|Fred Robert Slade, Jr.|
August 7, 1928 - January 31, 2009
Had lung cancer not been the issue, Daddy would have been 88 years old today. And he probably would still be brokering land deals, finding land to sell and buyers to buy. After all, that is what he was doing at age 80 when his body just gave up.
Daddy believed in the American dream that if you work hard, you can achieve greatness. While he worked much of his life for others, he eventually ventured out on his own. He obtained his real estate license and was named Rookie of the Year, right out of the gate. He even started a concrete company constructing curbs and driveway pads for various building contractors.
Unfortunately, Daddy’s business sense was not as big as his heart, and so his various enterprises amounted to little.
Ironically, that American dream of greatness has come in a very different form from what he planned for himself. His taste of greatness was secured many years ago with a cheap camera, and he didn’t even know it. A scrapbook of photos that he took when he was only 19 years old is now the focal point of an exhibit in the Custom House Maritime Museum in Newburyport, Massachusetts.
Daddy joined the Coast Guard right after graduation from high school. He was assigned to the US Coast Guard Cutter Eastwind stationed in Boston. As a member of the crew, he made four trips to Greenland supplying the bases there following World War II. His photos are of the icebergs, the landscape, the crew, their work, and the Inuit.
The Custom House Maritime Museum took an interest in the scrapbook. Since experts at the museum found the photos to be historically significant, not to mention beautiful in their own right, my sister and I decided to donate Daddy’s scrapbook to them. On August 2, 2016, an exhibit of the photos opened called “Frozen in Time.” The weekend of Daddy’s birthday, Eastwind alumni convened at the Custom House as they always do for their annual reunion. The Museum was not aware of the significance of this date, but it is especially meaningful for our family. The exhibit runs through December.
However, “Fred Slade, Jr.” is not the star – it is the story of the Coast Guard in Greenland in the late 1940s. Daddy would be so surprised and so proud that his little scrapbook is appreciated. At last his dream of leaving his mark on the world has come to fruition. And on his birthday, too.
© 2016, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.