Quintessential People

Freddie Pederson: Yours, Mine, and Ours


by David Rutter | Photo: thomas balsamo

Editor’s note: On June 22, 2017, Freddie Pederson peacefully passed away at her home in Barrington. Her philanthropic contributions to the Barrington community are vast. We ran this feature more than a year ago. For this conservation issue, we recall Pederson Preserve, the Freddie Herriman Pederson Splashpad, and her many other contributions that help keep spaces open for nature, and for people to go outside to play.

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The house that Freddie Pederson—then Frederica Herriman—was born in is still there, 80-some years later, just off the corner of Hough Street and Lincoln. She called it the “hospital house” and says it was Barrington’s first hospital. For a trip to Europe in 1957, Pederson needed a copy of her birth certificate to get a passport, but the records had long been destroyed. Fortunately, copies had been sent to the Secretary of State before the loss.

Pederson was born and raised in the center of the Great Depression, yet both her parents had work. They were lucky, she says. Freddie’s name—Frederica (pronounced Fredrica)—reflects her mother’s German heritage. “It’s a queen’s name,” Pederson says of the German Queen of Hanover who shares the same first name. Her father brought Irish and English to the family tree. The two met in Atlantic City, he from Traverse City, Mich., and she from Baltimore, Md. “My aunt said that my mom was the original Flapper Girl,” Pederson said. “She was spirited.”

Pederson recalls fond memories of her childhood in Barrington. She lived on Summit Street, and in those days, everyone walked to school. There were no students from the countryside then, as there were small country schools beyond the village, she says. “There was a big study area on the third floor of the three-story brick Hough Street School,” Pederson says. “In case of fire, there was a slide from that floor to the ground. Several students used the slide just for fun,” she says with the ever-present twinkle in her eye.

The Hough Street building was her school home from kindergarten until her junior year in high school. Barrington High School was built in 1950 and she was in the second graduating class the following year. “We felt perfectly safe in school and outdoors” she recalls.

“Growing up here, we played in open fields, and went swimming every day of summer. We would ride our bike to the pool in the morning, back home for lunch, and then back to the pool for the afternoon,” Pederson says. “There were neighborhoods, and we played games in the streets—children were always out playing.” She also recalls the large, open park in the triangle once known as Spunner’s Park, located on Hough Street north of Main (today, near the Volvo dealership). The circus would come to town, and this was the era of Evangelical camp meetings that would set up there.

The Catlow Theater brings back fond memories for Pederson. “I remember Wright Catlow would go up and down the aisles and if your feet were up on the seat in front of you, he’d ask you to leave—there was no fooling around in there,” she said. At Halloween, children would parade in costume after school to the Catlow, walk across the stage in front of judges. One year, Pederson won the contest dressed as Little Bo Peep. “Children did the same thing up through the ‘60s,” she said.

Pederson recalls that the 3,000 residents of Barrington had four grocery stores to choose from. “We had two bakeries, a few delicatessens, the Jewel, and a couple of little specialty groceries. And of course there was Lipofsky’s,” she said. Her mother knew Julia Robertson, who lived in what is now Barrington’s White House, who ran a local tea room.

After high school, Pederson worked for two years at the Jewel Tea headquarters in the accounting department. Her brother and sister went to college, but Pederson’s father became ill, and she decided to stay home, which would quickly become Round Bay, Md., after a move to be near her paternal grandmother. There, her dad was in a hospital near Annapolis. The summer after her father passed, Pederson returned to Barrington and to Harold Byron Smith, Jr., whom she was engaged to, and then they married. The couple’s four daughters all grew up in Barrington and have brought great joy and 10 beloved grandchildren to Pederson, who later found herself on her own.

At her 45th Barrington High School reunion, Pederson’s life took a wonderful turn. “While my interests were in theater and music, and his was athletics,” she says of Keith Pederson—the man she married in the Barrington United Methodist Church on Hough Street. “The church burned down two days later—we were devastated,” she says. Her beloved passed in 2006 from a battle with cancer.

