Remembering Fred Rydholm
Some of us "Old Timers" meet at a local restaurant each week for breakfast. We talk about this and that, the world situation and decry the decline of modern society. This, of course, leads to reminiscing, nostalgic memories of the "good old days," the way things used to be. Our group had an advantage not normally available: we had Fred Rydholm.
Any question, confusion over facts or anything pertaining to or associated with our Upper Peninsula found an answer from Fred. He could not only relate the story but would enhance the cold facts with interesting circumstances. His knowledge of Upper Michigan had begun in travels with his father, Eber, who was a traveling salesman and would often take Fred along. Fred was a treasure trove of information. He never tired of relating stories of his beloved Upper Peninsula. .
You may have noticed I speak in the past tense. We have an empty chair at our breakfasts these days. Fred is now part of that history he loved so well. On Saturday, April fourth, Fred died.
Fred was born in Marquette in 1924 and, with the exception of duty as a Hospital Corpsman during World War II, has been a resident all his adult life. After graduating from Albion College in Albion, Michigan, Fred became a school teacher teaching general science to seventh and eighth grade students until he retired in 1982. It's hard to find an adult in the Marquette area who hadn't been in one of Fred's science classes and who remember him fondly. He was a teacher, an enthusiastic teacher who enjoyed his work. Speaking and imparting information to eager audiences seemed to be his calling.
In later years this desire to impart information would lead to his writing and publishing "Superior Heartland: A Backwoods History." This collection of accumulated facts and information of Upper Michigan was quickly recognized as a classic and authoritative reference book. He would follow this with "Michigan Copper: The Untold Story," about his personal discoveries. He had a theory that copper had been the object of exploration, development and trade with the ancient world long before Columbus. Should this newly discovered evidence, these artifacts ever be recognized they could well change the history we were taught.
Fred was also the President and a founder of AAPS, the Ancient Artifact Preservation Society. He thought there was a need and took an active part in promoting the building of a museum in the Copper Country area in Upper Michigan. Along the way Fred was involved in other things, finding the time to serve fourteen years as a Marquette City Commissioner, several terms as Mayor of the City and had, at one time, been a candidate for State Representative.
Fred is survived by his wife of 56 years, June (Beltrame) Rydholm, and two sons, Fred K. and Dan. To say he will be missed somehow seems insufficient. His loss encompasses you and me and many who might never have met Fred. He was an authority, a walking, talking encyclopedia on subjects ranging from nature and the environment through the history of the area. It was an accepted thing whenever a difficult question arose to call Fred.
Fred used to say he was not a writer but a storyteller. A person readily recognizes this in his writing. It flows in that same style, the rhythm of a story rather than a bare list of historical facts. Fred was constantly called upon to speak to groups or at various events. He rarely refused. Often, when speaking, his story-telling style could lead him astray from the original subject. His enthusiasm knew no limits and he regularly exceeded the time allotted. His wife, June, sitting unobtrusively in the rear, would come to his aid. When she felt his time had elapsed she would begin to applaud. The audience would join in and that was Fred's signal to bow, thank them and sit down.
At Fred's last gathering it happened that he said nothing at all. He had wanted to attend the wedding of his son, Dan, to Kathleen Heideman. The event was scheduled to take place at Bay Cliff, the Health Camp in Big Bay on April fourth. Fred had always been a supporter of Bay Cliff. In his early years he worked there as a counselor and, among other things, a dish-washer. Fred met Henry Ford, the automobile manufacturer, while he was working there, while he was washing dishes, actually. Mr. Ford gave Fred a leather wallet as a gift. That wallet has become pretty well worn over the years - it was almost in pieces when last I saw it - but it was a gift Fred cherished.
Unfortunately Fred's physical condition was such that he would not be able to attend the wedding. On April second a small group met privately at Fred's bedside. The immediate family was there and the wedding between Dan and Kathleen took place. Fred had been able to attend after all. So as not to disappoint the many other wedding guests, another ceremony was performed at the gathering April fourth at Bay Cliff. It was during this wedding celebration that word was received that Fred had died.
You may think this was the end of the story. You'd be wrong. Fred has willed his remains, his body, to the Michigan State University School of Medicine. There are up-and-coming young Doctors who will be helped along their way. So, you see, Fred continues to tell stories, he continues to teach.
Yes, there's an empty seat at our breakfasts. Fred is gone. You know, I don't believe Fred made it through the Pearly Gates though. The story teller in him is probably regaling St, Peter with tales of our Upper Peninsula. Without June there to begin applauding, well, eternity is a long time.
Still Waters Publishing
Benjamin C. Mukkala phone (906) 249 9831
257 Lakewood Lane
Marquette, MI 49855-9508
April 9, 2009
© Ben Mukkala 2009