Remembering Gen. Fretterd
FEDERALSBURG — News of the passing of retired Lt. Gen. James Fretterd, former adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, spread across Maryland
and beyond over the weekend, but it hit particularly hard in Fretterd’s native Caroline County.
Fretterd, 86, died Saturday, Nov. 26, at his home in Federalsburg, surrounded by loved ones.
“It was with great sadness we learned of General Fretterd’s passing yesterday,” said the Caroline County Government in a released statement on Facebook. “Though brilliant leader and tactician who traveled the world and received many great honors, he never forgot his roots in Caroline County. He was a patriot and a devoted family man. We are so proud to have one of our County government buildings named in his honor. Love and condolences to his family, especially his daughters Linda and Laura.”
Though born on Staten Island, N.Y., Fretterd joined the Maryland National Guard as a private on his 20th birthday, Nov. 2, 1950.
Over the next 52 years, Fretterd rose through the ranks, ultimately achieving the second-highest officer rank and serving as adjutant general, the head of the Maryland National Guard, from 1987 until his retirement in 2003, thus becoming the second longest serving adjutant general since 1794.
“To achieve that rank is quite a remarkable accomplishment,” Caroline County Commission President Wilbur Levengood said Monday. “We don’t have many generals that come from a small rural area like Caroline County.”
In 2006, the commissioners decided to restore the old Denton Armory, the same one where Fretterd had first reported as a new recruit in 1950.
When the $2.7 million project was completed, a dedication ceremony was held in November 2008 to rechristen the building the Gen. James F. Fretterd Community Center.
That day, Fretterd stood in what was once the drill hall, steps from where he had been in 1950, last in a line of new recruits, and reflected on everything that happened to him over the ensuing years.
“Only in America can something like me happen,” Fretterd said that day.
Marty Gangemi, a former Caroline County commissioner who had been in office when the decision was made to name the building for Fretterd, said at the dedication ceremony in 2008 the retired general was a modest man and a known “soldier’s general.”
“He was a little embarrassed when we asked to name the building after him,” Gangemi said that day.
Sue Simmons, director of the Caroline County Department of Recreation and Parks, whose offices were moved into the renovated community center, said Monday she got to know Fretterd and his family after the decision was announced to name the building for him.
Simmons said she knew of him before, due to his former position as adjutant general, but she had not known him personally.
“Frankly, his title and stature made a little peon like myself fairly nervous,” Simmons said. “But as I got to know him and his family, nothing could have been further from the truth.”
Simmons said Fretterd was warm and engaging, and full of great stories.
“He possessed a remarkable memory,” Simmons said. “His stories made the facility come alive, with all of its history and service.”
Simmons said she considers having a small hand in saving the old armory and getting to know Fretterd, his wife, Ellen, and their daughters, Linda and Laura, in the process to be one of the great honors of her career.
Gov. Larry Hogan ordered on Monday the Maryland flag to be lowered to halfstaff across the state to mark the passing of Fretterd.
Maryland flags flew at half-staff from sunrise on Monday, Nov. 28, through sunset on Friday, Dec. 2.
“The First Lady and I send our sincerest condolences to General Fretterd’s family, friends, and loved ones, and we join the entire Maryland National Guard in commemorating the passing of a consummate soldier and beloved community figure,” Hogan said. “General Fretterd served the State of Maryland and our nation with great honor and distinction. He leaves a legacy of achievement that will forever stand as an example of selfless ser vice and commitment for Mar yland’s Citizen Soldiers and Airmen.”
Fretterd was a graduate of the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College, a graduate of the U.S. Army War College. He was also a 1999 graduate of the College of International and Security Studies and the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. In 1987, he attended the Senior Executives Program in National and International Security at Harvard University. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of the State of New York in Albany, N.Y.
He chaired the National Guard Steering Committee on guard participation in international affairs, which includes oversight of the State Partnership for Peace Program. He travelled extensively to Europe, establishing and solidifying Maryland’s relationship with the Baltic Republic of Estonia, formerly part of the Soviet Union and Bosnia.
His assignments were varied and challenging. He served as a company commander and later S3 of the 2nd Battalion, 115th Infantr y.
Fretterd received a direct appointment as a 2nd Lieutenant in July 1956. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Sociology for the University of the State of New York. He also was a graduate of the Army Command and Staff College and graduated from the Senior Reserve Commander’s course for the Army War College.
He later served as commander of the 115th Militar y Police Battalion.
Among his many military decorations are the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Distinguished Service Cross, state of Maryland.
Fretterd was preceded by his wife Ellen in 2010 and is survived by two daughters, Linda Earls (Chris) of Greensboro, and Laura Patrick (Bruce) of Harrington, Del.; and four grandchildren: Amber Patrick (18), Ryan Patrick (16), Ryan Earls (24), and Morgan Earls (11).
Funeral services for Fretterd will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 2, at the Fretterd Community Center at 107 S. Fourth St., Denton.
A public visitation will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, at the Fretterd Community Center, and one hour before the service. The interment will be in the Bloomery Cemetery in Smithville.
The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, friends make a donation to the James and Ellen Fretterd Foundation at National Guard Association of Maryland, P.O. Box 16675, Baltimore, MD 21221, toward educational scholarships for Maryland National Guard soldiers, airmen and their families.
To offer online condolences, visit moorefuneralhomepa.com.
Lt. Gen James F. Fretterd’s last salute at his retirement dinner Feb 22, 2003, near Baltimore after 52 years in the Army National Guard, 16 as Adjutant General.