J. Robert “Bob” Frieswick
January 10, 1923 – August 8, 2018
If you were told, once you were old enough to understand, that you had 95 years to spend here on Earth, how would you decide to spend it?
After recovering from the shock of knowing when our journeys would end, I imagine most of us would spend our 95 years like my grandfather, James Robert “Bob” Frieswick, spent his.
While we have no control over the lives we’re born into, we all hope to have or find a family – no matter the shape or size – that loves us unconditionally, takes pride in our accomplishments, finds humor in our shortcomings, and offers an open door when all others close. For my grandfather, that family was his mother Alice and his father Oliver, his sisters Betty and Olive, and his brother Billy.
Most us would spend decades in search of someone willing to join us for as many of our 95 years as possible. I imagine, however, that we’d vastly prefer to find our partner the way my grandfather found his wife, Jean – through a happenstance encounter on a warm summer day at the beach.
Most of us would consider ourselves lucky just to find someone as devoted to us as Jean Frieswick was to my grandfather, let alone be blessed with the same 50 years they shared with each other.
Most of us would hope that our children had the strength and resilience to endure all the flaws of the world we could not protect them from, and the compassion to care for us in our final years as we had cared for them in their youth. My mother, Georgia Frieswick, owes as much of her strength and compassion to my grandfather and grandmother as my brother and I owe to her.
Most of us would want to spoil and dote upon our grandchildren at every turn, as their parents looked on with equal parts dismay and exhausted relief. There are few, if any, failures and successes between my brother Justin and I that our grandfather did not share in. From every wayward drive on the golf course to graduating from college and starting our careers, our grandfather gave us his all.
Most of us would probably spend as much time as we could in the company of our canine companions, just as my grandfather did over nearly 4 decades with Georgette, Cream, Copper, and Sable. He rewarded their unshakeable loyalty by spoiling them even more than the rest of us.
No matter how we spent our 95 years, all of us would eventually find ourselves swimming with or against the tides of history, and my grandfather was no exception.
Most of us probably wouldn’t choose to spend a single hour - let alone over a year - buried deep in the ice and snow on Attu, the farthest and coldest of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. But if asked to serve during some of our nation’s darkest and most uncertain days, I believe most of us would follow my grandfather’s example, and ship out to whatever remote frontier was required of us.
All of us would have the opportunity, in ways both big and small, to help build the future we desired for our posterity – a responsibility my grandfather took seriously. He was, after all, able to cast his ballot for FDR, JFK, LBJ, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton over the course of his life.
As we approached the final hours of our final year, most of us would hope to return – if only in memory – to a place that brought us true joy.
For my grandfather, I imagine that brought him back to a dock in Falmouth, Massachusetts, where he boarded his old sailboat, “Peaches,” with my grandmother and his four dogs, and set off to wherever the wind took them next.
In lieu of flowers, and in honor of my grandfather’s service to our country and his commitment to his grandsons, please support the Armed Services YMCA of Alaska and its mission to serve our soldiers and their families: www.asymca.org/alaska-donate
A graveside service and military salute will take place on Monday, August 20th at 10:00am at Woodbrook Cemetery, 100 Salem Street in Woburn, Massachusetts.