Fred Anton, GOP power broker, found dead in Delaware River

Fred Anton, a longtime Republican power broker in Pennsylvania politics and a Philadelphia native, was found dead Thursday in the Delaware River after being reported missing the day before, police said.

Anton, 83, was last seen leaving his residence in the unit block of North Christopher Columbus Boulevard about 10:45 a.m. Wednesday. Police said he was suffering from undisclosed medical issues and depression.

Shortly after 11:30 a.m. Thursday, the police Marine Unit responded to a report of a person in the river near where Anton lived and recovered his body. The Medical Examiner’s Office was investigating how he died.

Anton had long been the leader of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, a statewide trade organization that became the premier pro-business lobbying presence in Harrisburg under Anton.

“At his peak, he could kill a bill if he wanted to, or he could make a bill if he wanted to,” former Gov. Ed Rendell said.

In 2012, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette profile led off with this sentence: “When Fred Anton calls Republican politicians at the state Capitol, they don’t put him on hold.”

David N. Taylor, president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, said in a statement that the organization was heartbroken by Anton’s death.

“All of us who had the privilege of knowing him and working for him will treasure the memories of our time with him, with gratitude for having had him as our leader,” Taylor said.

Speaker of the Pennsylvania House Mike Turzai, an Allegheny County Republican, said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened” by Anton’s passing.

“When Fred entered a room, everyone’s attention turned to him. It is no coincidence that many of Pennsylvania’s governors, U.S. senators, congressmen, and state legislative leaders have considered Fred a close friend and adviser. He was gracious to everyone who came to know him,” Turzai said.

“Being profoundly well-read, well-spoken and knowledgeable, Fred freely offered advice to those who would listen, and I will forever be grateful for his invaluable advice and friendship through the years,” Turzai said. “Lidia and I send our deepest sympathy to his partner of many years, Emily Ryan, and his children, Fred and Sarah.”

Pennsyvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, a Republican from Centre County, in a statement said Anton’s “presence dominated a room.”

“While he was well known as a leader who got things done, I knew him as a cherished family friend whose caring and kindness supported and inspired three generations of Cormans. He will be greatly missed,” Corman said.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey also offered a statement on Anton.

“Fred was an icon in Pennsylvania’s conservative movement and served as a mentor to many, including myself,” the Pennsylvania Republican said. “He was a passionate advocate for the city of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and for the country he loved. My thoughts and condolences are with Fred’s family; he will be missed.”

Former Republican Gov. Tom Ridge in a statement called Anton “a true gentleman.”

“His loss will leave a huge void in Pennsylvania, and beyond,” Ridge said.

Anton was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Haverford High School. He earned a law degree from the Villanova School of Law and was a veteran of the Marine Corps.

When Rendell was elected mayor of Philadelphia in 1991, Anton joined his transition team and worked with Rendell throughout his two terms in office.

“Fred was one of the most important business leaders in Philadelphia,” Rendell said.

“He deeply cared for the city,” Rendell said, adding that they were good friends, “even though we were at opposite ends of the political spectrum.”