About 300 people saw Neal Frisby off to eternity in a funeral in which the evangelist, who died recently at age 71, was hailed as a miracle worker and man of God.
He died of natural causes, said his son, Chris. He gave no further details. Speakers at the May 3 funeral said Frisby had been ill for several years.
Frisby was best known for his late-night TV commercials in the ’70s and ’80s, the personal revelations that he wrote down on dozens of scrolls, his healing services and his unusual church, the Capstone Cathedral in Phoenix.
Before he died, Frisby donated the property to Robert Brooks, former wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers. Brooks said Wednesday that he had “a vision” that he would preach at Capstone. Years later, after Brooks met one of Frisby’s sons and shared his vision, Neal Frisby himself had a dream that he should turn the property over to Brooks.
Brooks said he would change the building’s name to Capstone Center and use it as headquarters for his ministry projects.
The odd-looking pyramid-shaped building, with its green “capstone,” sits in a large lot next door to a Fry’s at Tatum and Shea boulevards. It was open only for the occasional revival meeting or service.
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Photographs taken of Frisby in the building, and shown as slides during the service, often showed flashes of light, which followers – and Frisby himself – believed were spiritual manifestations.
But he never developed a congregation large enough to fill the church, which was the largest in the Valley when it was built in the early 1970s. And since 1990, Frisby was a recluse, according to Leroy Jenkins of Scottsdale, himself an evangelist and a Frisby friend.
A small congregation built itself, notably of immigrant Nigerians who had heard of Frisby from as far away as Africa.
“He never came to Nigeria, but we checked him out,” said Douglas Amobi. “He gave us faith, he gave us power,” even though many of them never met the man.
“He was a very intimate person,” Jenkins said. “He did not get close to many people.”
Randall Balmer, who teaches religion at Columbia University in New York, included Frisby in his book that looked at evangelical Christianity, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.
“Neal Frisby, in my judgment, was one of the most colorful and eccentric figures in American religion in the 20th century,” Balmer said Wednesday.
“The sheer volume of his ‘revelations’ alone sets him apart from other evangelists. His claim to be the ‘Rainbow Angel’ of Revelation 10, his reclusiveness (even from members of his own congregation) and the unique design of his Capstone Cathedral combine to make him a memorable character.”