labor Heritage Fesitval honoring Jon Fromer.)

Although he was happiest when he was singing or making music, Jon had an exceptional and natural talent as a television producer and creator. He knew how to foreground the heart in a story, weaving together the stories of ordinary people and elevating their voices, hopes and dreams.
He was an early board member and honorary founder of The Working Group when it was launched in 1988, lending his skill and advice to early productions. His song entitled “We Do the Work” provided the title to TWG’s public television series that aired on nearly 100 stations across the country from 1991-97. “My Heroes,” a song like “We Do the Work” became the theme song for a series of Labor Day specials produced by The Working Group. The Not In Our Town Billings story originally appeared in 1994 as a segment of “Heroes: Profiles from the American Workplace.”
Jon brought his passionate vision and skill to the KQED-Working Group production of “Not In Our Town: When Hate Happens Here,” as a producer for the story about community response to an anti-gay hate crime killing in Anderson, CA.
Jon Fromer’s career in television began in the seventies at KRON, then the San Francisco NBC affiliate, where he helped create and develop the Children’s Programming Unit with a team including Chris Pray, Robin Goodrow, and led by Christina Metcalfe. Shows including "Buster and Me," "Kids Watch," "Just Kidding," and "Home Turf," hosted by Dominique Di Prima helped catapult KRON into a nationally recognized, award-winning source for high quality youth programming.
His television career continued at public television station KQED, where he produced documentary specials and the weekly series, "This Week in Northern California." hosted by Belva Davis. His documentary special on a South Africa added another statue to his Emmy collection.


Our hearts go out to his wife and closest friend, Mary Fromer, who shared his vision and music; son Mark Mackbee; grandson Shay; and the entire Fromer family. Just days before he died, Jon was in the studio recording new songs for an album. He is remembered here in this obituary at the Labor Heritage Foundation, "Remembering a Friend and Fighter for Justice and Equality."



Real sorry to hear about Jon's passing. Such a good guy. Big heart, always positive and willing to help. I will miss having him here, but his spirit remains in our hearts, minds, and souls.

 Jon's talent, insight and community connections consistently earned KRON-TV top honors  in the field of youth programming over a period of 20 years, garnering 8 Emmy Awards,  annual recognition and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Boston-based Action For Childen' Television, several Parent's Choice Awards, three Ollies from the American Children's Television Festival, and an Iris from the National Association of Television executives.

"Home Turf" with Dominique DiPrima was the first hip hop formatted show in the country, created when rap was a newly emerging music style and unknown to mainstream America.  

Jon's work was unique and truly groundbreaking, and it was a privilege to have known him and worked with this sweetest of men.


 I just heard about Jon's passing.  I met him when my sons Paul and Jay attended Presidio Hill School.  Jonny and Chris Pray were the after-school teachers.  It was the Beatle's heyday and Jonny would greet me at the gate with "Hey, would you like to hear the newest Beatle song? Then he'd sing in his warm and booming voice, playing his 12 string guitar.  I can't ever remember seeing him without a smile on his face.  He gave me some guitar lessons.  My 5 year old son Jay wanted to learn also, and so Jonny taught him - and Jay quickly became adept at it, learning how to read all the Beatle songs.  Jay also appeared on "Git Box Tickle" with Jonny.  I didn't see Jon again, until a few years ago, when he and his brother were playing in Berkeley.  After all those years, he greeted me with his big smile, and said, "I remember Jay - he was the only kid who could bar!"  I lost Jay almost 2 years ago, and now, hearing about Jon, it reminds me of how fragile our hold on life is, how we must (as Jon would sing) love with all our hearts.  I am so grateful to have known Jon Fromer.  

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