For many years, Pederson was involved in Chicago-based charitable work—on the Women’s Board of Rush University Medical Center, and other organizations in the arts. But she realized that living in Barrington was close to her heart, and she wanted to give back here. She had read about how England was offering hospice and became interested in the work. David Nelson called to invite her to help establish a hospice in Barrington, and she was thrilled. And so began a lifetime of community leadership and giving back, both publicly, and the through the private support she provides to people in need.

“I always wanted to be a part of good things that are important, and to help people,” she says. Pederson says she’s an ‘old soul’ who loves to read mysteries, self-help books, Grisham, and Michener’s historic travel novels. “I’m always searching to find the next place I belong, for what’s next.”

For the hometown girl who grew up to become Barrington’s Grande Dame of Philanthropy, we believe she belongs right here.

Here are some words that others shared about Freddie Pederson

Kim Duchossois, Friend

I endearingly call Freddie the ‘Grande Dame’ of Barrington. It comes with affection, admiration, and honor. 

Freddie is a beautiful, humble, and gentle soul, an exemplary role model and mentor, a loyal, loving friend and parent... and... a subtle leveler. She speaks from her heart and gives generously from the same. Her family, dear friends, neighbors, and our community leaders alike, will attest to Freddie’s character. She is one very special lady filled with grace, wisdom, integrity, and heart. She’s the original real deal! 

Freddie and her family share rich, multi-generational perspective on their long, local history and happenings in our community’s evolution.  

My acquaintance with Freddie  began in the late ‘90s as co-directors early in the life of the Barrington Area Community Foundation. We also concurrently sat on the hospice foundation board, now known as JourneyCare. Insightfully, Freddie helped establish this compassionate end-of-life ministry for our community in the early 1990s. What an honor and delight to listen and learn from her and regularly giggle at her charming wit. 

This grande dame will always be remembered for walking the talk every day of her life. She is forever a beloved icon we are blessed to have amidst.

Kristin Frazier, Friend

Freddie and I have been dear friends for the past decade and she is one of the most loving people that I know. We even end every interaction, be it on the phone or in person, with “Love you”. Over the years I would go to Freddie’s house in Glen Acres and not only did I fall in love with her, but I also fell in love with her house. So much so that my husband, Adam, our son, Bennett, and daughter, Emerson, and I bought and now live in that very special house that had became my dream house years earlier while visiting Freddie.

When we moved in, taped inside one of the kitchen cabinets, read a quote she had left there: “Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive, well-preserved body. Rather, we should skid in sideways, champagne in one hand and strawberries in the other; body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, Woo-Hoo...What a ride!”

She also left a handwritten note on the counter for us that read, “Hope you have as many happy memories as my family did in this home. So happy you have it now! Love you, Freddie.” One of the many things I appreciate about Freddie is that she genuinely relishes life in every way and is enthusiastic about everything in her life. Her generous spirit and zest for life are contagious. She is very dedicated to her family, her friends, and her community. Freddie is a thoughtful person not just with kindness, but in truly thinking about what she can do to make a difference in the lives of those she loves and cares about. Freddie Pederson is one of those special people who does so much for others without the need for recognition, always quietly stepping forward to help. She just goes about her life spreading goodness.

Bob Lee, Friend

People often ask, “What makes Barrington such a special place?” Although there are multiple answers to that question, my first response is the “Barrington Pillars”. These are the people who are here to help build a new facility, a new organization, an individual’s self-confidence, a village with open spaces, and a dream for a better community in which we can all live, work, and play. Freddie is one of our “Barrington Pillars.” The strength of our pillars is not measured by their physical stature (as Freddie is petite and soft-spoken), but by the size of their hearts and their conviction to leave this world a better place. When Freddie sees a need, she is there with her support and guidance.

If only Freddie knew how many times a week I think of her and quietly say thank you. I do so every time I drive by the high school and see the Pederson Preserve across the street and watch it being restored to its native state. I do so when Anne and I walk between Citizens Park and Cuba Marsh over the Memorial Bridge in honor of Keith Pederson, Freddie’s late husband. Yes, Freddie is a “bridge” to so many good things that touch our lives in Barrington. As I pass by JourneyCare, I think of Freddie who is one of the founders of this Barrington landmark and treasure. Freddie’s goodness is reflected throughout our community and beyond.

