by Linda Shanahan
Appeared in the Sun Lakes “Splash”, March 2021
The motivation to take up residence in Sun Lakes, like most, was avoiding winter weather and in Fred’s case the hospitality of the Oakwood Murphy’s, relatives whom they frequently visited in AZ. Fred and his wife Gelene have been Snowbirds for 14 years; their permanent residence is Arlington, VA.
Fred grew up n Queens, NY where he avoided truancy by attending all required public schools and then onto New York University where he earned a BA degree in Economics. Mandatory Military Service, better known as the “Draft” was in effect in 1953 and he qualified but preferring blue to khaki he volunteered, was sent to school and in 1954 was commissioned as an Ensign in the US Navy. The sea stories are endless and could fill a book. He became a retired Navy Captain in 1984 having served aboard 8 ships (Carrier, 5 Destroyers and 2 Cruisers), cleaved the waters of oceans and seas as well as fulfilling assignments ashore mostly in Washington DC including the Pentagon.
The most significant event of Fred’s life occurred in 1965. Ignoring the unwritten Navy axiom (if they wanted you to have a wife, they’d issue you one) the enchanting Gelene Mitchell of Grinnell, Iowa accepted his marriage proposal. He shares that “our anniversary is a nationally familiar date, with flags flying everywhere. We storied our three children (a daughter and two sons) that everyone is celebrating our anniversary. Our six grandchildren give us the same skeptical looks regarding this fabrication as did their parents”.
Ten years ago, Fred purchased a home in Sun Lakes and he and Gelene joined the SLRGS Club. His first class was Lapidary followed by Handles, Bears and Minerals (Geology). He enjoyed Lapidary and as he developed more knowledge, experience and confidence became an instructor. Fred has also become proficient in Lapidary equipment maintenance. This summer because of the Pandemic Fred and Gelene remained in Sun Lakes. Fred spent time relaxing, reading, and polishing golf clubs. Hopefully, they will be able to return to Virginia in the late spring. Both Fred and Gelene are long-term contributing members of the Sun Lakes Rock, Gem and Silver Club.
I knew that I wanted to try something new
But just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do
So off to this meeting I went with a friend
Met this man Fred and that was the end
The end of my wondering cause he said sign here
So into his lap class I went with some fear
The man’s twice my size and ten times as smart
He could grindstone right into a heart
So gentle and kind and patient indeed
Taught us to saw so we wouldn’t bleed
Taught us to grind, taught us to bevel
Make sure the back is flat and is level
Make sure no dents are left in your dome
Polish that cab before you go home.
Time to pack up he says with a smile
Cause we’ve got some clean up to do for a while
Get it “Ship Shape” we need it real clean
Go “Swab the Deck” we want a bright sheen
Clean up the saws and sponge off a grinder
When you take leave sign out in the binder
Fred has taught lap class for many a year
All of his students think he is a dear.