by Jeff Lanphear, Fred’s nephew
When Bruce, called me about coming to Seattle to share my thoughts and remembrances of Fred, I realized the time I have spent with Fred adds up to a fraction of my life, yet at the same time how profoundly he affected our family.
You may or may not know Fred was the youngest of 3 brothers. Henry, the oldest, and Perry the middle son. They were the sons of Harold and Mildred Lanphear. When I think of Fred I revert to childhood memories of the farmhouse in R.I. The same home Mildred and Harold raised Fred and his brothers.
In Fred I see traits of his parents and the influences of his siblings instilled in him and how Fred seemed to take the best all had to offer and make it his own. Mildred, a very proud and caring mother with strict values. Harold a bit of a putterer, a comic who always seemed to be working in his mind on some grand plan, or it is very likely he also may have just been thinking of being on the ocean or a beach somewhere enjoying the beauty mother earth had bestowed upon him.
Henry went off to World war 2 at an early age. Perry became a well known builder of fine homes. Fred was a builder of the mind and a soldier of his visions , he was caring , a comic and a proud man with so much to offer his fellow man. Fred was a mentor that showed everyone he met what it means to envision a dream, go after that dream but always appreciate where you are from and what you have been given.
One of my memories as a boy was, one day my father brought me to the farm to visit. When we arrived Fred and Nancy came outside to greet us. Nancy was in a nice floral summer dress and Uncle Fred in sandals , socks, shorts I think a straw hat and no shirt. Now I was pretty young and the site of Fred without his shirt on was quite interesting. He had bright white skin with a farmers tan and a hairy chest full of gray hair. I wondered to myself will I grow up to have that much hair on my chest.
The next memory that comes to mind is Fred sitting in a lounge chair over by the puzzle table at the farmhouse. Fred was sitting in the chair and all of his children were sitting on his lap and on the arms of the chair smiling and laughing just thrilled to be together. I remember wondering to myself when I grow I hope I can have that same feeling with my family.
Fred, Nancy and their family would visit almost every summer as the children were growing up. I remember how excited Mildred would get and announce to everyone that would listen that Fred and the family were coming for a visit. Usually Harold would have to ask the who? When? 2 or 3 times before raising his hands in a welcoming gesture. I too would count the days until there arrival. It seemed whenever Fred and the family visited, new life would be bestowed on the homestead. Meals were served on the screen porch, Autocrat coffee milk was the drink of choice and the freezer was always stocked with ice cream. Going to east beach and Watch Hill beach , spending time just reconnecting sharing life’s stories ,hopes and dreams.
Fred always seemed so interested in everyone’s thoughts and dreams. He would ask many questions and then sit back and just listen with a welcoming smile seemingly envisioning the path and every now and then interacting some spiritual words to make the dream a more possible reality. Even during some difficult times in my life when I lost my mother at an early age and later my father. When Fred spoke to me he would find the way to make the hardships of life something to keep dear and learn from and use as building stones for accomplishing my mission for the future.
I didn’t know Fred like His family or longtime close friends and associates by being with him on a daily basis. Until recently I could not tell you his favorite drink. What and how I do know Fred is from the lasting impressions he left me and our family with by the quality and care in which he would relate to each and every one of us.
I am about Fred’s age when I first asked myself if I would ever grow up to have a lot hair on my chest and dress like that in the summer. I never did grow the mass of gray hair on my chest But by being part of Fred’s family and life there are always huge smiles every time our family gets together. I remember where it is I come from and I know Fred will be with me every step I take in the future.
I feel Fred lived his life as a mission to help others live their lives to the fullest. No matter how little or how much time spent with Fred was time that left you walking away spiritually uplifted and with a sense of pride , hope and purpose for the future If anyone was fortunate enough to spend time with Fred I believe their lives were truly blessed.