Eugene "Bud" Freeman, aged 94, passed away quietly at home in Rochester, on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, from complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Bud was born in Nickerson, Neb., on Oct. 16, 1924. He was the seventh of eight children born to Alta and George Freeman on a hard-working 1000-acre farm. Bud's young life was greatly impacted by the death of his mother at age 4 and his father at age 13. From that time, he and his youngest sister, Carmen, lived gratefully at the Masonic Eastern Star Home for Children in Fremont, Neb.
At 16, Bud received a college scholarship from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York but stayed in Nebraska to attend the University of Nebraska. He was an All-State tackle and wanted to play college football but because 'The Home' was paying his scholarship tuition, playing football was not allowed. Regardless, Husker football was 'it' in the Freeman household and has stayed that way for the next generations.
Turning 18, Bud was immediately drafted into the Army and served three-years during WWII in the South Pacific as a member of the 166th AAA Gun Battalion working 90 mm guns and operating 'friend or foe' radar positioning equipment. The stories from these days were rarely disclosed unless he was talking with his three older brothers - all of whom served. He was honorably discharged in 1946 as a Master Sergeant.
Returning to Lincoln, he finished his degree, and then moved to Fremont to enter the chick hatchery business with Jim and Marge Richter. Bud married Fremont-girl Jean Harriet Graber in 1948; they were married for 59 years until her death in 2007. In 1960, Bud re-located to Rochester to manage the American Kimber Chicks production site. In 1964, he started 'Bud Freeman Hearing Aids.'' Over the next 30 years, he was helped by long-time employees Marj Zwiefel and Ken Zinser. In 1979, he was joined by his son, Doug, and they expanded services to manufacture hearing aids on-site. As a proponent of industry credentialing, in the mid-1960s Bud appeared before Congress in Washington, D.C., to lobby for the establishment of nation-wide professional standards.
House-calls were always part of the "Bud" service to dozens of communities around Rochester. In the early days, Bud would do house-calls days/nights/weekends, often with his young daughter in tow, and sometimes accepted home cooking or baked goods in exchange for payment. From his childhood, he knew what it meant to be in need and knew that small deeds and preserved dignity were important. He lived by the words of one of his favorite sayings: 'people will never remember what you say or do, but they will never forget how you made them feel.'
Bud had beautiful handwriting, a big laugh, and loved Big Band music. He and his wife enjoyed decades of dancing and traveling, making it to more than 30 countries. A special place for him was the family cabin at Turtle Lake, Wis., which, from 1983, he enjoyed with his family, visiting relatives, friends and especially with his grandchildren. Ironically for a farm kid who could not swim a stroke, he became the father and grandfather to swimming champions and swim coaches. He was one of three people to found the John Marshall High School Booster Club which uses his logo design to this day. He was involved organizationally and as a parent with the Rochester Swim Club and was part of the many faceted effort to bring the Rec Center to fruition. He was a 65+ year member of the Nebraska American Legion, the Masonic Lodge in Nebraska, Scottish Rite-MN and MN Shriners, and a 50+ member of Christ United Methodist Church.
Bud is survived by his son, Doug (Diane), and daughter, Linda, both of Rochester; and his much-loved grandchildren, Nicole and Christopher. He is also survived by his beloved nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews; and half-sister, Sharon Johnson in Glidden, Iowa. He was preceded in death by all of his brothers and sisters and two half-siblings. His family would like to thank Visiting Angels and the Mayo Transitional Care and Mayo Hospice at Home programs for their kindness and care of Bud.
Memorials will be used for a scholarship donation in Bud's name at the Fremont Masonic Eastern Star Home for Children.
A celebration of Bud's life will be from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Ranfranz and Vine Reception Centre, 5482 Royal Place NW, Rochester. Inurnment will follow at 12:30 p.m. at Oakwood Cemetery Columbarium.
Ranfranz and Vine Funeral Home is honored to be serving the Freeman family. To share a special memory or condolence, please visit www.ranfranzandvinefh.com.