ROBERT ERWIN FREEMAN Obituary
“do not go gently into that good night…” Dylan Thomas was Robert’s favourite poet and he could recite so many of Thomas’ works by heart. In fact, Robert’s capacity to have lyrics, music, poetry lodged in his memory was astonishing. He was always singing some ditty from days gone by.
Born in Gastonia North Carolina to Charles and Dorothy, Robert’s family were mill folks. In 1956 Charlie had an opportunity to come to Hamilton and manage a cotton mill – so the Freemans flew to Canada and settled in Stoney Creek. Robert was more Canadian than American, but he never became a citizen. The roots and history of people from the south run deep. Even though he lived in Canada for almost 64 years, he never totally lost his accent or his love of southern food, especially biscuits and gravy!
I met Robert in 1969, a few short months after he had attended Woodstock. He sat behind me in creative English class and we started talking to each other in September…we began dating in January 1970 and I let him into my heart where he stayed, where he remains.
In 1977, he left Ontario to fulfil his wanderlust and ended up in Vancouver. I was heart broken. He struggled for a number of years to find his niche, but ultimately, he found work with the Press Library, a few small weekly newspapers and finally he secured a position at the Chilliwack Progress as a reporter…and a great reporter he was!! He married in 1988 and in 1989 his son Gabriel Martin Freeman was born. The love Robert had for Gabe was so evident in his letters and in his voice. Unfortunately, the marriage ended in 1999 and Gabe moved away with his mom.
In 2011, Robert came to visit me in Meaford. He wanted to see his friend Pete, drive and walk through Grimsby and reconnect with a place he had always loved…but things do not remain the same and he felt that Grimsby had not prospered with time. His reunion with Peter was very special to him – especially meeting the grandchildren of Pete and Marnie. Shortly after he returned to Chilliwack, we realized that we were still in love with each other and the circle was complete. The only person happier for this union was Robert’s amazing mother, Dorothy Mae. We celebrated her 90th birthday in 2012 and lost her the same year.
Robert moved to Meaford after his retirement and celebrated his life of no deadlines with joy. He bought a motorcycle and several guitars and practiced Tai Chi and travelled and fell in love with musical stage productions! Robert was a truly happy person. He was a simple person. He was a loving father, brother, friend and partner. He was a true romantic and loved the gift of words. He was generous and very comfortable in his own skin. He lived his life here in Meaford as he wanted and made no excuses about his array of plaid shirts or suspenders! Freeman had the very best laugh I have ever heard - it came straight from his belly with gusto and glee – and laugh we did!
Robert twinkled like the stars of the darkest sky. He has left behind so many who loved him - Gabriel, his son; Brenda, his sister; Tom [Buster], his brother [and Tracy] and me, debbie, his partner/friend and love.
As expected, Robert did not go gently into that good morning, but his heart was not strong enough to keep him with us.
He will be missed greatly and loved forever and a day.
Robert’s family moved to Grimsby Ontario in 1960. He loved Grimsby…his best friend Pete, and all the boyhood dreams and schemes they explored together. Some of Robert’s ashes will be carried away by the wind from the point on the Grimsby escarpment and the remainder will swirl in the waters of Lake Ontario. Robert’s father, Charles died in 1968, and life for the remaining Freemans changed quickly. Robert went to North Carolina to live with his uncle Roland and Aunt Bertie for almost a year. He went to school in Durham and was so grateful that he had been educated in Canadian schools.