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TOPSFIELD- Richard Anton “Dick” Fredrickson, 90, passed away peacefully on April 5, in the Topsfield home where he lived for 58 years and where he and the late Carol Anne Fredrickson raised their family. Five weeks earlier, surrounded by the next three generations of his family, he joyfully celebrated his 90th birthday.
Born in Malden, Mass., on February 27, 1932, to Augusta and Victor Emmanuel Fredrickson, Dick was the youngest of three children in a family of Swedish immigrants. He was born in the midst of the Great Depression, grew up during World War II, graduated from Melrose High School, and deepened his love for the sea while serving in the U.S. Coast Guard as an apprentice seaman, a quartermaster striker, and then petty officer on the Coast Guard Cutter Hornbeam patrolling the Arctic circle as the only electronics technician on board.
He worked as an electronics technician at MIT Lincoln Laboratory and helped build a secret “breadboard electronics chassis” that was tested in blimps and airplanes and later became the AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control) system.
Dick met Carol Wettergreen when he was 22, and there was instant chemistry. He entered the University of Massachusetts in the fall of 1955 and joined the Theta Chi fraternity. Dick and Carol were married June 1, 1957, and the following year they welcomed a new son Mark, a few weeks before Dick completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Physics.
With physics and math as his foundation and a deep fascination with cars, boats, airplanes and machines, he began his professional career as an engineer with Sylvania working on sophisticated electronic military systems, and the young family moved to Melrose, Mass. He worked on a ballistic missile early warning system that was really a giant special-purpose computer using the first production transistors, and did not realize at the time that he was on the ground floor of what would become the computer industry.
As they welcomed their second son Eric and daughter Lynne, Dick’s career blossomed in technology sales as a manufacturer’s representative for Instrument Associates – a pure commission job that enabled them to bravely buy their first home in Burlington in 1960, then a new home in Topsfield in 1964, and a small summer cottage on the ocean in York, Maine, in 1966. He joined his friend and mentor Walter “Andy” Anderson at Andy’s startup, an early computer company called IRA Systems. The company’s name didn’t match the excitement of its stored-program 65K memory computer (SP-65) so Dick’s wife Carol came up with the name SPIRAS by adding SP to IRA Systems. SPIRAS became the company’s new name.
Dick’s love of the outdoors led to owning boats and earning his pilot’s license, and to lifelong friendships in the family’s new hometown of Topsfield through the local gun club, which met weekly for target practice in the basement of Proctor School. He and his friends Bob Snowman, Frank Lane, Bud Hussey, and Stu Kleinfelter saved up to lease two acres of land on Lake Moxie in northwestern Maine, and they built a cabin in sections in Dick’s barn. For more than 50 years, and to this day, the Rat’s Nest has thrived and inspired generations of families and friends who return every year to enjoy fishing, hunting, and the simple beauty of nature away from the modern world. Dick, known to Rat’s Nesters as the Bine Wuyer, was the last of the original founders.
In 1973 he began a thrilling 17-year run at Digital Equipment Corporation, which became the world’s second-largest computer company. Dick’s role during the 1970s as New England District Sales Manager for Digital was a highlight of his career. He loved the company, its culture and its iconic founder Ken Olsen.
He found time to fully restore a 1929 Ford Model A pickup truck in his barn, just in time for the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial parade in Topsfield, with daughter Lynne dressed as Betsy Ross. As grandchildren came along, visits to Grammy and Grampy always featured a ride around Topsfield in the Model A.
Upon retirement from Digital and corporate life, Dick and Carol bought a winter home in Crystal River, Florida, where they enjoyed the nature and climate in this new stage of life. Dick wanted to test his sales and marketing acumen with something completely different, and had purchased a small lobster trap company during his final years at Digital. He moved the business to York and renamed it the York River Company, began marketing in unique ways to lobstermen, quadrupled the company’s sales in four years, and sold the business. He later conducted tours of Hog Island at Crane Beach in Ipswich for the Trustees of the Reservation, sharing his knowledge about the seashore with visitors and tourists.
If two words can summarize such a meaningful life, Dick would say those words are love and work. He loved and cherished his time with a family that grew from their three children to their three wonderful spouses, seven grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. From his parents and older sister and brother and their families to aunts and uncles and cousins from the U.S. to Sweden and beyond, to the Wettergreen and Krueger and Niit clans from Carol’s side and the many friends from childhood right through his final years, he made everyone who knew him feel special. And after seeing his parents lose everything they had worked to build in the Great Depression, Dick was determined to prove that hard work could overcome anything and he willed himself to levels of success he never imagined he’d achieve.
Nothing epitomized Dick’s endless curiosity, hands-on skills and love for family as much as a tradition he began when his children were young: carving and painting Christmas ornaments. Sparked by an idea from Carol, he began making an ornament for each child every year that symbolized the most significant interest or accomplishment from that year. Bicycles, books, hockey sticks, diplomas, wedding rings and houses and cradles, these ornaments continued for 50 years, transitioning to his seven grandchildren as they came along. They were a labor of love, and like everything else he did, they became increasingly well-crafted and meaningful.
Dick suffered with Alzheimer’s for the last six years of his life, persevering through a gradual decline without a complaint and brightening the lives of those around him, including a dream team of loving caregivers and his three children and their spouses, who cared for him in the home he loved. Keeping him happy at home was a goal made possible by loving home health aides Mario Cesar Santos, Jr., Maria Claudia DeSousa, and others from agencies including Care Dimensions, Home-Aide Care Solutions, and Savens Home Care.
He is pre-deceased by his wife of 43 years, Carol Anne (Wettergreen) Fredrickson, his parents Victor and Augusta Fredrickson, sister Phyllis Thoresen, and brother Victor John Fredrickson.
He is survived by his three children and their spouses, Mark and Barbara Fredrickson of York, Maine, Eric and Anne Fredrickson of Lancaster, Mass., and Lynne and David Lorentsen of Deerfield, N.H.; seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren: Rick and Maira Fredrickson and Bianca, Daniel and Julianna; Amy and Jason Allen and Thomas and Samuel; Mike and Jill Fredrickson and Vivian, Lucy and Charlie; Bobby and Michela Fredrickson and May and Grace; Emily Lorentsen; Julia Lorentsen; and Claire Fredrickson.
ARRANGEMENTS: A memorial service will be held at the Congregational Church of Topsfield, E. Common St., Topsfield, Thursday, May 5th, at 11 a.m. followed by a reception at the Gould Barn across the common. Assisting the family with the arrangements is O’Donnell Cremations – Funerals – Celebrations, 167 Maple St., (rte 62) DANVERS. In lieu of flowers, donations are encouraged to the Alzheimer’s Association or Care Dimensions.