Richard L. Freeman
Chebeague Island, Maine
Richard Lee Freeman passed away suddenly on November 2, 2005 while beginning another day of projects. Dick was born on October 4, 1928 in Pennsylvania, the only child of Newell L. and Mayme Lee (Butler) Freeman. He graduated from Nott Terrace High School in Schenectady in 1946. An excellent student, he then attended Cornell University, graduating in 1951.
It was one of his Cornell rowing crew teammates, John Ash, who offered up his sister Kitty to Dick as a blind date. Dick and Kitty soon embarked on a lifelong romance. In June 1953, after Dick served in Korea, the two were married and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Dick completed an MBA at Harvard.
After Harvard, Dick took a job at Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, N.Y., where he worked for 36 years. In 1957, they bought "Windwhistle Farm", located about 30 miles south of Rochester near Springwater. The family actively participated in Zion Church in Avon, and skied frequently at HoliMont near Ellicotville N.Y. Dick was an instrumental part in setting up and operating the Phoenix Adaptive Ski Program, a ski program for physically and mentally challenged kids at HoliMont.
Dick believed strongly in the importance of a good education, and was committed to generously helping his children finish high school and attend university. In 1979, in an effort to stay in touch with his spread out family, Dick initiated the "Weekly Bugle", which he loyally wrote for 26 years.
Dick touched all who met him with his energy, honesty, optimism, and enthusiasm. He completely enjoyed his life and was an example to all, of the personal rewards wrought by faith, hard work and active participation in one's life and community. He will be intensely missed by his wife, Katharine Ash, his children James (Catherine), Mark (Darbi Shakira), Christina (Michael Feinberg), Diana (Edward Smith) and Amy (James Winslow), 15 grandchildren and numerous other family and friends.
There will be a memorial service for Richard Freeman at 1 pm,
November 6, 2005, at the Chebeague Island Church, Chebeague Island,
Maine. A second memorial service will be held on the island in
August 2006. We ask that in lieu of flowers, donations be made
in Dick's memory to the Chebeague Island Methodist Church, Music
Ministry or the Phoenix Adaptive Ski Program at HoliMont.
Richard Lee Freeman passed away suddenly on November 2, 2005 while beginning another day of projects on Chebeague Island, Maine.
Richard was born on October 4, 1928 in Pennsylvania, the only child of Newell L. and Mayme Lee (Butler) Freeman. The family moved to New Jersey, where they spent a number of years while Dick was in elementary school, then to Schnectady, N.Y., where Newell had obtained a job with American Locomotive. Dick spent a happy childhood as an active boy who loved being in the park and competitive speed skating with his friends. He was also a talented pianist and in addition to singing in the choir and serving as altarboy, he occasionally played organ for services at St. George's Church. He graduated from Nott Terrace High School in Schenectady in 1946. An excellent student, he then attended Cornell University where, as an aspiring engineer, a cheerleader, an enthusiastic member of the rowing team and a fraternity member, Dick spent a memorable 5 years and made a number of his lifelong friends. As children, we remember meeting a lot of those friends- mostly tall men, with really big feet!
One afternoon during rowing practice, he asked one of his crew teammates, John Ash, about a date for an upcoming Cornell-Penn University function. John offered up his sister, Kitty, telling her, like any self-respecting younger brother, that if it didn't work out it "wasn't his fault". One assumes that the blind date must have been successful, as from there, Dick and Kitty embarked on a lifelong romance.
After Cornell, Dick went to serve in the Korean conflict, where he was a radio operator in the Air Force and also wrote a lot of letters back to Philadelphia. Upon returning stateside, in June 1953, the two were married and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Dick completed an MBA at Harvard University. After Harvard, Dick bought an old Oldsmobile, from which he removed the back seat to install a fold-down Nash seat, and the couple took a belated honeymoon traveling over 10,000 miles around the western U.S. and Canada. Dad often discussed his happy memories from that trip.
Upon returning, Dick and Kitty moved to Rochester, N.Y., where he had taken a job with Eastman Kodak Company. They lived in the city for about 2 years before buying "Windwhistle", a 200 acre farm with a huge 90-year old house located on Bald Hill, about 30 miles south of the city. Windwhistle was a project from the start; the first job was renovating two rooms upstairs, one of which had been used for raising chickens. Dick soon became proficient at doing concrete and stone work, framing, drywall, electrical and plumbing, and he did most of this work after getting home from Kodak and on weekends. There really wasn't much he wasn't afraid to tackle.
