Oldest 49er, WWII Army veteran Jesse Freitas Sr. dies at 99
By VYTAS MAZEIKA | The Mercury News | Published: May 20, 2020
(Tribune News Service) — Jesse Freitas Sr., a quarterback on the inaugural San Francisco 49ers squad and a World War II veteran, died Monday morning at his home in San Diego at the age of 99.
The second-oldest living NFL player at the time, Freitas succumbed to cancer, according to his son, James.
"The 49ers are saddened to learn of the passing of Jesse Freitas Sr., a QB on our inaugural 1946 team," the organization posted on Twitter.
Freitas, a veteran of the U.S. Army, earned a Bronze Star during World War II and commanded an artillery unit at the Battle of the Bulge.
The native of Red Bluff, Calif., played quarterback and defensive back at Santa Clara University.
His professional career began with a two-season stretch on the 49ers, who were founded in 1946 as members of the All-America Football Conference before joining the NFL in 1949. Freitas also played for the Chicago Rockets and the Buffalo Bills.
Freitas took over the football program at Serra High in San Mateo in 1950 and over a trio of stints amassed a 102-49-3 record — his 17th and final campaign coming in 1974. He claimed seven league titles, including three in the West Catholic Athletic League.
Freitas coached not only football, but also basketball and baseball during back-to-back academic years at Serra in the early 1950s.
The 1968 football team for the Padres featured three future pro players: Lynn Swann, Tom Scott and Jesse Freitas Jr., the latter a quarterback who once led the nation in passing at San Diego State and was taken by the San Diego Chargers in the 1974 NFL Draft.
Also the football coach at College of San Mateo for a brief period, Freitas Sr. was inducted into the San Mateo County Sports Hall of Fame on May 25, 1995, along with Freitas Jr., who died in 2015.
The elder Freitas is survived by his son, James, a daughter, Lynn Nichols, his devoted partner, Mena DeNegro, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Funeral services have yet to be announced amidst the ongoing pandemic.
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The 49ers are saddened to learn of the passing of Jesse Freitas Sr., a QB on our inaugural 1946 team.— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) May 18, 2020
Freitas later served as the head football coach at Junipero Serra HS & was inducted into the San Mateo County Sports HOF in 1995. We send our deepest condolences to his family. pic.twitter.com/IeDrDaVQCW