By the time Robert Fria was 77 years old, he had a long list of accomplishments: Vietnam Veteran, United Airlines Captain, husband, father, grandfather, author, and well-known car collector.
His family remembers his kindness and generosity in the days since his passing to complications of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
"I just can’t believe he got this virus and died," Joyce Fria said. "He was very healthy. Taking walks with the dogs, working around here. We did so many fun things. Last year around this time we were getting ready to go to Italy."
His wife, Joyce Fria, and daughter, Nicole Wendell, let NBC 7 into Fria's favorite place, his garage. That's where Joyce says she feels his presence.
It was during his retirement that Fria took his love of classic cars to the next level. He completely restored the first hardtop Ford Mustang to come off the assembly line. he put his research and knowledge into a book he authored called "Mustang Genesis: The Creation of the Pony Car."
The book turned him into the go-to historian on all things Mustang. He became a consultant for the Ford Motor Company and the Henry Ford Museum. He was invested onto the show of known-car enthusiast Jay Leno several times to talk about his passion.
But even with his love for the inanimate, his wife said he loved to mentor people.
"Anyone he met, he was always interested in their life and about them," said Joyce Frias.
Fria died on April 1, 2020 from complications of COVID-19. He was one of five family members to become sick with the coronavirus after a family dinner; two were sent to the hospital.
Everyone recovered except for Frias.
His daughter Nicole Wendell said she will miss her father and his outspoken personality.
"He was a great dad. He always made time for anybody," she said. "He was very smart and, you know, outspoken which was great because nowadays you don't have that."