Their lives doubtless changed dramatically in 1957 when Jamie was born and again in 1960 and 1962 when they adopted Mark and Christina. The Freemans found a young, dynamic church in the nearby town of Avon, and soon Dick was part of Zion's church vestry and became the choir director, reinforcing his lifelong interest in sacred music.
The young family also started downhill skiing in the early 1960s, and in 1964, they heard about a small ski club that had started the previous year in Ellicotville N.Y. Dick had thousands of happy hours at HoliMont- according to him, there was never a bad day of skiing- even when he passed out garbage bags at the beginning of the day to keep our butts dry. He went on to serve on the club's Board of Directors and to be an instrumental part in setting up and operating the Phoenix Adaptive Ski Program, that was established at HoliMont for physically and mentally challenged kids.
In 1966, Kitty and Dick decided to adopt one more child and so welcomed Diana into the family. However, Kitty soon discovered that she was expecting, so we suddenly had two new sisters, as Amy was born in January 1967. By the late 1960s, we were all flourishing, as evidenced by lots of Kodak Super-8 movies of us swimming at Pickeral Point, taking canoe picnics on Hemlock Lake, loving our 2-week long Chebeague vacations every summer, and on every Saturday with snow, loading into the station wagon to drive the 90 miles for a day of skiing and fireplace cooked hotdogs at Holimont. In 1973, we all helped Dad to construct a large, in-ground swimming pool which provided the family as well as neighbors, friends and many local amphibians and ducks with lots of entertainment.
Dick believed strongly in the importance of a good education, and was committed to generously helping his children finish high school and complete post-secondary education. He was extremely proud of his kids' athletic and academic achievements and attended many high school soccer games and track meets throughout the 1970s and 1980s. And, in case you were wondering, he DIDN'T just clap quietly on the sidelines! At one point or another, all of us were drafted into the church choir and loved being mentored by the warm and talented flock that looked up to their head "Eagle" for his leadership and direction.
By the late 1980s, the Freeman kids had married and scattered to different parts of the continent. Dick retired from Kodak in 1990 and he and Kitty made time to visit their kids in all of these places and we will all cherish our memories of Dad rewiring our houses, renovating our bathrooms and fixing our washing machines.
In his effort to stay in touch, in 1975 Dick initiated the "Weekly Bugle", which he loyally wrote on his typewriter, and later computer, every Sunday evening to send to the extended family. We all looked forward to receiving The Bugle- it blew out the cobwebs in our college mailboxes and broke up the pile of bills later on. From the Bugle, we learned Dad's interpretation of the family news, duly edited by Kitty's pen in the margins. He was extremely supportive of our spouses and their families, and everyone felt truly welcomed into the clan by Dick. He also deeply loved his grandchildren, and was highly proud of all of them and their achievements.
Dick had an amazing memory, especially when it came to numbers. He always remembered birthdays, for example, and often celebrated other important numerical events. One, recounted by a soon-to-be spouse, involved driving home through the country with a group of sleepy skiers from HoliMont, when suddenly Dad stopped the car, got out, and walked around to the trunk. He returned with a bottle of champagne that he had kept in a bucket of snow all day and the news that that particular car had just reached the 300,000 mile mark.
In 1998, recognizing the importance of Chebeague as the central base for the families, Dick decided to sell Windwhistle and to build a new house on their island property. That house, Ashwoods, was the first major personal project that Dick undertook where he was not doing almost all of the work, but nevertheless he and Kitty put a lot of effort into every detail of the house and both were very proud of the result. They looked forward to spending many more happy years of retirement living in, and puttering around, their new dream house.
Dick touched all who met him with his energy, integrity, optimism, humility and enthusiasm. He was a democrat in the truest sense- he never prejudged or labeled people- everyone got the same honest-to-god Dick Freeman. Whether singing in church, skiing at HoliMont, eating "lobsta", or just puttering around on one of the projects from his endless list, we'll always remember that spontaneous "yeehawww", "yodel-lay-ee-who" or his "Aughrrrrrrr"; three of Dad's unique ways of expressing his extreme happiness at that moment. As a child of the Depression, he never ceased to be thankful for the life he had achieved and serves as an example to all of us of the personal rewards wrought by intense faith, hard work and active participation in one's life and community.