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Obituary: William Sluyter Fredendall

William Sluyter Fredendall, 92, of L’Anse, Michigan died on March 30, 2020, at Baraga County Memorial Hospital in L’Anse.

Bill is survived by his daughters, Phyllis Fredendall (Hannu Leppänen), of Hancock, MI, Laura Fredendall (Karl Barnebey), of Terre Haute, IN, and Nancy Ahrenholtz (Ted), Minnetonka, MN; grandchildren, Dan Brennan (Brittany), of Lakeland, TN, and Henry and Heidi Ahrenholtz; great-grandchildren, Ava and Cannon Brennan; sister-in-law, Phyllis Ferns, of Blaine, MN; and nieces, nephews, and cousins. He is also survived by many close and dear friends.

His beloved wife of 64 years, Dorothy (Talbot) Fredendall, his parents, his brother, Richard, and his sister, Doris Fredendall Blood, preceded him in death.

He was born on March 8, 1928, in Hollywood, California to John Fay and Sarah (Manning) Fredendall. He was adopted by T. Dan and Martha (Egerer) Fredendall, of L’Anse in 1942.

Bill and his brother Dick and sister Doris were placed in the Los Angeles Orphans Home in Hollywood in 1934. His stories from that time are legion. It was the favorite charity of many of the movie stars as it was across the street from RKO Studios. Oliver Hardy’s sister was one of the matrons. Bill remembered Laurel and Hardy arriving in a big convertible full of presents. The campus of the orphanage was sometimes used as a movie set – he recalled the filming of a fire rescue from a second story window. And of course he remembered one of the girls, Norma Jean Baker (Marilyn Monroe) who was there at the same time.

In 1939 Bill and Dick moved to Williams, Arizona with their mother. Dick was accidentally shot and killed by a neighbor boy. His mother left soon after the tragedy and Bill stayed with the step-father. The following summer, Bill traveled by train to L’Anse, Michigan to visit Dan and Martha Fredendall, his uncle and aunt who had adopted his sister Doris. He returned to Williams that fall. When Martha’s friends, Mr. and Mrs. Leemon from L’Anse, stopped to check on him during a Southwestern holiday they found him in tatters and alerted Martha. He was on the next train to L’Anse where he entered the 9th grade. Dan and Martha provided a stable, loving home with lots of good food. He and his sister sang while doing the dishes. “I knew they were fighting if the singing stopped,” Martha would recall. After graduating in 1945, he enrolled in Michigan Tech and roomed with his L’Anse friend, John “Cal” Haro. In March of ’46, he enlisted in the Navy and was stationed at the Great Lakes Training Center. His time on the USS Fresno took him to post-war Europe and South America.

After his service he enrolled at Northern Michigan University. Working as a food server in the dorm, he spotted Dorothy Talbot who had tied the knot on her Navy-style blouse incorrectly, so he retied it for her and the courtship began. They enjoyed singing together and performing, he as “the romantic lead” in “Arsenic and Old Lace” and she as a the star in “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay.”

Bill graduated in August, 1951, and they were married on the 25th of that month in Painesdale, Michigan. He taught at Stambaugh High School and sang in the men’s quartet in the Methodist church. While selling insurance in the summer of 1956, he walked into the Honeywell office in Milwaukee with that intention. Bill was hired on the spot and moved the family to Milwaukee. They bought their first house in Brown Deer on the GI bill, painting the interior for the down payment. The family moved to Park Forest, Illinois before settling in Edina, Minnesota, when Bill was promoted to the Honeywell marketing department. Rather than uprooting his family, he declined another promotion and began working in the problem solving, training, and decision-making field.

A born teacher, Bill excelled at sales training. Later, his work emphasized decision- making and problem analysis. Bill’s expertise was applied in diverse settings, including John Deere Company, Pontiac, NASA, Green Giant, and GM among others.

Bill was an avid reader and a movie buff. He loved to drive and took many trips with family and friends. He enjoyed golfing, sailing, skiing, and swimming in Lake Superior. Music was a lifelong friend. He played harmonicas large and small, having learned to play while in the Orphan Home. Prompted by Dorothy, Bill would play a miniature harmonica, delighting children they would meet. He and Dorothy taught their daughters the love of singing, harmonizing on road trips or at the piano at home. He sang in the church choir for years.

In 1980 he found the gift of sobriety and through the fellowship helped scores of individuals while continuing to heal himself. He loved the chance to live an examined life. He and Dorothy participated in intellectual and spiritual study and fellowship in numerous groups at Good Samaritan Methodist Church in Edina, and they participated in Jungian study in the Twin Cities.

After Dorothy’s passing Bill moved to L’Anse to be close to Lake Superior and family roots. The caregivers at Bayside Village eased his final years and are greatly appreciated by Bill’s daughters.

Bill will be remembered for his kindness and generosity. He was a loving father and grandfather to the end.

A celebration of Bill’s life will be held at Good Samaritan United Methodist Church in Edina, Minnesota. The date and time will be communicated here. The Jacobson Funeral Home in L’Anse, MI is assisting the family.

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