Gen. James Fret­terd laid to rest

Times-Record - - Front Page - By ABBY AN­DREWS aan­drews@car­o­line­times­

DEN­TON — Re­tired Lt. Gen. James F. Fret­terd, for­mer ad­ju­tant gen­eral of the Mary­land Na­tional Guard, was laid to rest Fri­day, Dec. 2.

Fret­terd passed away Satur­day, Nov. 26, at his home in Federalsburg. He was 86.

A ser­vice was held at the old Den­ton ar­mory, re­named the Gen. James F. Fret­terd Com­mu­nity Cen­ter af­ter it was re­stored in 2008, fol­lowed by in­ter­ment with mil­i­tary hon­ors at the Bloomery United Methodist Church Ceme­tery and a re­cep­tion at Fret­terd’s home.

The gym­na­sium in the com­mu­nity cen­ter — the same room that was the drill hall where Fret­terd first re­ported as a pri­vate

em­bark­ing on what would be a 52-year ca­reer with the Na­tional Guard — was packed with friends, fam­ily and fel­low mem­bers of the Guard.

Fret­terd was re­mem­bered as a ded­i­cated leader and vi­sion­ary who helped shape the Guard into what it is to­day, and a fam­ily man who adored his wife, Ellen; daugh­ters, Linda and Laura; and grand­chil­dren.

“He loved two things in life — the Guard and his fam­ily,” said re­tired Maj. Gen. James Ad­kins, also a for­mer ad­ju­tant gen­eral of the Mary­land Na­tional Guard. “I don’t think he felt there was any sep­a­ra­tion be­tween the two.”

The ser­vice opened with mu­sic pro­vided by a brass quin­tet from the 229th Army Band of the Mary­land Na­tional Guard.

“We are here to grieve his pass­ing but also to cel­e­brate his life,” said Mary­land Na­tional Guard Chap­lain Col. Sean Lee, who of­fi­ci­ated.

Laura Pa­trick, Fret­terd’s daugh­ter, sang “Amaz­ing Grace,” with a cou­ple added verses about her fa­ther’s love for her mother and his ca­reer with the Na­tional Guard, and a fi­nal verse thank­ing every­one for their sup­port. Four speak­ers de­liv­ered eu­lo­gies. First to speak was re­tired Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, for­mer chief of the Na­tional Guard Bureau.

“Jim was a man ahead of his time, a vi­sion­ary, and he had the courage to go af­ter those vi­sions and make them a re­al­ity,” Blum said.

When it came to tech­nol­ogy, though, Fret­terd tended to pre­fer sim­pler things.

“His idea of high tech was a yel­low le­gal pad,” Blum said.

The con­stant was that Fret­terd cared, he said.

“He touched so many peo­ple in such a pos­i­tive man­ner in the Guard,” Blum said. “He will be very, very missed.”

Blum read a brief state­ment from Fret­terd’s brother, Charles, who was un­able to make the trip from his home in Mis­sis­sippi. In the state­ment, Charles Fret­terd asked all mil­i­tary present to stand and salute his brother.

Next to speak was Ad­kins, who re­mem­bered hav­ing to live on “Fret­terd time” when­ever he trav­eled with Fret­terd.

“He liked to get places early to tackle the next chal­lenge,” Ad­kins said. “If you had a meet­ing with him sched­uled, be ready for him to show up an hour or two early.”

Be­ing so close to Christ­mas, Ad­kins said, he thought of the movie “It’s a Won­der­ful Life,” in which the main char­ac­ter gets a look at what the world would have been like for the peo­ple he loved if he had never been born.

“In the Guard, so many of our ca­reers would have turned out dif­fer­ently if he hadn’t been around,” Ad­kins said. “His true legacy is the air­men and sol­diers he served with.”

Fret­terd’s tour of duty has come to end, Ad­kins said. “His was truly a won­der­ful life,” he said. Maj. Gen. Fran­cis Vavala, ad­ju­tant gen­eral of the Delaware Na­tional Guard, said it was dif­fi­cult to cap­ture the full essence of a leader like Fret­terd, who was big­ger than life.

