Sunday, August 7, 2016

Daddy's 88th

Fred Robert Slade, Jr. Coast Guard Eastwind
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


  1. Girl, this is so well written; makes me cry! I sure do miss him!

  2. What a great tribute to your dad, Wendy. I think a big heart is much better than most other attributes. Congratulations to him on the exhibit of his photographs.

  3. A very touching tribute to your dad!


  4. Your mom would have been so proud as well!


  5. How lovely that his photographs can give so much pleasure to other people. A great tribute to your dad.

  6. It is lovely the museum deemed your Dad’s pictures worthy of their collection, Wendy, a great accomplishment you and your sister can be proud of.

  7. I know these days are difficult but what great timing the museum chose to open their exhibit. I love hearing that your donation is appreciated and hope that someday I will find just the right organization to donate some of my family things to. Your dad would be so happy to know he has made a difference in others' lives.

  8. This is a beautiful post, Wendy. I love the idea of that scrapbook in a museum. My father had been working for years, along with some local politicians, to secure land from local power companies for a preserve. He died the day the deal was signed and it was decided to name the preserve for him. The pols and others set the date for the dedication with no input from our family but which fell on his 70th birthday.

  9. I just followed you on pinterest. I'm on pinterest as well. I have about 60 genealogy boards on there. See you're an indexer. Great. I did 30,000 one year, but am working on a project this year that is taking a lot of time. I'm trying to put together a database on inscriptions. I'm up to about 5,000 names. Currently am trying to keep up two blogs.

    Maybe we should follow each other.

  10. This brought a lump to my throat Wendy. I love this picture of your dad. He certainly did leave a mark on the world with this wonderful contribution. I'm sure he had no idea at the time what it would mean to others, but that's part of what makes it so neat. He was just doing something he did well and that he loved. Now THAT is the American dream.

  11. Wendy, I'll be sharing this with my father. He'll be so pleased. The pictures are beautiful, my favorite being the Inuit faces! Melissa

  12. Wendy, I'll be sharing this with my father. He'll be so pleased. The pictures are beautiful, my favorite being the Inuit faces! Melissa