On a personal note, Freddie has helped make one of my dreams come true. Yes, she has been and is a “Pillar” of a RIDE for 3 Reasons by helping to create the Pacesetter Challenge Matching Fund which allows us to triple people’s donations for Cancer, ALS, and Hospice. Freddie’s goodness is magnified in more ways than we will ever know. We are blessed to know Freddie and to have her be part of the fabric of our community.

Carol and David Nelson, Friends

We became acquainted with Freddie in 1984 when our hospice was being formed in Barrington. Freddie was invited to the first meeting and through her generous contribution, we got the ball rolling. She has been very actively involved with JourneyCare ever since and has been honored as a Lifetime Trustee.

There’s no one like Freddie Smith Pederson! She is engaged with so many people and organizations and she is always there for her friends and family. Years ago she was the first grandmother we knew who texted so that she would stay tuned in to her grandchildren. They are in constant contact with her because she is so “hip”. She has raised four accomplished, warm, generous daughters and her sons-in-law all adore her.

Her sense of humor is so refreshing and we spend most of our time together laughing. Her loyalty is unmatched and she quietly goes about helping those in need and being a good friend to her life-long pals. She is one of the most thoughtful listeners we know. And at the same time, she has wonderful stories of Barrington when she was growing up here. We have often urged her to write a book!

Freddie keeps a pulse on the community and is always current with her many organizations. You will see her name on many plaques throughout our village, but those reflect just a portion of her involvement and giving. She often prefers to donate anonymously and quietly.

She lives her life with grace, strength, and a fierce sense of fair-play, and she gives moral support to many who need it. She never stops living life to the fullest and she never stops thinking of others first. She cares deeply and is profoundly generous with her time, her heart, and her spirit.

Joyce Palmquist, Friend

When Freddie filled out her application to join the BACOA board in 2003, she was asked about her areas of expertise that might contribute to BACOA’s mission of serving seniors. Her response was very simple: “Areas of expertise: I am a senior.” She went on to note that she had served on other nonprofit boards and that her experience could be helpful. That’s Freddie. Over the years, she has served on many boards supporting some of organizations that are the foundation of our community. She has also served as a role model for others, displaying a quiet leadership, often preferring to support an organization behind the scenes, without public recognition.

Her experience—as well as her compassion, kindness, and generosity—has been an asset, not only to BACOA, but to the entire Barrington community of which she is a lifelong member. But serving on a board isn’t enough for Freddie, she has eagerly rolled up her sleeves to answer the  phone at hospice in the early years and more recently, helping to serve lunch to our seniors at the BACOA lunch program held at the Park District. I am proud and fortunate to be able to call Freddie my friend and mentor. There’s only one Freddie.

Meg Peirce, Friend

Any weekend, or afternoon, or lunch with Freddie is a delight. Freddie has an inquisitive mind, she is always interesting and interested and she has an unusual sense of humor. She is never boring.

Freddie and I have been friends for years. We have experienced many happy times, but also the cards have dealt us some sad and introspective times. One thing remains constant however, Freddie exhibits the need for intense conversation and she has a strong will to survive with honesty and dignity. This is one of the many pearls of her personality.

Freddie has been a resident of Barrington for all of her life. I have often heard her speak of her great love and devotion for this community. She has raised a lovely family here. Her daughters are as personable as she. Each one of her daughters contribute in their respective communities. Her legacy continues through her daughters.

Freddie has been very generous of her time, energy, and support of many organizations in the Barrington area. At one time, she decided to concentrate her efforts in Barrington exclusively. The Barrington Area Council on Aging and JourneyCare are but two of the many organizations to be blessed by her devoted presence. Thank you, Freddie, for all of your time, spirit, generosity, and service. It is indeed appreciated by all.

I feel personally very fortunate to have Freddie as a friend and mentor. We have shared so much on this journey and I know my life has been truly blessed. The world is a better place because of you. You have touched us all in many wonderful and unselfish ways.

You have had a wealth of friends, and you are loved and admired by all. Here, a simple thank you, dear friend, for all of your many gifts and most of all, thank you for you.

Beth Raseman, Colleague

I met Freddie when I started working at Hospice of Northeastern Illinois (now called JourneyCare) in 2003. So began my introduction to one of the finest people I have ever known. Freddie is the perfect combination of grace and steel. She is a woman of vision and compassion, who devotes her energy and time to her family, her friends and the community.

