Frank Fritz, of “American Pickers” fame, enjoyed an evening out with friends near the Quad Cities recently, a little more than a year since a stroke left him incapacitated.
Fritz and a few of his closest mates enjoyed a meal at Iron Horse Social Club, a pub and restaurant that took over some of the reality star’s former antique store space in Savanna, Illinois.
The excursion was the first time Fritz had been out since his stroke in July 2022, according to a Facebook group run by one of his close friends.
Photos show Fritz in a wheelchair, smiling and surrounded by loved ones.
“Just know that it was priceless,” a page administrator wrote.
Fritz and Iowan Mike Wolfe ― childhood friends and reality TV co-stars ― achieved fame for their series, “American Pickers,” which followed the collectors as they traveled the country looking for antiques.
More: ‘American Picker’ Mike Wolfe wants to save rural America, and other things we learned about Iowa’s master of junk
Premiering in 2010, the show diverted from the “Antiques Roadshow” format of shooting on a controlled set and featuring expert commentary. Instead, Wolfe and Fritz leaned on their streetwise knowledge and razor-sharp gut instincts as they traveled backroads and small-town Main Streets looking for stories in equal measure to “picks” — as fans call the objects they buy.
Their folksy formula created reality show gold, making “Pickers” a ratings and rerun juggernaut for years.
Around the start of the national lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic, rabid “Pickers” fans began noticing Fritz’s absence from the show, taking to social media to note their frustration.
In July 2021, Wolfe made his co-star’s exit from the show official in an Instagram post.
“I have known Frank for as long as I can remember, he’s been like a brother to me,” Wolfe wrote. “…I will miss Frank, just like all of you, and I pray for the very best and all good things for him on the next part of his journey.”
Wait, what happened to Frank Fritz?
Fritz — who owns Frank Fritz Finds, an antiques store in Savanna, Illinois — has been receiving in- and out-patient care since being found unresponsive on July 14, 2022, in his Davenport home and rushed to a local hospital.
Lat fall, Fritz was placed under a temporary guardianship, according to court documents.
“Because of his stroke, Mr. Fritz’s decision-making capacity is so impaired that he is unable to care for his own safety, or to provide for necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, or medical care,” states a petition for guardianship filed in August 2022. He is also “unable to make, communicate, or carry out important decisions concerning his own financial affairs.”
While Fritz recovers, a guardian “is necessary to avoid immediate harm,” the petition states.
A longtime friend was installed as guardian of Fritz’s care, and a local bank took over conservatorship of his finances. The guardian, who has been assisting Fritz since his stroke, and others involved previously declined through a lawyer to speak with the Register.
The guardian prepared for Fritz’s release from rehab by installing ramps and grab bars at his Davenport-area home and contacting local physical therapists to coordinate treatment, recent court documents show.
Fritz has been unemployed since departing “Pickers,” but has a small monthly investment income and maintains multiple valuable collections.
The conservator plans to leave those antiques “largely as they are now,” court documents show, with the exception of stocking Fritz’s store.
A detailed inventory of Fritz’s assets was filed under seal, given his celebrity, according to documents.
More: Frank Fritz, of ‘American Pickers,’ under guardianship after stroke
Fritz’s stroke was first reported by Wolfe in an Instagram post, asking viewers to pray for his former co-star.
“I have been very private in the past year in regards to Frank’s life and the journey he’s been on,” Wolfe wrote. “There has been lots of opinions in regards to mine and Frank’s friendship and the show but now is not the time to set the record straight. Now is the time to pray for my friend.”
“Frank I pray more than anything that you make it through this okay. I love you buddy.”
A friend of Fritz’s told the Quad-City Times at the time that Wolfe’s post came as a surprise, but Fritz hoped “something positive” could come out of the attention his health has received.
“He would like everyone to know he continues to get better every day and is very determined,” she told the Times.
“He really is getting better every single day.”
Do Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe still talk?
After nearly three years of trading barbs and blessings on social media and in tabloids, Wolfe and Fritz reunited over Memorial Day weekend.
A “longtime friend” of Fritz’s told Barb Ickes of the Quad-City Times that the pair reminisced about “old times,” including their shared nerves before a spot on “The Late Show With David Letterman,” one of the pair’s early talk show appearances.
Wolfe “said, ‘Nobody can replace you, Frank,’” the friend told the Times. “He said it was Frank’s ‘uniquely funny personality’ that made them fit so well together as a team.”
“There were tears flowing on both sides.”
More: ‘American Pickers’ Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz reunite after 3-year separation
Despite headlines suggesting bad blood, the friend clarified that Wolfe and Fritz were not in a feud. Instead, she says, after more than a decade of the hectic filming schedule with “Pickers,” “the relationship became strained.”
“They needed separation to appreciate each other,” she told the Times.
Will Frank Fritz return to ‘American Pickers’?
During their Memorial Day reunion, Fritz’s friend says that Wolfe made it seem like Fritz’s return to TV isn’t off the table.
“Mike did say he’d like Frank back on the show, but Frank is focused on his health,” a friend told the Quad-City Times in May.
COURTNEY CROWDER, the Register’s Iowa Columnist, traverses the state’s 99 counties telling Iowans’ stories. You can reach her at (515) 284-8360 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @courtneycare.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Frank Fritz, of ‘American Pickers,’ goes out a year after stroke