Goodbye Mr. Bob Freeze

Calgary's Bob Freeze devoted life to sporting youth

I’ve lost touched with Mr. Bob Freeze for the last two years. So it saddens me very much today to learn that he passed away on Jan 15 at age 90.

For the few years that I have pleasure and privilege of knowing and working for Bob, I have seen his generosity and his love and support for sporting youth under his tutelage. His determination to learn new things (e.g. computers, movie editing, etc all at close to 90) and to do things himself has inspired me to try to remain active and continue to learn when I get to his age.

I wished I could have been at Bob’s funeral. Goodbye Bob, you are dearly missed.

P.S. Here is a 2008 entry I wrote about Bob and Hawk Ridge.

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Here is Calgary Herald’s Jan 23, 2011 article “Calgary’s Bob Freeze devoted life to sporting youth – Bob Freeze, 90, still hosted Bronk reunions” for the record (emphasis added).

Bob Freeze was accomplished at virtually everything he did in his 90 years, but his greatest passion was always to help young people in their sporting pursuits.

Right up to his death on Jan. 15, Freeze helped train cross-country skiers on the Nordic trails of his rolling farmland near Spruce Meadows.

A year ago, Freeze closed his lodge and six kilometres of trails to the public after 15 years, but kept them going for Hawk Ridge ski club members this winter.

Debora Rothermel, a close friend and business colleague for 32 years, said Freeze was “a gifted athlete and driven human being.”

“He liked to research something to the nth degree, explore it and put his own spin on it,” said Rothermel. “He was really multi-faceted. When he was interested in something, he became passionate about it.

“Although he had no biological children, he loved to work with and help kids reach goals in their sports.”

Club member Lauren Wiens, 18, says she still thrives on the instruction provided by the sporting pioneer five days a week for seven years after he gave a presentation at her school when she was 11.

“I last trained with him the day before he passed away. He was giving me orders what to do,” said Wiens, who placed in the top 10 at the 2006 Alberta Winter Games and won a gold medal in last year’s Lake Louise Loppet.

“His first passion was to train young people and give back to the community by getting them involved. He said even if you never ski again, you still are given life’s lessons. He got me to set goals, write them down and then achieve them.”

Freeze not only worked with skiers, but football players as far back as 60 years ago.

He played in 1940 with the Calgary Bronks, predecessors of the Canadian Football League’s Stampeders, then revamped the junior Bronks in 1950 and coached them until 1958.

It became such a close-knit group that Bronks alumni had annual reunion barbecues at Freeze’s spread ever since.

George Hansen, who played with the provincial champion Bronks in 1953 and ’54, credits Freeze for helping him launch an eight-year pro career as an offensive lineman with the Stampeders from 1959 to 1966.

Freeze invited Hansen to drive with him on a trip to Mississippi in 1955 and the exposure landed him a scholarship first at Sunflower Junior College in Mississippi, where he was an all-American, then to the University of Georgia.

“Bob was instrumental in my career,” said Hansen, who became a close lifelong friend. “I said it was one of the greatest mistakes of his life when he changed me from running back in high school to offensive line in junior, but as it turned out, he was smarter than I thought.

“He was a special kind of guy. He put his heart and soul into everything he did. The Bronks were like a family because of him. We collected beer bottles, worked at the lumberyard and sold Christmas trees to raise money to operate and build a clubhouse. He kept us going all year round, not just football season.”

Freeze served as a lieutenant in the Canadian Army, training troops to ski for remote postings during the Second World War. He returned to the University of Alberta and graduated with a law degree in 1948.

He practised law, first at Fenerty, Fenerty and McGillivray, then with the legendary Milt Harradence, later an Alberta Court of Appeal justice, at Freeze and Harradence, until 1966.

Freeze was president of the Calgary Booster Club in 1959 and 1960 and president of the Calgary Ski Club in 1961 and 1962.

Because of his dedication to fitness, Freeze was appointed to the National Advisory Council for Fitness and Amateur Sport in 1963. He was named the Calgary Sportsman of the Year in 1965.

Freeze moved to Vancouver to work in the family-owned Western Union Insurance Co., then returned to Calgary in 1975 as partner and manager of Penny Lane Mall.

Freeze is survived by his wife Audrey and numerous other family members.

His life will be celebrated today at 2 p.m. at McInnis & Holloway’s Park Memorial Chapel at 5008 Elbow Dr. S.W.”

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