Brother Frommeyer: Just saying no to a dirty job
You’ve heard the advertising slogan countless times, made famous by the dulcet tones of the late Buddy Diliberto on WWL radio.
When River Parish Disposal started promoting its trash-hauling business 30 years ago as part of the New Orleans Saints’ broadcasts, little did Weldon Frommeyer and his son “Brother” know there was glory in garbage.
“River Parish Disposal,” Buddy D. would spout, setting up the punch line. “Our business stinks, but it’s picking up!”
Brother Frommeyer, now 32, played football at John Curtis Christian School and was an under-the-radar, 6-foot-2, 245-pound defensive end for Nick Saban at LSU. He didn’t play a lot, but he had the kind of relentless work ethic, taught behind the wheel of a dumpster, that impressed Saban.
After football season, and especially during the peak garbage times of Mardi Gras, Brother made sure to come home to Metairie to help his dad with his growing business, which he started 35 years ago with one truck and one employee.
When Brother – he got the name in part because he was the only boy among four sisters – told his dad he would get a side job to help with expenses during college, his father told him to concentrate on his studies and get his degree.
“He wanted me to stay in college and do well and get a degree and play football,” Brother said. “He gave me an allowance, and he took care of me like I’m sure any parent would love to do. I was blessed to have him do that for me, so any time he needed me, I was there for him.”
Joined dad after LSU
After finishing up at LSU, Brother joined River Parish Disposal full time and is now vice president. Any business, especially the trash-hauling business, is relationships. So when Brother received a phone call from a contractor to handle the construction debris at a medical center being built on South Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans, it was an easy to say yes to someone for whom he had worked previously.
All Brother’s employees had to do was drop off a large debris container and haul it away every few days or so. For a few months work, it was probably a $2,000 job. It was easy work.
Then, all of a sudden, the emails started coming in. First, a trickle and then a fire hose.
The emails informed Brother that the job site was the future home of Planned Parenthood Gulf South’s regional abortion clinic. All of a sudden, Brother discovered the facts: his family-owned company, which includes several relatives, was hauling trash at what could become the largest tomb for the unborn in the state of Louisiana.
“You know how sometimes you get these emails that come through and you glance at them and think it’s a junk email?” Brother said. “But then these things started constantly coming in. The emails were just saying, ‘Please reconsider.’”
Ultimate ‘gut check’
Saban might have called it a “gut check” moment.
“It certainly was,” Brother said. “There were a lot of things that ran through my head.”
Brother had a signed contract. He had a relationship with the contractor. Business is business. A handshake means something. What would this mean for his future business relationships?
Brother, a Catholic, also knew something else. He was not going to facilitate abortion in any way.
He had to get out.
“I went to my dad and I said, ‘Hold on, we’ve got to fix this,’” Brother said. “That’s when I started doing my investigation, and I looked at my dad and I said, ‘Dad, we’ve got to make the right decision here. We do have mouths to feed around here, and our employees need to feed their kids. But we need to walk away from this.’”
His father agreed. Brother approached the contractor and asked to be relieved from the contract. His request was granted.
Guided by principle
“This was very important for me to make this decision because, first of all, I’m Catholic and we have our beliefs,” Brother said. “That’s No. 1. Second of all, I’m just the type of person, in anything I do, that I don’t want anybody to think negative of me. I’m always out there trying to help the community.”
Since pulling his equipment, Brother wrote a letter to everyone who had emailed him urging him to have nothing to do with Planned Parenthood. In response, he’s received an avalanche of positive emails praising the company for its decision. He also sent a certified letter to Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who in February had urged businesses not to offer their services to help Planned Parenthood build its facility.
“By the response I’ve been getting, it’s looking good,” Brother said. “I think a lot of people who are raised in this city know that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. I’ve also heard the saying, ‘People will open up more doors than you have the keys to.’ That’s basically saying the same thing. I call New Orleans the biggest small city, because everybody knows everybody. By doing the right thing, trust me, the word will get out.”
A future supporter
One email Brother received illustrated that. It was from a woman, whose husband is a contractor.
“She said they were always looking for people who do the right thing, and River Parish Disposal is now definitely on the top of their list to call for business,” Brother said.
In one of his recent commercials, Brother said he often is asked what religious order he belongs to. He jokingly admits he’s “taken confessions” from plenty of people displeased with their waste-disposal service.
As a kid, when he attended St. Stanislaus day camp, operated by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, he got a lot of ribbing from his friends.
“They would always say, ‘Man, Brother, when you become a brother, what are they going to call you, ‘Brother Brother’?” he said.
No, he hasn’t taken vows, but he made one. On behalf of life.