Letter to the editor: A colleague pays tribute to John Fredrickson
By: From Mark Schlangen, Chief, Two Harbors Fire Department, Lake County News Chronicle
John’s number of years of service is impressive - 34 years of answering a pager, setting personal, business and family activities aside to come to the aid of someone in need of help. That’s more than most people can relate to. On top of that, he served as the chief of the department for 24 years. That’s not just answering the call of the pager, but also leading, training, and taking responsibility for the service provided by the fire department. The level of commitment to accomplish this is something that is unique and definitely worth celebrating. This commitment extends from John, his business, his family, and his very supportive wife. Few people experience what this means, but John and his family lived it.
To honor the years of service that John provided is really just the tip of the iceberg. The real story, or at least what has always impressed me, is that John never stopped being a student of the fire service as well as an instructor. He was always open to listening to different ideas, taking the best parts and implementing them. After 34 years of service, John was still looking for ways to improve the service provided and did not settle for mediocrity. His impact reached outside of his own fire department and he continued to raise the bar for all fire departments on the shore.
John had a style all his own, both in the training realm and on emergency scenes. No matter what the scene was, he would remain unflappable. When additional resources would arrive they would simply become another piece in the chess game that was going on in his head. Given the simple geographical distance between our departments, often when we arrived on a scene, or they arrived on one of ours, the initial flurry of activity had subsided and we would greet each other with a smile and an attitude of “now what can we do for you”. John’s easy nature, yet great ability to lead made it a treat to work with him.
John did leave some very large boots to fill. However, he also has laid a solid foundation for a very effective fire department to continue providing great service. At a time like this I’m reminded that the effectiveness of a great leader is seen more in their absence than their presence. I’m positive that the Silver Bay Fire Department will continue to honor all of the commitment that John has given the fire service by continually looking for ways to raise the bar and improve on new ideas. As they navigate through this loss, they will know that providing the best service possible will be a great way to honor their former chief.
John left an indelible mark on many of us; his knowledge, leadership, and camaraderie will all be missed. What will be missed the most however, is his friendship. Knowing the kind of man John was for the fire service, I have a hard time imagining the tremendous loss felt by his family. There were not many conversations that I had with John regarding fire department business, that didn’t end up including family discussions as well. Yes, the fire service was important to John, but family was first. John wore many hats, but he did so with a style and graciousness that we all can learn from.