There is no combination of words that can adequately express the tremendous void Fred’s passing has left in all of those who knew and loved him. There may not even be enough words or thoughts or acts of kindness that can provide sufficient comfort, but there is solace and joy and laughs and healing in the sharing of stories about Fred – he was such a good story teller, wasn’t he? – so here’s a few of mine.
Fred was gentle as he was ferocious. He could easily fill up a room just by being there, without needing to take center stage. He was always late but once he arrived, he had time for everyone, proving time after time that he was well worth the wait. He was often serious, but more often he was funny and insightful, with just the right story or joke or pun or book recommendation readily available at his fingertips. Fred saw the big picture, but didn’t lose sight individuals who painted that picture. He had an intrinsic ability to know what music would appeal to just about anyone, and made sure you were properly introduced to it, even if it was music that didn’t necessarily appeal to him.
I love the way he called our mother “Jo Mama”, his love, kindness and respect for Uncle LeRoy, the way he laughed when he remembered how Karen, as a child, would say she was “hungily”, how he lifted Brian up on his shoulders so he could see Jesse Jackson and shake his hand, how he fearlessly taught Chris to drive a stick shift, his suggestion that two birthday cakes were better than one, his unlikely and uncanny ability to BBQ meat, his passionate guided tours of both San Francisco and Brooklyn, his latkes and seders, his big, beautiful radiant smile as he walked through the tunnel of arms after Naomi and Brad’s wedding..so many things to love, but above all, his love and devotion for Sue, Herschel and Naomi.
Fred was there for the hard times as well as the good, and with everything, it was his heart that propelled him to action, to find exactly the right words to offer comfort, inspire courage and instill hope. He took me to my first chemo therapy appointment; I did my best to be logical and stoic about what was happening, but was clearly scared out of my mind. As the nurse started the injection, I began to cry. Instead of telling me to be strong or that everything would be okay, Fred quietly reassured me by saying, “sister, I don’t know about you, but I need someone’s hand to hold”, and he didn’t let go until the infusion was over. It was simple, it was kind and what I needed right then and there. Two years ago, when the awful beast returned, he left a message on my phone, singing the Stevie Wonder song “I Just Called to Say I Love You”. In the midst of a lot of tests and uncertainty, that was, once again, exactly what I needed to hear. That was the gift of Fred – his ability to know what needed to be said, when it needed to be said and to act accordingly. Everyone reading this has a story similar to this about Fred – what an astounding legacy! What a remarkable man!
As all of us who have been fortunate enough to have Fred as part of our lives know his essence was compassion and love, an unfailing sense of, and dedication to justice, and the unique and marvelous way he treated people. Although heartbreaking beyond words to lose him, we are all left better people because the community he built, the good he inspired and the way he lived his life. Fred Pecker Presente!
With much love, Julie