“He had a pro­found ef­fect on all of us,” Vavala said. “His very be­ing was in­ter­wo­ven with the Free State and the Na­tional Guard.”

Vavala said when he was ap­pointed ad­ju­tant gen­eral in Delaware, Fret­terd, who was then ad­ju­tant gen­eral in Mar yland, and Ellen Fret­terd went out of their way to wel­come Vavala and his wife into the ranks.

The two lead­ers had a mu­tual ad­mi­ra­tion, but Vavala said he also en­joyed ril­ing up Fret­terd.

“I told him I was work­ing on a war plan for my gov­er­nor to an­nex the Eastern Shore,” he said with a laugh.

Fret­terd was one of the ar­chi­tects of the modern Na­tional Guard, Vavala said.

“He truly made a dif­fer­ence,” he said. “The men and women serv­ing to­day are his cre­den­tials.”

Vavala closed his re­marks by say­ing Fret­terd had done well as a sol­dier, leader and pa­triot, but the time had come for him to stand down.

“It’s time to join Ellen in eter­nal hap­pi­ness in that great ar­mory in the sky,” Vavala said.

The fi­nal speaker was Linda Earls, Fret­terd’s daugh­ter.

Earls said when she was young, she thought her dad must have been a rock star.

“Wher­ever we went, peo­ple wanted to meet him, take their pic­ture with him and talk to him,” Earls said.

To her, though, he was Dad, the man who came home ev­ery day, put on thread­bare fa­tigues and old leather shoes, and ate an onion sand­wich on burnt rye toast — he liked ev­ery­thing burnt — while watch­ing “The Carol Bur­nett Show” or “The Dukes of Haz­zard.”

“That was the dad I knew,” Earls said. “Why did peo­ple make such a fuss over him?”

Earls said her par­ents had a love to end all love sto­ries. They met when her mother at­tended a base­ball game in which her dad was play­ing.

“You sel­dom saw one with­out the other,” Earls said.

Ellen Fret­terd passed away in De­cem­ber 2010. Earls said her dad tried to put on a brave front for his fam­ily, but he missed his soul­mate.

“He never got a good night of sleep again,” Earls said.

Earls said it was fit­ting her dad’s last three words were “Ellen, Ellen, Ellen.”

“My sis­ter and I can take com­fort in the fact they’ve been re­united,” Earls said. “Dad’s prob­a­bly try­ing to rear­range things, and Mom is say­ing, ‘No, Jim, I was here first.’”

Fret­terd rarely drank and never smoked, but he loved to cuss like a sailor, Earls said.

He hated phones in gen­eral and be­grudg­ingly let his daugh­ters buy him a cell­phone, she said, but he never got the hang of it.

“Dad butt-di­aled every­one in his con­tacts list,” Earls laughed. “Half­way through ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion, he would some­how mute the phone.”

Earls said while lead­ing the Mary­land Na­tional Guard, her dad swam against the cur­rent in many ways. She said he once was crit­i­cized by re­tired Gen. Colin Pow­ell for im­ple­ment­ing a pro­gram to help at-risk youth fin­ish their ed­u­ca­tion.

“Pow­ell said the mil­i­tary’s mis­sion is to win wars, but Dad said if we don’t win the war in our cities, we won’t win them any­where else,” Earls said.

Earls said her dad treated every­one with re­spect, and his love for his fam­ily was un­wa­ver­ing.

She said the fam­ily ap­pre­ci­ated the out­pour­ing of love and sup­port since her dad’s pass­ing, and she read a mes­sage she re­ceived on Face­book from a nurse who had cared for Fret­terd when he was in a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion fa­cil­ity for a few weeks ear­lier this year. The nurse said she had learned a lot from Fret­terd just in the short time she got to know him.

“I can take com­fort in all the lives he touched,” Earls said. “I think I was right from the start — my fa­ther was a rock star. I’ll al­ways love you, Daddy.”



A funeral ser­vice for re­tired Lt. Gen. James Fret­terd was held Fri­day, Dec. 2, in Den­ton, in the build­ing named for him.

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