Bill Beck: Charlie Freeby was a character and man of character
Posted: 12/14/2012 at 1:15 am
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Charlie Freeby Sr. (left) and Chuck Freeby.
Sadly, we lost one such gentle man this week.
Charlie Freeby should be home today after an extended rehabilitation stint, getting himself primed for another sports-filled weekend of smiles, laughs and yelling at the ballgames on television.
He should be relaxing on Saturday morning and watching Chuck Freeby, his youngest son, work the microphone of tonight’s Warsaw-Wawasee boys basketball replay on WHME.
Instead, young Chuck — Charlie Freeby Jr., if you will — will harness his emotions, sort through his game notes, think lovingly about his dad and make him proud. Again.
Charlie Sr. passed away Sunday morning after 81 glorious years with us.
“My dad loved watching (the) Game of the Week,” Chuck told me Tuesday, “and he would be sorely disappointed if I missed a broadcast on his account.”
Chuck won’t miss a beat tonight and he hasn’t missed a beat since I met him.
Nearly 30 years ago, as a young Truth sports stringer, I was assigned my first high school baseball game at Central’s Rice Field. Dennis Kraft, The Truth’s sports editor then, told me that if I had any problems or questions, to see a guy named Charlie Freeby.
I arrived at the game and walked upstairs to the pressbox. There I found a scrawny high school kid with a scorebook, a few pencils and a stack of cassette tapes next to the public address microphone.
The young man had a Cubs cap pulled down just above his eyes.
I asked, “Can you tell me where I can find Charlie Freeby?”
The young man’s head snapped around as he announced, “You got him!”
Young Charlie Freeby, who as an eighth-grader at North Side Middle School, wrote to Kraft about becoming a sports writer at The Truth. Later, while a student at the University of Notre Dame, he became one for a short period of time.
He was a good writer then and he remains one today.
Now an accomplished, highly-recognized broadcaster, as well as a good friend, Chuck Freeby demonstrates the same traits as his father — devoted, loving family man, a servant to the world in a variety of capacities and a sense of humor with few peers.
Chuck’s topical, razor-sharp wit is as plentiful and on-point as anyone I know. After reveling in the warmth of Wednesday’s memorial service for his dad, I now know where Chuck gets it.
Charlie Freeby, as Chuck so eloquently eulogized, loved few things more than keeping his family laughing and stepping up for his community, whether it be as a decorated soldier in Korea, a custodian for the Elkhart Community Schools, or as a substitute teacher. A class of Hawthorne Elementary School youngsters sent a poster-sized sympathy message to the Freeby family this week. It was proudly displayed at Trinity United Methodist Church.
It’s easy to remember Charlie Freeby, mostly because he’d never let you forget him.
Chuck shared a a number of precious stories Wednesday, including one about coaching his daughter, Rosie, as she played in a softball game at Osolo Little League game three summers ago. Charlie, portable oxygen tank and all, attended as he often did for his 11 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
“I was coaching in a key situation, with our team up by two, runners on second and third,’’ Chuck said. “I decided to intentionally walk the other team’s best hitter, loading the bases.”
A risky tactic, yes, but appropriately thought out. It just wasn’t well-received by all.
At that moment, Chuck went on to explain, a voice from the bleachers bellowed, “Guess you don’t want to win, putting the winning run on base.”
A bewildered assistant coach looked to Chuck and asked, “Who is that yelling?”
“That,’’ Chuck said, “is my father.”
I’d bet anything there was a huge grin behind those teasing words.
I had met Charlie Sr. only a handful of times in my life, so obviously I didn’t know him well, but after listening for about an hour, it dawned on me that I’ve known him for a very long time — through Chuck.
The similarities between father and son are as uncanny as they are admirable.
Charles Freeby Sr. — a life teacher — was a character as well as a man of character.
By following in his dad’s footsteps nearly stride-for-stride as he has, Charles Freeby Jr. apparently has learned his lessons well.
Contact Bill Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org