Freddie takes on causes and needs that are difficult and often unnoticed by others, two examples are end-of-life care and support for seniors in the community. She was a founder of Hospice of Northeastern Illinois and Barrington Area Council on Aging (BACOA). The great thing about Freddie is that once she signs on for a cause, she recruits others to help her both in time, leadership, and money; and the support grows.

There is nothing better than visiting with Freddie in her lovely home and catching up on life and her children and grandchildren over a cup of tea and goodies. She is always the consummate hostess who always has time to hear about you and what is going on in your life. She always enjoys a good story and a good laugh.

Over the years it has been fun to hear about her life in Barrington, the village she has called home for most of her life. The stories included her childhood spent playing with her friends, having tea with her mother at the local tea house, working at the Jewel Headquarters, raising her family, her travels, and her many volunteer endeavors; it was always a delight.

There are few people I admire as much as Freddie, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work and spend time with her.

Mary S. Smith, Friend

The words quintessential, Barrington, and lady (with a capital L), lock like jigsaw puzzle pieces around Freddie Pederson.

The youngest of three, born in Barrington a while before zip and area codes “modernized” the community, Freddie grew up, married, and raised four fine daughters here, while always caring about her family and friends… life-long and new.

Reading about conscientious citizens often leads to tedium and a reader’s yawn. Be aware that within this collection of words honoring Freddie are layers and layers of adventures, high-style, high-dudgeon, and tales that cannot be included in this limited amount of space.

Freddie, in having an innate sense of fairness and humor and fun, and for the simple fact that have we have known each other since we were quite young, makes it easy for me to look back and see a woman who has not changed much at all. Leading by example, and with a very refined sense of community, no one I know in Barrington is more worth knowing …or knowing about… than Frederica Herriman Smith Pederson. Barrington, as a community, has flourished in many respects because of her personal attention and kindnesses.

Norval Stephens, Colleague

Did you know that Freddie went to Barrington High School when it was in what is now Grove Avenue School? The restaurant just north of the school was the high school hang-out. But as Freddie confessed, if you chose to cut a class and slip into the restaurant, the smell of French fries would give you away to the teacher and the whole class. Now, how would Freddie know that?

When did I meet Freddie? In 1989. To start a community foundation in Illinois requires seven directors with strong professional, business, and legal backgrounds. Once started, we began a process of adding two to three new directors each year who were community leaders. Freddie was the first choice for the eighth director. She was an invaluable source of local lore and advice. She became a Life Director in 2008 and still serves in that capacity on the board of the Barrington Area Community Foundation.

Diane and I know no one with the innate sense of propriety and refinement that she has.

And generosity. Time and again, when there was a need in the community, particularly a need that might require some money or investment, Freddie would quietly “take care of that”—often by taking someone aside after a meeting and writing a check.

Freddie took an early and important role in restoring the White House. How could we—and the many she contacted—not answer her request? She took pride in anything that added to the enrichment of life in Barrington, and led by example giving of her time and treasure. To how many ventures and endeavors was this true in Barrington? Countless.

To my mind, she is the embodiment of civic pride, rectitude, and nobles oblige.

George J. Yapp, Friend

Freddie is the definition of the Quintessential Person! I am privileged to have known Freddie as a friend, community associate, and admirer for over 40 years. Freddie is one of the most civic-minded, generous, and caring individuals that I have known. She has been involved with so many wonderful local programs, without seeking public recognition, but with ready contributions of her time, talent, and resources.

When she sees or learns of a need, she is often the first to step forward. It is, however, her wonderful, warm personality, with a special smile and twinkle in her eye that is asking “what’s next” that makes Freddie so special to so many.

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David Rutter is a regular contributor to Quintessential Barrington.

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Publisher’s Note: Quintessential People™ is a heartfelt collaboration between our publication and portrait artist Thomas Balsamo. Our goal is to share exceptional images and words that ring true about some of the finest, most inspiring people in our community. For more information, contact QB at publisher@qbarrington.com, or Thomas Balsamo (Portraits By Thomas) at 847-381-7710, or visit www.portraitsbythomas.com.